Prime Focus VFX Adds Sparkle to The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Prime Focus’s newly expanded Vancouver studio, which has become the VFX hub for the company’s North American operations, handled the bulk of the work on The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which was shot on location in British Columbia. Key effects included creating apparitions of the Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) character and custom designing the “Diamond Edward” effect, whereby Cullen’s skin sparkles when coming into contact with sunlight.
BC - Prime Focus VFX, formerly Frantic Films VFX, has completed 175
visual effects shots for the Summit Entertainment release, The
Twilight Saga: New Moon directed by Chris Weitz. Prime Focus
contributed a majority of the film’s most frequently featured visual
effects, including CG water, atmospherics, CG matte painting, and
environment work, and the “Diamond Skin” effect on Edward and the other
vampire characters. The Twilight Saga: New Moon is based on the
popular series of novels by Stephenie Meyer. The film stars Kristen
Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner and hit theaters Nov.
Director Chris Weitz and his visual effects producer Susan MacLeod tasked Prime Focus with evolving this signature Diamond Skin effect so that Edward’s skin refracted light as if diamonds were embedded under his skin. The Prime Focus team, led by visual effects supervisor Eric Pascarelli, went through extensive look development to achieve this effect, and used as its inspiration Greek Thassos marble, a white, translucent material with flecks that reflect light very efficiently. The team even had a slab at the office for the CG artists to use as reference.
“Creating the diamond skin effect turned out to be a very rewarding experience,” says Pascarelli. “The effect appears many times throughout the film in several very different scenarios. It was challenging because the diamond effect appears in sunlight, whenever Edward’s already very pale skin is lit by sun, and on top of all of that brightness, there needs to be a convincing diamond-like sparkle. Film doesn’t really have enough brightness range to do this, so we had to resort to some trickery, such as lens effects, flares and light rays to give the feeling of super-bright glimmer. In addition to all of that, we needed to show the skin having a translucent glow. There was a very delicate balance of the elements that make up the effect. We used 3D particle geometry dispersed over a CG model of Edwards’ head to reflect several artificial environments in order to create the sparkles and rays. Chris and Susan loved what we came up with very early in the process, which ended up being one of the happy surprises during production.”
Prime Focus’s Vancouver studio also collaborated with its Digital Matte Painting department in Los Angeles (headed by Ken Nakada) on recreating the movie’s Forks High School, as well as craggy cliffs overlooking the ocean and other 100-percent CG environments depicting the movie’s Washington State locale. Prime Focus also contributed CG water for multiple scenes and two elaborate time passage sequences featuring the Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) character in complicated multi-part motion control shots.
For the cliff scenes, Nakada and his team designed the entire landscape using several locations in Vancouver’s Whytecliff Park as reference material. The team also provided on-set VFX supervision for MacLeod and Weitz on a greenscreen shoot at Vancouver Film Studios of a stuntman jumping 70 feet off a tower as a camera rig does a 270-degree tilt, following him from the top of the cliff until he hits water. Additionally, Prime Focus created several digital doubles and did face replacement for the actors jumping off the cliff.
Overall, a team of 45 across Prime Focus Vancouver and Los Angeles were brought onto The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Prime Focus’s key software packages included Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, and Autodesk Mudbox for 3D modeling, eyeon Fusion for compositing, Prime Focus Software’s Krakatoa for particle rendering, and Prime Focus Software's Flood and Flood: Surf for fluid simulation.