eTech & Art
   New in 02!
  Reports from SIGGRAPH 2001

Feature Film Production Techniques

Session Chair: Darin Grant
Panelists: John Gibson, Alan Kapler, Maria Giannakouros, Brian Goldberg

Tai-San Choo
25 July 2002

Digital 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.








2002 Conference Panels Page

2002 Conference Papers Page



Photos from SIGGRAPH 2002


This page is maintained by
Jan Hardenbergh
All photos you see in the 2002 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY