Tuesday, December 22, 2009

CIS Visual Effects Group Works With "Invictus"

The CIS Visual Effects Group, including facilities CIS Vancouver and CIS Hollywood, completed 600 shots on director Clint Eastwood's current Warner Bros. release "Invictus".

CIS created upwards of 30,000 cheering fans in digitally recreated stadiums for a historical rugby match held in 1995.

"...'Invictus' tells the inspiring true story of how 'Nelson Mandela' (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, 'Francois Pienaar' (Matt Damon), to help unite their country.

Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match..."

"After working with CIS Vancouver on 'Changeling', we were happy to be working with them again on 'Invictus'," said Michael Owens, the film’s overall visual effects supervisor. "With 'Invictus' being a much larger and more complicated project, they stepped right up to the plate and did a fantastic job."

"Michael and Clint wanted the stadium crowds to be an additional character in the film," said CIS' visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Hancock. "So we treated crowd creation in just that way and gave it personality -- excitement, happiness, aggression -- always being responsive and reactive to the story being played out on the field. The crowds are entirely digital and we modeled, rigged, created cloth and textured a wide demographic sampling of body types to match the specially cast motion capture performers.

"These digital doubles and their applicable wardrobes were then able to be mixed and matched, allowing for specific art direction. A large library of animations were assembled and edited to allow for diverse and realistic reactions from the crowd. We constructed a proprietary pipeline that allowed for individuals and groups within that crowd to have their performance tweaked right up until the day they were rendered."

For the stadiums, CIS created everything above the tops of the sideline billboards and the edge of the field, allowing more freedom in editing and providing flexibility to change camera angles using live-action foregrounds against various backgrounds. CIS also created solutions to tech-challenging tracking shots, using a combination of high-end software packages, able to track players’ faces and bodies as they race across the rugby playing field. Having the ability to add digital make up and wear and tear to wardrobe in detailed close-ups with over 200 shots of multiple team players allowed for specific and dramatic changes to be maintained over the continuity of an entire game. There were also digital main character replacements in wide shots including Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

"We also had to add what we called ‘blood and guts’ work," said Hancock.

"When we saw the footage, the players looked too clean, like they hadn’t been out there really playing the aggressive game that rugby is. So we added cuts, cratches, blood and grass stains to the players, which in turn added a lot of emotion to the story of the game."

The collaboration between CIS’s Vancouver and Hollywood studios required artists and supervisors to spend time at each other’s respective facilities, with all shots funneled through Vancouver for review and subsequent submission to the filmmakers.

Crowd rendering technologies allowed for crowd shots to be completed in both locations.

In addition to Hancock, the CIS team included Cyndi Ochs, CIS visual effects producer; Chris Anderson, CIS associate visual effects producer; Sean Lewkiw, CIS digital effects supervisor; and Randy Goux, CIS digital effects supervisor. CIS Hollywood’s Julie Orosz served as the visual effects producer, with Gregory L. Liegey as the studio’s visual effects supervisor.

The crowd system was a proprietary custom combination of Houdini and Massive. In-house technical directors worked closely with Side Effects Software to write a plug-in for Houdini that interfaced with Massive. This allowed for complete control of crowd behavior and appearance from within Houdini.

Sneak Peek "Invictus" and "Changeling"...