Student Volunteer Blog #6

Posted By Ashley Marie Samour on August 10, 2009 10:51 am | Permalink
I am a rising sophomore at the Miami International University of Art and Design. My focus is VFX and Motion Graphics along with 3D Animation. My passion for these artistic disciplines seems to grow each day as I enter a classroom or begin a new project. Imagining the countless opportunities and amazing career possibilities of doing what I enjoy most is a unique perception that, I know, very few should only be so lucky to experience.

Digital Domain’s work on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was absolutely amazing! SIGGRAPH and CGW, through the Student Volunteer’s Committee, were kind enough to provide us a sort of preliminary panel discussion with information on some recent CG animated films and how one can break into the industry. Others on the panel were Jason Smith, a digital production supervisor at ILM, Evan Hirsch, Creative Director at Microsoft Live Labs, Frank Vitz, a CG Supervisor at EA, and Steve Preeg (substitute for Paul Lambert), the Academy Award winning Character Supervisor at Digital Domain.

The talk explaining “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and how the talented people of Digital Domain replaced a body double’s head in 325 shots was impressive, to say the least. It is a crazy, yet, incredible achievement. That means a whole 52 minutes of the film was a completely CG animated head replicated as an elderly Brad Pitt. They actually used an 80-year-old man for a body double! (He was in pretty good shape for an 80-year-old, if you ask me.) Rick Baker and Kazu Tsuji had to create three life maquette casts of Brad. They used photographic references of Brad’s teeth, eyelashes, and other detailed facial features including every line and wrinkle around his eyes. Preeg also joked about the consistent and straining track-checks they had for the process of this film, or “tequila-checks” as he so happily described.

The CG Brad head had to be locked to the motion and resemble Brad Pitt in a fast, cheap way. However, after considering a few options, they decided to use a volumetric capture system called Mova's Contour. Steve Preeg also was good enough to provide us with information on the new up-coming sequel, “TRON Legacy”. Before working in the film industry, Steve announced he used to work as an engineer for nuclear weapons. Wow! Now THAT is intimidating.

Jason Smith, from ILM, also explained the modeling factors of the “Devastator” monster robot from the movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. Those who have seen the film and/or trailor can be informed that “Devastator” was the monster-of-a-robot that sucked up anything in its path at the end of the film. Jason pointed out that he and his team had to use 80,000 parts for this one Decepticon while “Optimus Prime” only had 10,000. Jason explained that they used grid mesh for the dust/sand-sucking scene. This allows for an easier and believable scene to be accomplished. I just want to say THANKS FOR THE EPIC VFX!