Glass Elevator
By Barbara Robertson
July 29, 2014

Glass Elevator

At The Moving Picture Company, a crew of approximately 170 worked on 350 shots for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Artists in London and Bangalore supported the work done mainly in Vancouver. One sequence follows Peter Parker's girlfriend Gwen's 90-story ride inside a glass elevator.

Gwen has two scenes from within a glass elevator inside an office building atrium: one going up 90 stories and the other going down. "We see inside each office as she passes by," says Pete Dionne, digital effects supervisor. "To get the proper parallax, we needed to create the 90 floors of offices, each unique, with full 3D, which would have been a nightmare to execute using a traditional shot-based approach. But, because the elevator moves in one axis and at a linear speed, we could build looping modular components with every element cycling at a different phase."

With that in mind, the crew created four six-floor spans of the CG atrium with 12 different designs for the glass frosting on the windows, 12 unique offices within, and four unique setups using the studio's Alice software for CG crowds of people within the offices and on catwalks within the atrium.

"By cycling through these different elements in different combinations, no floor was identical to another," Dionne says. "We rendered them through lighting and re-projected onto geometry in Nuke. That way, we could focus on creating good, individual 3D elements and still have the flexibility to arrange and lay out the entire environment in 2D within Nuke."


In addition, the MPC crew sent airplanes through a library of 40 full-CG clouds designed by Effects Lead Ken Beauchamp and created using MPC's implementation of Flowline and based on geometric approximations of the general volume. "We travel with the planes, so all the clouds, except for those in the distant background, had to be fluid-based CG clouds," Dionne says. "Since we flip back and forth between two planes, every shot was its own environment. We could create accurate layouts using the geometric shapes and sculpt each cloudscape. Then, at render time, RenderMan would swap the geometry for the volumetric Flowline cache. That allowed us to work lightly on the shots and still render dense, heavy cloudscapes."

Back on the ground, using a workflow designed by Environment Lead Alex Clarke, the artists turned off the lights in Manhattan to create a brownout effect with a CG projection based on plate photography and aerial tiles captured at different times of days. Similarly, a 2.5D digital environment of Manhattan helped the filmmakers surround the young lovers Peter Parker and Gwen with a romantic environment as they stood on the Manhattan Bridge at sunset.

From chaos to soft sunsets, visual effects artists helped filmmakers create action and emotion for this high-flying film.