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Creative Inspirations: New Deal Studios, Visual Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Designing with vision


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Creative Inspirations: New Deal Studios, Visual Effects

with New Deal Studios

Video: Designing with vision

(Music playing) Ian Hunter: You know, I guess looking back, I have been pretty fortunate in that when I started out as a kid, I have brothers and we used to go in the backyard. Our father would give us model kits and we would build them and inevitably, we would put fire crackers in them and blow them up, and do all sorts of things that kids do for fun. Along the way, I didn't think my career path would ever lead me to where I actually get to build models, fill them up with explosives and blow them up and film them up, doing all those things that I used to do as kid, take for granted.

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Creative Inspirations: New Deal Studios, Visual Effects
55m 39s Appropriate for all Feb 19, 2010

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New Deal Studios is where the line between illusion and reality disappears. Come along for a peek behind the magician's curtain at one of Hollywood's top visual effects houses. In this Creative Inspirations documentary, find out how key scenes from Martin Scorsese's film Shutter Island were created, as well as segments of The Dark Knight and Night at the Museum. Using a combination of models, miniatures, computer graphics, and digital effects, New Deal Studios was designed from the ground up to be a place where effects professionals could do their best work, and where filmmakers could have their visions realized.

Subjects:
3D + Animation Video Creative Inspirations Documentaries Visual Effects
Author:
New Deal Studios

Designing with vision

(Music playing) Ian Hunter: You know, I guess looking back, I have been pretty fortunate in that when I started out as a kid, I have brothers and we used to go in the backyard. Our father would give us model kits and we would build them and inevitably, we would put fire crackers in them and blow them up, and do all sorts of things that kids do for fun. Along the way, I didn't think my career path would ever lead me to where I actually get to build models, fill them up with explosives and blow them up and film them up, doing all those things that I used to do as kid, take for granted.

and actually do that for living. So, it's very, sort of a privilege to actually do this, and enjoy your job and be artistic. The nice thing about Visual Effects now is that the science has developed to the point where you can do almost anything. Programs such as SolidWorks and Rhino that allow us to pre-design physical effects, have allowed physical effects also to sort of step up. I mean the technical level necessary to, say, do the crash that we did for 'The Dark Knight' of the garbage truck is something I don't think could have been pulled off several years ago without the ability to pre-plan and pre-design the effect.

So, the technologies allow you to do almost anything. Now that you have that in front of you, you have that tool, now you have got to figure out what you want to do with it. And that's where art comes in. That's really important that you have somebody that's not just a jockey behind the box who may know the tool, but not the aesthetic or not the theme behind what they're trying to present, and doesn't have a vision. You really need to sort of cultivate, in your mind, what you are going to create and work towards that goal and have a clear vision of that before you even start putting it on paper, before you start putting on the screen, before you start building anything.

In 'Watchman,' we did a scene where there is a tenement fire and the top of the building is burning. The hero is flying a ship, that's his owl ship and he goes in, and decides the only way he can take the fire out is to shoot the legs out of the water tank that's on the rooftop. The water tank falls down. The water splashes, puts the fire out, and his girlfriend, another superhero, is able to save the people inside the building. Fairly straightforward, except, of course, you are dealing with fire and water, which in miniature is something that you need to deal with in a really big scale.

And we also had a previz that was already provided to us by the production, so the director had a really specific idea of how he wanted to get the camera to move, et cetera. So what we did was we actually took the previz and sort of back tracked it, if you will. We built all the components in 3D first, and then we actually tracked the camera move from the previz to make sure that we could actually get the Technic Crane to go and do the actions that were depicted in the previz. And you through all that effort and then when you are able to go out on set, you actually have this lovely set, which is plumbed for fire.

We actually had to make the fires controllable. We had to actually get them choreographed to the action that was in the shot. So all of these things had to be worked out and built into a sort of dance, if you will, of effects, which is the motion of the flames, the motion of the water tank, and the particular fires that need to be going out when the water tank fell. It was important to sort of all work that out, and a lot of that planning goes into the process, and then the thrill is, after months of planning, and weeks of building, and setting it up, is you are out there shooting, and it's over in 10 seconds, but that's all - it all culminates into that one moment.

Is it equal art, equal science? I think the art has to drive the science more. I think the art has to come up with the inspiration, or be the inspiration, like, "What we want to do? "Let's think about what we want to do and then we'll figure out how we are going to do it," and science follows behind explaining the how. So for us, it's always "What do we want show in the shot? What do we want to get by in the scene," and then we'll figure out the mechanics behind that.

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