Remote Reviews from Mars
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
The VFX for the recently released John Carter were largely carried out in the UK, while director Andrew Stanton remained based in the US. In a recent article on Creative Cow, Cinesite VFX Supervisor Sue Rowe talks about how the VFX process worked as well as breaking down a number of the shots - and also mentions how cineSync helped with maintaining contact between the UK and US. "At Cinesite, we handled 831 visual effects in John Carter. Along with Double Negative, we were one of the two main VFX vendors on the movie, directed by Andrew Stanton. Since Cinesite is renowned for its photoreal environment work, we handled this part of the film, along with the 2D to 3D stereo conversion. There was a tremendous amount of sharing between Cinesite and D-Neg, who did the character animation, since every shot that has a creature in it also has a Cinesite environment. I'm proud of this. London is a unique place to work in that all our competitors are very close to each other. Although there is healthy competition, we also completely share when we work on the same film. My colleagues at D-Neg and my team had a great relationship. Moving Picture Company was brought on to do the attack of an aggressive horde of half-animals running towards John Carter and a smaller company called Nvizible picked up a few shots but the majority of the work was done at D-Neg and Cinesite. "I had a brilliant team and worked with four main supervisors: Jonathan Neill supervised Cinesite's work on the city of Zodanga, a mile-long rusty metal tanker that crawls like a myriapod across the surface of Mars; Christian Irles supervised work on the beautiful city of Helium, which has a huge glass palace in the middle; Ben Shepherd oversaw the big aerial battle between Zodanga and Helium; Simon Stanley-Clamp directed work on the Thern sanctuary, a huge underground cave that forms around the characters as self-illuminating blue branches as they walk through it; and Artemis Oikonomopoulou was Cinesite's CG Supervisor on the project. We developed a short hand with each other on how we wanted the sequences to go I put my input into the shots they did. There was a filtering system so it was as good as possible to review with Andrew Stanton. "We would do a conference call with him every night, U.K. to the States. Using cineSync, we would load files and both look at the same Quicktime of the movie. Andrew stopped the footage when he wanted and could draw on the image. By talking every night for two years, this sense of trust and familiarity built up. Andrew cared about every single pixel. He had good input daily into small things we could change to make the shot better. He was also pragmatic; he knew the story was the most important thing. He was good at keeping us grounded." Thern Sanctuary "This 82-shot section of the movie contained an amazing amount of work. It started on my first day of shooting on set, where we were faced with a 360-degree greenscreen, and Andrew said, I want this room to be made of nano-technology. In fact, Thern is a living nano-technology matrix. We did a lot of R&D and worked on that environment for a full year. "In the crucial scene, when Carter and Dejah land on the surface of the pyramid, Thern begins to grow beneath their feet and then breaks off the flat surface of the pyramid into a Thern wave. The surface breaks into steps that drop down, and Carter and Dejah move to a blank wall that transforms into a Thern tunnel. That's the point where you'll see more of the digidoubles we made; a handful of wide shots required Carter and Dejah digidoubles, which were hand-animated. As they move into the tunnel, the Thern effect builds around them, leading them deep into the pyramid. At the end of the tunnel is the Thern Sanctuary that also builds itself. "These growing Thern shots are some of the most complex we did in the movie. I'm very proud of this environment. From a greenscreen room and a little conversation, we came up with a cathedral of blue ivy that builds itself and deconstructs before your eyes. The entire Thern effect system was designed and built from scratch with a combination of Maya, Houdini and custom in-house software. The final system was a semi-automated way to 'grow' Thern into any environment and geometry. "Early on, via cineSync from the U.S., Andrew looked at our animation test showing how the floor would grow and he said, 'You guys nailed it -- go to the pub.' " John Carter is now in worldwide release. The official site is here. The rest of the detailed article from Cinesite's Sue Rowe is at Creative Cow.