Computer Graphics World

November/December 2014

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n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 c g w 9 t's rare that a visual effects team affects both the art of filmmaking and pure sci- ence while making a movie. And it's even more rare when the team turns to past, nearly forgotten scientific papers and filmmaking techniques to move science and filmmaking forward. But all that is true for the work by Double Negative (DNeg) artists who helped cre- ate Director Christopher Nolan's film Interstellar. DNeg Co-founder Paul Frank- lin was visual effects supervisor on Interstellar. It is Franklin's fih film as visual effects supervisor for Nolan, and he has received awards for the previous four. He received Oscar and BAFTA awards for Inception, BAFTA nominations for all three of No- lan's Batman films, and an Oscar nomination for The Dark Knight. Franklin and Nolan's latest collaboration, Interstellar, tells the story of explorers and scientists looking for a way to save humanity living on an environmentally devastated Earth. When a wormhole is discovered, a few become space travelers who look for another habitable planet. The film follows their journey. The all-star cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, and Matt Damon. "We brought that journey to life," Franklin says, "the trip through the wormhole and near a black hole." The Legendary Pictures production, distributed by Paramount, is a science-fiction film, but Executive Producer Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and one of the world's leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein's general theory of relativity, insisted on scientific accuracy. "The first thing that told me this film would be different from shows in the past was that it was a science-fiction film we wanted to ground in real science," Franklin says. "We had a fantastic collaborator in Kip Thorne. He's an expert in space-time and black holes. In the '70s, he worked out that wormholes are theoretically possible within Einstein's theory. These things are stock-in-trade now in sci-fi films. But Kip point- ed out that none are accurate representations of physics. We wanted to show them as realistically as possible – if these things exist, what they would look like." Franklin enlisted the help of DNeg Chief Scientist Oliver James. "Paul sent me an outline of the challenges for Interstellar in May 2013," James recalls. "Among them were the worm- holes and a black hole. This was something we hadn't done be- fore, and I had no idea how to do it. My background is physics, but this was way beyond anything I'd done. Paul said Kip Thorne wanted it done properly, and he was willing to help. So, I had a Skype call with him, and he sent a paper describing how a photon would move around a black hole. I stared at the paper and my mind was like a Ping-Pong ball. I went antisocial for a week getting my head around it." James realized DNeg would need a new rendering system to create scientifically accurate effects around the wormholes and black holes. B E N D I N G L I G H T "No commercial renderer han- dles curved light rays," James says. "They always seem to be doing straight lines. But when i

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