October 7, 2008

rhinofx Adds VFX to Dreamworks' Ghost Town

Rhinofx has completed extensive effects work on Dreamworks' Ghost Town, serving as the sole VFX creator for the supernatural romantic comedy.
The film, released September 19, is written and directed by David Koepp, best known for lending his award-winning writing talents to action blockbusters Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spiderman, Jurassic Park, and Mission: Impossible.
In the story, a surly dentist (Ricky Gervais, creator of "The Office") dies for seven minutes in a colonoscopy gone awry, and awakens with the unwelcome ability to see and help ghosts. 
The rhinofxteam's role expanded as the film went through development, with VFX supervisor Arman Matin and compositing supervisor Jim Rider leading over 50 effects shots, including a very intricate opening scene and introducing an entirely new 3D collision modeling approach to simulate ghosts moving through buildings, buses, and even people. 
While Koepp's work includes several action-packed visual spectacles, Ghost Town, filmed in NYC incorporates cool and understated VFX not usually found in comedies, making the supernatural storyline life-like and believable. The rhinofx team spent a month on set to supervise and help construct the effects-heavy paranormal scenarios.
The film opens with a high-angle, moving boom shot showing NYC's 5th Avenue normally overflowing with people and cars. To complete the extremely intricate scene, Rhino used 3D tracking, modeling, and photogrammetry to recreate the scene in 3D, removing all traffic and people, completely reconstructing an empty cityscape.
Elsewhere, 3D photogrammetry was also used to transform a standard locked off time-lapse shot into a moving "helicopter" shot over Central Park. 3D tracking, modeling, lighting, and animation were also used to create the innovative "passthrough" effect which allowed ghosts to pass through anything and everything.  
To produce the complex passthroughs, the team created a 3D virtual world and physically collided them in the CG environment. VFX supervisor Arman Matin explains, "The 3D tracking process allowed us to extract three-dimensional measurements from the 2D footage. For each passthrough, we filmed both actors using a motion-control camera. The 'ghost' actors were shot on a greenscreen, with the motion-control camera ensuring that the two camera moves could be seamlessly blended. The scene would then be tracked in 3D using visual information derived from the footage. We would then model the scene in 3D, creating a physically correct intersection--even complete with proper lighting and shadow interaction. Elements from 3D would then be passed onto Jim in Flame to finalize the composite."
A similar process and approach was used for when ghost actors pass through inanimate objects suchas walls and buses. Arman and compositing supervisor Jim Rider worked closely to complete the project.
The teamworked in Autodesk's Flame to complete the heavy compositing needed tointegrate the CG elements and live action. Commenting on the project, rhinofx COO/EP Camille Geier notes, "Film is such a dynamic medium, demanding an extremely high quality of work, and entailing great challenges. It was a very involved process, with rough comps and several iterations to really nail the shots. Ultimately, we were able tocreate a series of complex shots that aren't overt or flashy, but useinnovative elements that really add to the storyline."
Arman also adds, "The entire project was completed in an environment of tremendous collaboration and creativity, even beyond our team. From the very beginning, David appreciated our ideas and really understood our approach. We worked together to make every shot happen and developed a great creative relationship that allowed us to work freely to deliver the best visual solutions."
The team also worked extensively with Cinematographer Fred Murphy, brainstorming theset up and execution of each VFX shot. The company completed the project out of their Connecticut studio, dedicated to large-scale feature film ventures. With significant growth and expanded production capabilities, a long line of film projects and fully-linked studios in both Connecticut and New York, rhinofx has solidified its feature film business as a leading east coast solution.
VFX/Animation: rhinofx 
VFX Supervisor: Arman Matin 
Compositing/Plate Supervisor: Jim Rider
COO/EP: Camille Geier
Producer: Cara Buckley
Production Executive: Karin Levinson
Lead TD/Timelapse Plate Supervisor: Bogdan Mihajlovic
Timelapse Flame Compositor(s): David W. Reynolds, Ronen Sharabani
Flame Compositor(s): Yoshiko Hirati, Brad Scott
Lighting TD: Jasmine Katatikarn
Dynamics TD: Ivan Guerrero
Animators: Sean Curran, Goran Ognjanovic
Match Mover: Chris Hill
Modeler: Piotr Glabinski
3D Matte Painter: Bora Jurisic
Timelapse VFX Still Photographer: Yaron Eini
Head of IT: Paul Tsung
Flame Assistant: Barry Furlano
Production Coordinator: Gerta Xhelo