Film Production Techniques
Session Chair: Darin Grant
Panelists: John Gibson, Alan Kapler, Maria Giannakouros, Brian Goldberg
Domain made a strong presence at SIGGRAPH 2002 with a full panel of developers
for this session. Together they went over the new innovations stemming
from their work in the latest blockbuster movies from the past year.
First up, John Gibson explained his techniques for “shader
analytical approximations for terrain animations in ‘The Time
Machine.’” The film required a series of long exposure
time lapses for the sequences where the main character progress
far through time in a couple of minutes from a stationary point.
Gibson’s technology uses two approaches to emulate erosion
of ground and rock formations by bouldering and gullying. His technique
used analytical feature construction and a blend of procedural and
explicit feature construction.
Alan Kapler presented his impressive tool for creating cloud effects
using a VFX Voxel tool nicknamed “Voxel Bitch.” He talked
about the evolution of the tool into a modeling, animation, and
rendering utility for all misty elements like clouds, water, snow,
and smoke. Some examples shown were cloud formations in Time Machine,
the huge river flood resembling trampling horses from Fellowship
of the Rings, and an avalanche scene from the as yet unreleased
movie Triple X.
In the next segment of the program, Maria Giannakouros talked about
using a 2D compositing system for star fields in movie backdrops.
Replacement fields are used for shots taken on stages, when there
are changes in exposure within the frame, and to compensate for
uncooperative nature. The benefits of 2D star fields allow the most
creative control for the director while older techniques like pin-holed
black velvet sheets, matte paintings, and 3D modeled spheres for
stars all either took too much time or required too many resources
to be feasible. 2D compositing allows maximum customizability while
still being able to follow camera angles and mimic motion perspectives.
Final speaker Brian Goldberg showed off the impressive technique
of creating a photo-real CG human head. They needed be able to replace
the head of a stuntman with that of Vin Diesel for the upcoming
action film Triple X. After researching various published methods
for skin modeling and rendering the Digital Domain team developed
a proficient utility for matching the texture and shading of the
real thing. Goldberg ended the segment by showing back-to-back comparisons
of the stuntman and the totally digitized Vin Diesel head in its
place. In some cases the bare head replaced a stuntman head that
was completely covered by a helmet or fire retardant mask.
Overall the Digital Domain team gave unique insight into digital
effects in feature film production by presenting innovative ideas
in solving common issues required for some of the biggest blockbuster
movies of the past year.