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August 2012

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cover story Effecting The Dark Knight Rises L By DANIEL RESTUCCIO ONDON — Warner Bros. & Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, boasts over an hour of stunning IMAX footage, an accomplishment that raised the bar for the film's visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin, and his team at Double Negative UK (www.dneg. com), which delivered over 450 VFX shots at an astonishing 4K and higher resolution, more than double the 2K resolution of effects pro- duced for most movies made today. Franklin and Double Negative (Dneg) Double Negative, the film's main house, talks us through some VFX shots. worked on the The Dark Knight's visual effects four years earlier, but wanted better quality for this movie. The key for his team this time around, says Franklin, "is that we wanted to make the work seamless. We don't want any- body to notice that we're doing visual effects." Franklin stared working preproduction on Dark Knight Rises in January of 2011 with director Nolan, cinematographer Wally Pfister, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, production designer Nathan Crowley, VFX producer Mike Chambers and senior coordi- nator Katie Stetson. LA Center Studios was the prepro base of operations for The Dark Knight Rises, as it had been for Nolan's Incep- tion and The Prestige. Preproduction, says Franklin, "is an impor- tant phase of the film because while having discussions with Chris about how the visual effects might be used to tell the story in the film, we're working out how we actually going to make the film and the visual effects we're delivering." With Nolan it's pretty well known that, if possible, he likes to do his effects practically, — remember the rotating room fight scene or the locomotive skinned semi-truck barrel- ing down Los Angeles in Inception? THE PROCESS "We're always trying to work out the VFX supervisor Paul Franklin: "We don't want anybody to notice that we are doing visual effects." process," says Franklin. "'How can we actually get this in-camera?' That is very much the world of Chris' filmmaking. We understand that if we do something in CGI, we're going to have it at the absolute highest possible standard. It needs to be undetectable. People need to look at it and think, 'Oh, they went out and shot that.' The great thing is that I've got a really good understanding of how Chris' process works. I know what he likes, what he doesn't like. I've got a good idea of where he's going to want to use visual effect, and I've got a good idea where he's not going to not use visual effects." (Warning: Spoiler Alert! If you haven't seen 18 Post • August 2012 the film, don't read yet.) "For instance," describes Franklin, "the football stadium — we destroyed Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, or rather we didn't because obviously we can't really blow up Heinz Field. We did a lot of very spectacular in-camera pyrotechnics on the day, which sort of set the tone for the piece." Franklin also had real Pittsburgh Steelers running across a raised platform with holes dug into it. The stunt guys fall into the holes and it looks like they're being swallowed up by the collapsing field. By contrast, for the Gotham City bridge destruction scenes, Franklin went up in a heli- it had to be an absolutely seamless match for the live action, and I think it's going to be interesting to see if people can really spot when we're using the practical Bat and when we're using the digital one." Franklin notes that one early reviewer who had seen the prologue thought the aerial heist plane break up was real, but it's not. What that said to him was a new standard had been achieved due to a combination of factors: the extraordinary technologies that have been developed over the last 10 years and the increasing levels of skill and artistry that the crew has developed. "It's also the way that Chris uses the work A lot of digital work went into extending the reach of the flying Bat. copter and shot as much material as possible to give them real plates to work with. How- ever, since New York City wouldn't allow them to set off any practical pyrotechnics when you see the bridges blow up, all the effects were created digitally. The signature vehicle from the film is The Bat, a multi-role combat helicopter that Bat- man flies around Gotham City. According to Franklin, "Chris Corbould our special effect supervisor built this amazing functioning prop that was mounted on a vehicle with a hydrau- lic lift on it so we could drive this up and down the street pretty fast. The car it was supported by would travel 70-80 miles an hour quite easily. But it was limited in that it could only go up as high as the arm would take it, and it had difficulty cornering at speed. "So we did do a lot of digital work to extend the range of the flying vehicle. When you see it doing really complicated aerial maneuvers, it's a digital version of The Bat. But in the film. He's audacious about how he places his visual effects in his films. Things that you wouldn't necessarily think were a visual effect, but he always puts it in amongst reality, and the reality is convincing, so when you see the visual effect, it rolls past without any question. You don't say, 'Hey that must be bogus.'" IMAX CHALLENGES Back In 2008, Franklin and his team already worked out a lot of the technical issues work- ing with IMAX footage on The Dark Knight, yet there were new challenges and innovations for The Dark Knight Rises. "A lot of this film takes place in the daytime, which is unusual for a Batman film, and most of the IMAX work we did on the Dark Knight was night- time material. So, we're really having to push the believability of what's going on." All the IMAX 65mm VFX scans, he says, were done at the DKP 70mm IMAX facility in Santa Monica at 8K and the IMAX shots

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