Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2018

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 1 8 | c g w 1 5 DIGITAL DOMAIN MATCHED ON-SET TRAILERS AND EXTENDED THE SETS WITH MORE TRAILERS TO CREATE THE DISMAL REAL WORLD. V I R T U A L R E A L I T Y battlefield. We could swap out areas and change the actions. We could add a physics layer and have the characters all ragdoll down. We embedded an effects layer. We didn't want to develop effects on a shot-level basis; we wanted to be guided by the crowd tool. It's pretty cool." Real World Filming for the real-world scenes of the dystopian world of Columbus, in 2045, took place on a large outdoor set made with stacks of trailers. Artists at Digital Domain created all the visual effects for this very real world. "The real world slaps you in the face," says visual effects supervisor Matthew Butler. "It's gritty, impoverished, pathetic, anamorphic, desaturated. It isn't apoca- lyptic; it's a future where people have given up. It's the shit. That's what Digital Domain made. The shit." To reproduce trailers on set that would later explode, the crew Lidar-scanned and photographed the existing sets, and then created models prepared for destruction. They also extended the sets by creating hundreds of additional digital trailers. In addition to the "stacks," the Digital Domain artists extended a set in Sorren- to's factory using motion capture to add crowds of workers, put miles and miles of people in the "Loyalty Center," and created other effects. "Some of the biggest and most enjoy- able and satisfying effects we did were the holograms," Butler says. "This will blow your mind. There's a cool scene where Sorrento is in the real world but thinks he's an avatar. Parzival is a digital hologram in the room. We pitched the idea of having Parzival be corpuscles of energy that inherit properties of Parzival's motion. We have the idea that the computer is trying to catch up so we get digital dropouts." Working with artists at ILM, the crew cre- ated the heavily effects-based hologram by first filming Tye Sheridan in a motion-cap- ture suit. ILM did the motion matching. "We used that as a base and then broke him apart in a particle procedural system within Houdini and rebuilt him on the fly," Butler says. "We used 2D and 3D infor- mation throughout. We were rendering in Houdini and V-Ray." Digital Domain artists also gave Wade [Sheridan] a haptic suit that he wears while inhabiting his avatar, Parzival. "We show off how effective it is with an interesting visualization of energy in the suit," Butler says. "For that, we had to have a full digital replacement for Tye's suit." One difficult shot created at Digital Domain is probably the most invisible. The first time Wade pulls on his VR visor, the camera pushes in and becomes his point of view. It's the audience's introduction to the OASIS. "It's a powerful moment," Butler says. "They filmed the first part of the shot in camera. But, to have the camera get close, we had to make a digital Wade [Sheridan]. For that, we used a high-res- olution scan from ICT to get pore details on the surface of his skin. We modeled his eyelashes, gave him peach fuzz. At the point where Tye pulls on the visor, he's fully digital." VR for VR It is appropriate that a movie which takes place in a virtual-reality world was created in part with virtual-reality tools. At times, it must have seemed to the filmmakers that they, too, were in a kind of OASIS. "I was very impressed with Steven's grasp on how the tools worked for him and what was important to him," Guyett says. "He's not hugely technical, but he's way more of a gamer than I am. This was his third or fourth motion-capture movie. He was acutely aware of the process." Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of visual effects artists, the virtual production helped make it possible for a great filmmaker to work in a familiar way even though the world he was filming and the characters in that world would be digital. And at the end of production, deliver a sophisticated template for the digital work to be done. Then, thanks to the efforts of thousands of visual effects artists, the digital characters and their virtual world became engaging, compelling, and immersive, as did the real world the characters tried to avoid. "Steven was focused on the story and the emotional track of the characters," Guyett says. "However complicated this film was in terms of sheer number of components at any moment and multiple motion-capture performances at the same time, our job was to make all that invisible and let Steven be the director. We just want people to enjoy the movie." Barbara Robertson (BarbaraRR@comcast. net) is an award-winning writer and con- tributing editor for CGW.

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