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December 2011

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COVER STORY [ Cont.from 19 ] Sous les toits de Paris, he says. A night- mare train crash sequence has camera framings, charac- ters and performances reminiscent of director Jean Renoir's 1938 La Bete Humaine. "We even recreated the original screening of the Lumiere Brothers short of a train arriving at a station, which caused people to jump out of their seats," he reports. "Other scenes pay hom- age to Buster Keaton, and Hugo hanging from the hands of the station clock is pure Harold Lloyd." When Hugo and Isabelle are on the verge of discov- ering Melies true identity, they sneak into his boudoir and find a box of his papers and drawings, which fly out and swirl around the room. "Marty wanted this to be a magical moment as the papers explode in an artistic flood of imagery yet keep it somehow plausible," says Grossmann. "So we paid homage to the Muybridge photos and created a persistence of vision effect throughout the tumbling papers. "We imagined that each paper was a hand-animated progression, so as they flutter away you get the illusion of a flipbook. The swirls of paper also have different images on each side, so animations come to life before the kids' eyes. It took a lot to coordinate these shots, to create a beautiful swirl of papers and choreograph how to move them to give the sense of a flipbook." Earlier in the film Pixomondo also crafted a CG flipbook as Melies scans the notebook he's confiscated from Hugo and its drawings start to lift off the page in 3D. In a direct reference to Melies' discovery of the tech- nique, hand-animated stop motion was used in the scene where Hugo repairs a mechanical mouse he's damaged in the toy shop. "The mouse could have been a wind-up toy or CG, but we decided to pay homage to Melies and use stop-motion animation composited and blended together with live action," says Grossmann. Some vintage tricks proved hard to execute in ste- reo 3D or couldn't be exactly recreated, such as iris wipes, he notes. Adding grain was also a challenge. Pixo- mondo ended up developing a technique to wrap grain around objects "so the objects themselves feel grainy and you don't get the sense that the footage looks like a shower curtain of grain." THE TOOLS Pixomondo began working early on with The Foundry to gain functionality in their Ocula family of plug-ins for stereoscopic imagery. "We told them what we needed to do, what we needed help on, and they came up with tools that we beta tested and which have now been rolled into the new release of Ocula," says Grossmann. For matchmoving — "the most difficult thing to do in stereo because there are two cameras mounted to each other but moving independently of each other" — Pixo- mondo tapped Andersson Technologies' SynthEyes camera tracking software and added custom tools on top to better accommodate stereo 3D. Modeling and animation was done in Autodesk's 3DS Max and Maya. Legato is highly skilled at using the versatile tools within the Adobe Production Premium CS5.5, and on each movie he makes he uses the suite as sort of a "Swiss Army knife." He deploys Photoshop and After Effects for VFX compositing, creating guide frames for VFX vendors, previz compositing, color look develop- 48 Post • December 2011 ment, shot stabilization of footage using the new Warp Stabilizer and stereo compositing alignment checks. He also uses Premiere Pro, Adobe's NLE, for digital I/O, quick conforms, sequence review and playback, and tape layoff, and Adobe Media Encoder for transcoding and multi-format deliverables, including Adobe Encore for creating Blu-ray DVDs for review by the production. All of Pixomondo's offices around the world took part in Hugo in order to meet the demands of the schedule. "We needed a 24-hour workday," says Grossmann. "As one office went offline, two more came online. If Marty or Rob gave us a note in the afternoon, we had a new version of the shot for him when he woke up." It was no mean feat to choreograph the workflow and "move sequences around the world to stay ahead of the time zones and take advantage of certain facili- ties' strengths," he notes. "It was a huge engineering accomplishment to get everything working quickly and seamlessly." and Lightworks dailies (play outs were screened on Avid; Schoonmaker did the creative cut on Lightworks) with external LUTs for the monitors. All the VFX shots used the same color correction system, so when Marty and Thelma were cutting, [the VFX shots] would look identical to the dailies they were used to seeing. "Every time we screened something it got closer and closer to what it was really going to look like, and we could make very good tangible decisions. It wasn't a mat- ter of saying, 'After we do the color correction it will look right.' We saw exactly what it was going to look like." When Legato moved to New York to work with Scorsese and Schoonmaker, Laser Pacific (since pur- chased by Technicolor) built out a temporary DI theater in midtown Manhattan for him and colorist Greg Fisher and equipped it with Avids and a Baselight system for creative color correction and VFX cutting, compositing and conforming. The purpose-built DI theater ultimately rendered all the files for versioning and sent them to LA where the deliverables were produced. "It was such a nimble working environ- ment," Legato says. "It was easy to hop on a machine and send files directly to the Baselight, then walk over to the DI the- ater to check it. It made it so much easier to see things live on the big screen in 3D while we were working." Thanks to this set up he was able to react rapidly to requests for changes and fixes. He recalls how quickly he was able to get the specific look that Scorsese wanted for a double-expo- sure sequence. "Marty needed it print- ed just so — not too bright or dim. It took minutes to see multiple iterations The train station set was extended via greenscreens. Pixomondo's team of pipeline engineers and pro- grammers customized Shotgun's database management tool for worldwide deployment. "I could take dailies from Stuttgart and send a certain playlist of shots for review in LA, and Shotgun would initiate the file transfer to the screening room in LA," he explains. "Then I'd click and get a CineSync review with Stuttgart. Or I could get Shotgun to make Avid MXF media files with metadata and Avid bin transfers for Marty and [editor] Thelma [Schoonmaker] in New York." The sheer amount of stereo 3D added to the com- plexity of the workflow. "When you're creating left and right eye versions of every shot you're doubling the amount of render time and doing something like four times the amount of work to produce a seamless composite or VFX shot," says Legato. "It's hard to be as nimble as a 2D movie because 3D affects your throughput: You have to devote more people and horsepower to it." THE COLOR He notes that using the same viewing monitors on set as in the edit rooms and deploying the same Film- Light Baselight color correction system throughout helped make the process of 3D judgment calls seamless. "We color corrected in log space and delivered Avid and get the right formula." Ditto for the last shot Legato cut in, a shot that Scorsese wanted have a heavier snowfall than was in the shot originally. "I had asked for separate snow ele- ments so that I could have the opportunity to double or triple them in DI if need be, so when I showed Marty the shot with a new, increased amount of snow he loved it and finaled the shot. Instead of going back to the VFX house for a 24-hour turnaround I was able to deliver more snow in under 20 minutes. They were waiting desperately for this last shot to cut it into the film and finally print out the movie." If there were risks to pushing stereo 3D in Hugo the rewards have been many. "People who have pooh- poohed the technology and said it's only for gimmicky films have now seen a director as credible as Scorsese use 3D to tell and enhance a story, not gimmick it up. They're starting to see the possibilities of 3D for a regu- lar dramatic picture," says Legato. "The question isn't, 'Why do you need 3D?' but more, 'Why don't you want the added depth of 3D?'" he notes. "It's like when color or sound first came on the scene. This added dimension, now in the hands of a talented filmmaker, becomes another tool, another vital element in telling a dramatic story. 3D can make an excellent film better and much more involving. It's excit- ing to be on the forefront of 3D as it moves from gim- mick to art form."

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