Digital VFX combined with practical effects

Posted By Debra Kaufman on May 29, 2009 12:00 am | Permalink
Tags: Digital
Categories: Debra Kaufman
New Deal Studios, in Marina Del Rey, CA, has completed visual effects for two summer movies: Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian and Terminator Salvation.  For Night at the Museum, New Deal VFX supervisor Ian Hunter developed the film's escape flight, during which the audience is in the plane with actors Ben Stiller and Amy Adams, who plays Amelia Earhart, as they maneuver through the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum.  Working with director Shawn Levy and VFX supervisor Dan Deleeuw, they choreographed the scene by combining live action, miniatures and CGI. A crew of more than 50 artists worked over six weeks to create a miniature of the Air & Spacew Museum. The resulting miniature was 80 ft x 10 ft x 10 ft and included over 50 miniature airplanes and spaceships. Final digital work was completed by Rhythm & Hues.

New Deal Studios Digital Art Department designed, engineered and constructed a 3D model of the miniature while the digital effects department used Maya to create the flight choreography of the Wright Flyer. "Much of the groundwork for the photography of the 10-day shoot was accomplished with our digital previz team," said Hunter. "We were able to match that previz perfectly in timing and movement." New Deal digital supervisor Robert Chapin led the previz team in creating a flight path, by gliding a virtual lens thorugh the 3D model. Chapin also exported camera movement and key set data to aid the photography crew in lining up the live action with the miniature shots as accurately as possible.

For Terminator Salvation, VFX supervisor Charlie Gibson asked New Deal Studios to enhance many of the VFX shots for John Connor's fight against the army of Terminators, by adding some practical effects elements. Hunter, with special effects supervisors Richard Helmer and Scott Beverly, designed explosive effects elements such as grenade hits, car explosions and an underwater submarine explosion, all of which were blended with digital effects and first-unit photography plates.