Computer Graphics World

November/December 2014

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14 cgw n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 "The real revelation for me was that the digital projec- tors are powerful, fl exible, and robust enough for this work," Franklin says. "Front projection is as old as fi lmmaking, but it went away with digital compositing. The lead time on getting prints made and projectors set up was so cumbersome, it was easier to do it in post. This process says that's no longer true. And it was more powerful. The interaction of light from the images on the screens bouncing off the actors' space helmets – all those sorts of things we got free, in-camera, at a level of detail we'd never get by compositing images digitally. The light refl ected through the helmets and refracted in more complex ways than I would have imagined and would never have put in a comp." That fl exibility, that eff ect, suggests that this isn't the last time we'll see Nolan and Franklin using image projection as backgrounds on-set. "We certainly will use it again," Franklin says. P L A N E T A R Y E N V I R O N M E N T S In addition to the outer space environments, artists at DNeg created and extended location shots for two main planets. "We shot the water planet on location in Iceland for a week," Franklin says. "During that sequence, giant waves, a moun- tain of water, swept everything away. We had great reference from the location, but the wave was down to hard-core simula- tion work." Simulation artists used deformers and added surface detail through time-consuming simulations to produce the maj- esty and weight. Compositors then blended a full-size model of the spacecra , used as a prop, into the wave. The second planet is made from frozen vapor. "We put an IMAX camera on the nose of a Learjet and fl ew from LA to Louisiana, skimming the edges of clouds," Franklin says. "It was so awe-inspiring. We were under-cranking, running at 12 frames per second. When we ran it at 24, we added a delicate matte painting on top to suggest water vapor in the clouds." There are also two robots in the fi lm, Tars and Case. "They aren't humanoid in any way," Franklin says. "They're giant slabs divided into four blocks with three sets of pivots that can switch on and off to create confi gurations. Chris, as ever, wanted to make it as real as possible, so the special eff ects team built a 'puppet' that weighed 200 pounds, and Chris shackled [actor] Bill Irwin to the back. We had it in the lagoon in Iceland, on the glaciers, and in all the sets. On its own, it looks like a subzero refrigerator, but Bill man- aged to give it real character." However, in zero gravity when a robot ran, or water wheeled through the lake, it became a CG double. "The animation was informed by what Bill and the stunt per- former did, though," Franklin says. In keeping with the goal of having everything real, No- lan also made wide use of miniatures for the spacecra , relying on New Deal Studios to create the models – a 15th- scale miniature 25 feet long of the Endeavor, and a fi h-scale model of the Departure. In the foreground, he had full-sized props. Nolan piloted a 50-foot- long Ranger positioned on a motion base himself. "In the end, the vast majority of spacecra are miniatures," Franklin says. "They were pretty spectacular. We added the digital backgrounds, but the miniatures gave us a tactile reality that makes this fi lm look unique. I don't think anyone has done anything like this for a number of years." One of the themes of this fi lm is time travel, and to create the eff ects, the crew traveled back in time to reprise past tech- niques, but with state-of-the- art tools and techniques. "The interesting thing I learned is to never assume anything has been settled in the way we do these things," Franklin says. "Stuff from the past works well and shouldn't be ignored as we move to digital tools. At the same time, advanced render- ing off ers new possibilities and takes us to places we couldn't have imagined a few years ago. The most satisfying thing for me, though, is that through making a sci-fi fi lm, we discov- ered new science." ¢ Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for CGW. She can be reached at ROBOT PROPS WERE PUPPETEERED BY ACTOR BILL IRWIN, BUT WHEN THE ROBOTS RAN, THEY WERE CG. " NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING HAS BEEN SETTLED IN THE WAY WE DO THESE THINGS."

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