Columbia Pictures’ The Amazing Spider-Man 2 marks not only the return of the world’s greatest superhero, but also the culmination of a groundbreaking collaboration between visual effects, sound and postproduction teams from Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The Academy Award-winning Sony Pictures Imageworks crafted over 1,000 visual effects shots, Sony Pictures Post Production provided sound, in its first project in Dolby Atmos, and Colorworks performed film scanning, conforming and color grading all in 4K. An innovative workflow provided the teams with unprecedented access to data associated with the production, enabling them to work together in close and simultaneous collaboration. The result was improved efficiency and a more spectacular cinematic experience for audiences around the world.
“Our groups have developed a close, creative partnership, aided by remarkable new technologies that allowed them to work across disciplines as one team,” said Randy Lake, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Digital Production Services. “The results are clearly evident in The Amazing Spider-Man 2
, which established new standards for technical innovation.”
Working under the supervision of senior visual effects supervisor Jerome Chen, Sony Pictures Imageworks created a stunning variety of visual effects that blend seamlessly with live-action stunts and performances. Artists created three new villains—Electro, Rhino and Goblin—and developed fully-digital CG environments representing New York’s Times Square, Manhattan skyscrapers, a next-generation hydroelectric plant and an art deco-era clock tower, among many other one-off effects seen throughout the film. (See the May-June 2014 issue of CGW for an in-depth feature on the effects.)
The film’s sound team was led by sound supervisors/designers Addison Teague and Eric Norris, and re-recording mixers Paul Massey and David Giammarco. Working in the newly-renovated William Holden Theater on the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot, Massey and Giammarco mixed the soundtrack natively in Dolby Atmos and finished in Atmos, Auro and 5.1 formats, a combination that has never been done before. At Colorworks, film dailies—amounting to more than 1.5 million feet of 35mm film—were scanned to 4K digital format prior to editorial. The film later returned to Colorworks for conforming, final color grading (in 4K) and mastering in 2D and stereoscopic 3D.
Collaboration between the teams was facilitated by Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Production Backbone, the studio’s unique shared storage environment. Original production elements, along with associated metadata—cumulatively amounting to more than 2.4 petabytes—were stored on the backbone’s shared-storage environment where it was accessible to sound and picture editors, visual effects artists and others, as needed and in appropriate file formats. The backbone also simplified delivery of elements to external visual effects vendors, who were able to access the backbone through secure, high-speed connections.
“Scanning all of the original film elements at 4K allowed us to work at the highest quality and implement a true digital workflow to the production,” explained Bill Baggelaar, Senior Vice President of Technology for Colorworks and Post Production. “That saved significant time. The backbone not only provided access to data, it also tracked progress. If an editor or a visual effects artist made a change, it was quickly available to all the other members of the team, increasingly important for quick turn around on a dynamic film like this one.”