Handheld virtual camera system helps leading previs house navigate the underworld for director Jonathan Liebesman's mythological blockbuster.
A hero’s work is never done. In “Wrath of the Titans,” Warner Bros' epic reworking of Greek mythology, Sam Worthington's Perseus must battle warring deities, rescue the father of the gods and save mankind without falling victim to a tragic end. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s challenge was bringing this action to life, which he did with the help of previsualization house Nvizage and its OptiTrack virtual camera setup, known as the Insight VCS.
Nvizage is hardly a stranger to virtual cinematography. Founded in 2003, the company has established a reputation as a leading previs facility, most recently receiving accolades (and a Visual Effects Society Award) for its work on “Hugo.” But for “Wrath of the Titans,” Nvizage wanted to switch from its older proprietary pipeline to a more intuitive setup, complete with both a virtual camera and an affordable off-the-shelf mocap system. OptiTrack delivered on both fronts.
For its work on the movie, Nvizage installed its new OptiTrack Insight VCS virtual camera system at the UK's Longcross and Shepperton Studios, helping the director navigate a fully textured virtual environment and unlock the “sweet spots” in his prospective sets. Working with Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis and Production Designer Charles Wood, Nvizage previsualized over 330 shots, including sequences set in the underworld and Tartarus, a gloomy underground dungeon.
This virtual camera system also helped Liebesman choreograph key fight sequences within the movie, including Perseus' epic battles with the cyclops and the two-headed chimera—the latter brought to life by the VFX team at MPC from concepts designed during pre-production.
″The Insight VCS was perfect for combat sequences,″ said Nvizage Co-founder and Previs Supervisor Martin Chamney. ″It's great at that kind of visceral, fast-paced, handheld camera work.”
Before the project, a 16-camera OptiTrack mocap system was installed at Shepperton Studios, along with its corresponding body motion-capture software, ARENA. This enabled Liebesman to see motion-capture performances of his virtual actors as they interacted with environments created with Autodesk’s MotionBuilder. Thanks to the OptiTrack system, Nvizage was able to help the director plan a complex sequence set in a labyrinth, where the walls were constantly increasing and decreasing the space around the actors.
Throughout the process, Nvizage was particularly impressed by the practicality of the OptiTrack kit. ″It's a very portable system,” said Chamney. ″The equipment is light, can be packed up quickly, and moved around easily. It's probably one of the best systems of its kind for the price point.″
The speed with which the hardware could be set up, and its intuitive workflow, is ultimately what enabled the team to make creative decisions more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Rather than having to view test footage, provide notes, and wait for changes to be made, Nvizage placed the virtual camera in the hands of the director, providing Liebesman with the perfect weapon with which to tackle his epic vision.
″If filmmakers can see their sets, they can get the shots they want,″ said Chamney. ″An image is worth a thousand words.″