The Big Reveal 2005 - Part Five

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We conclude our coverage of The Big Reveal with some great effects in our next category, Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture. I am hoping next year that there will be more interest! The VES members will be voting from January 31st to February 12th, with the winners being announced Feb 16th.

The nominees for this category are: Troy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Aviator.

nominees: Nick Davis, Chas Jarrett, Jon Thum, Gary Brozenich

You all remember the movie Troy? Don't you? With Brad Pitt galvanting around in a skirt? Hot, I tell you. Hot. This presentation was covering the work Framestore did, which involved CG crowd duplication, ship fly-bys, and the like. They developed their own inhouse crowd simulation with detailed rigid dynamics. They also did several shots of Troy burning, which was accomplished all in the machine using animated textures of live action fire, shot and rendered. They discussed many items, which can also be found here at VFXTalk.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
nominees: Louis Morin, Mark Dornfeld

This ambitious film was a diamond in the rough. I saw this at a Pixar screening with a friend, having no idea what type of movie this was. I was pleasantly surprised and hooked. The effects in here are very transparent! There was no motion-control or bluescreen shot for this film, as the director felt that it would look bad. He also wanted everything to feel organic. The presentation covered the house at the end of the movie crumbling. There was little CG in the way of elements, however the final shot of the house crumbling was computer generated. The presentation also covered our heroine, Clementine, as she walks down a street with one leg missing and CG cars in the background falling from the sky. Never planned as an FX shot, it become one as Joel says, "Things are falling apart!". Some nifty compositing tricks rounded out the sequence as Joel runs from corner to corner, ever facing were he walked from!

The Aviator
nominees: Rob Legato, Ron Ames, Matthew Gratzner, Pete Travers

I have yet to see this film, but after viewing the behind the scenes, it's definitely on my list. This presentation covered two different aspects of the film, the Hell's Angels sequence and the XF-11 crash sequence.

The Hell's Angels sequence shows Howard Hughes directing and shooting his famous, and quite spectacular, dogfight sequence from the 1930s film Hell's Angels. To this day, this scene, which was shot over nine months with sixty full size biplanes (where four pilots were killed during its filming), is still a marvel to behold. They showed footage from this film, and it was amazing. Biplanes dogfighting and swerving around camera. Excellent. In an effort to do justice to this historic document of Hughes' passion for aviation, the team decided to use the actual footage as the spine of the sequence. Several shots were chosen as the inspiration and its motion and choreography were emulated and recreated in full CGI animation. The idea was to capture Hughes filming the exact shots and choreography that were to appear in his final film. This was created with only the extra inclusion of Hughes' camera plane being filmed by the artists' 3D virtual camera (mounted and controlled by a virtual piloted CG biplane.) In short, they mimicked the limitatins of the day of being mounted to the same style fixed wing aircraft flying through a virtual recreation of the sequence in the original film. To further mimic the time period, director Martin Scorsese wished to show this portion of the film in the color process of the day, namely 2-Strip Technicolor. This process, digitally recreated, utilizes only heightened versions of the red and green color layers and was recombined with the appropriate digital version of the original dye packs used in the imbibition printing process.

Each shot was pre-vised in Maya and exported to Kaydara to add real-time camera choreography via pan/tilt wheels (the same used to control any live action remote camera). The sequence was edited directly into Avid Express where further camera choreography editing and pacing revisions were made. The artists' mimicked the same type of procedure that Hughes might have gone through since he shot the scene over many months; start with a plan, film it, cut it, and re-film it as many times as needed to create as an exciting a scene as possible. With the setup of a virtual biplane armada, real-time camera choreography and instantaneous feedback from their own edit, they were able to create an organically created sequence for Scorsese's approval.

With very few alterations from the original previs, the complex translations of the shots were created for a six axis motion base and Milo motion controlled camera to be shot on a greenscreen stage. A cutout section of the cockpit was built for the motion base and video sized CG backgrounds were created to check the fidelity of the moves and contextualize the odd part-camera, part-motion base gyrations needed to replicate the pre-visualized sequence. In less than two days of greenscreen shooting, the artists were able to film all of the live action portions of the sequence including Hughes, the other pilots and cameramen for the rest of the aircraft.

The sequence, once filmed, was turned over to the effects department where they finalized animation, matchmoved, and fully recreated the live action backgrounds. The sequence utilized three fully constructed CG biplanes, full 3D clouds, 3D pilots and even a sky dome to complete the illusion.

The XF-11 crash sequence required extensive research to fully capture how and what actually happened on July 7th, 1946. The various written transcripts and police reports, as well as newsreel footage and still photographs were brought together and a beat-by-beat flight path was created in pre-vis form. The exact trajectory of where the plane ended up, as well as the extensive damage to the houses, was taken into account and faithfully as possible recreated as pre-vis models in Maya.

The Maya scene was imported into Kaydara. Every moment of the crash was then converted into separate shots and blocked out for camera and action placement. Kaydara allowed for live camera interaction to give each shot an organic operated feel, as well as mimic the exact procedure that would be used if the event were shot totally live action. The shots were then hardware shaded and exported instantly into Avid Express to be edited together. The scene was built shot by shot and edited into a coherent sequence, cinematically describing the events of the crash.

Once finalized, the pre-vis served as a blueprint for all departments to break down the types of models, motion control, bluescreen and miniature requirements needed to complete the work. The pre-vis Maya scenes severas as a working template to create motion base and motion control files mimicking the pre-vis action. Any shot involving Leonardo was shot on greenscreen in a motion base partial cockpit.

The shots that featured actual live action backgrounds were created with either helicopter plates of Spydercam plates shot at the actual location where the real crash occurred. The Spydercam crossed a span of 2000 feet at a crane height of 250 feet descending to the rooftop of the first house Hughes struck with his landing gear.

For the shots involving the actual crash, a quarter scale miniature of the XF-11 was created and mounted on a high speed dolly, striking a pre-rigged quarter scale miniature series of houses. Each shot in the sequence required its own special rigging requirements and were shot more or less in chronological order. The scene was shot over a period of five days on a n exterior location with full scale trees serving as a background blending in with the miniature foliage in a forced perspective view.

The shot of the wheel crashing through the house from the inside was a full size set and was created practically. The shot of the wing slicing through the house from the interior was a quarter scale model with a greenscreen element of a man reacting composited in. The engine crashing through the kitchen window was a miniature composied into a matching full size set.

Scaled explosions were rigged and photographed during the original photography. The only post work required was removing the pole suspending the plane. An extensive puppeted wire rig was constructed for the shot where the plane bunces off the telephone pole and spins to the ground before impacting a wall.

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I hope you enjoyed my brief overview of The Big Reveal 2005! Let me know if it was as informative for you as it was for me.

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