April 9, 2008

CIS Hollywood Packs Stadiums for Leatherheads

Hollywood, Calif. - CIS Hollywood, the sole visual effects vendor on Universal Pictures' romantic comedy Leatherheads, completed 237 effects shots for the film. Directed by George Clooney, and starring Clooney, Renée Zellweger, and John Krasinski, Leatherheads is set against the backdrop of America's pro-football league in the 1920s. Tom Smith, visual effects supervisor, CIS Hollywood, was on set during most of the North Carolina and South Carolina shoots.

"The bulk of our work included stadium extensions, crowd replications and environmental clean-up to match the period,” states Smith. â€œAnd it was great working with George Clooney and producer Grant Heslov. They welcomed our input and trusted us to come up with solutions that were fairly authentic re-creations of fan-filled stadiums and playing fields that are very much an integral part of the story."


The story progresses from the early days of professional football, played in muddy fields with no fans, to the final game where a stadium is packed with 30,000 fans. There are four playing fields and stadiums introduced throughout the film that were either enhanced or created. They include a Princeton college game, the first professional game played in a Duluth cow pasture, the medium- sized Ennis Field with 15,000 fans and the Chicago Field stadium filled with 30,000 fans.


Smith adds, "We worked closely with the production designer, Jim Bissell, who created detailed 3D renders of the stadium extensions that we ultimately used as a basis for our photo-real environments. We also took great care to photograph many of the extras in their period clothing, so that the final digital crowd scenes would look very authentic and match the existing extras."


The Duluth and Ennis games were shot at local high schools in North Carolina and South Carolina and needed environment clean up and bleacher-set extensions. The Ennis Field shots included a crowd creation of 15,000 people and set extensions on three of the four sides of the field. Also at Ennis, CIS tiled in a number of old cars in the parking lot to make it full and extended the height of the brick exterior of the stadium for that scene. Chicago Field was the final stadium, where upper decks were added, along with 30,000 cheering fans and the city of Chicago off in the distance.


For the Ennis and Chicago Field shots, the principal photography crew worked with roughly 300 to 400 extras, and CIS filled in the rest with CG characters. Dan Kaufman, CIS digital effects supervisor, oversaw the look and development of the CG characters, as well as a motion-capture session for specific animation needed for the show. CIS also created skyline matte paintings of 1920's Chicago. With a crew of more than 40 artists, the facility used Massive to replicate the crowds, Maya for the set extensions, and Shake for compositing.