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

Digital workflow


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Creative Inspirations: New Deal Studios, Visual Effects

with New Deal Studios

Video: Digital workflow

(Music playing) Michael Theurer: I am Michael Theurer. I am the Head of the Digital Division for New Deal Studios and something that is kind of a characteristic for our particular place in the studio is we can be involved in the project from the very beginning to the very end. A real good case in point is 'Night at the Museum.' So, we had to create something where we could expound upon the previous work that had been done and utilizing their first unit photography that they had already done, making sure that would work, with a ramped up version of the sequence.

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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
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New Deal Studios

Digital workflow

(Music playing) Michael Theurer: I am Michael Theurer. I am the Head of the Digital Division for New Deal Studios and something that is kind of a characteristic for our particular place in the studio is we can be involved in the project from the very beginning to the very end. A real good case in point is 'Night at the Museum.' So, we had to create something where we could expound upon the previous work that had been done and utilizing their first unit photography that they had already done, making sure that would work, with a ramped up version of the sequence.

As you can see, this is our stage and the expanse of what this set was. That's about a 90 foot set. The camera is coming in and the sequence takes over. And this is how that sequence came out in the movie. So, everything that you see behind this people was a miniature. So what we do on this side is we actually have a previz that includes our set planning. We have a set plan that shows where our track and camera rig is going to be set up in relationship to our model or to our people that we are shooting, and then it is actually placed within the set and the camera is animated as it would move to facilitate the shot.

During the previz, any sort of animation that is done and camera animation, camera choreography that is executed in previz, used in conjunction with these plans, that data is actually ported out to our motion control camera. It actually drives the motion of the camera. And that really helps us tremendously. We have had some particularly difficult shots, 'Night at the Museum' being one sequence that was very sophisticated. And it really had to be planned out to fit within the schedule that they had. (Suspenseful music playing) Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart: Don't look now, Mr. Daley, but you're flying an airplane! (Suspenseful music playing) Some good examples of what we have done for 'Shutter Island' where we had basically extensions of backgrounds that needed to be done.

Some of these shots are moving. Some of them are lock off. Often times, those pieces of footage are provided to us, green screen material, typically, where the extensions are taking place. And this is a good example of a shot, how we would receive it. And our work that goes into this is usually a combination of matte painting extension work that happens along with miniature photography and we drop those backgrounds in. Also, we will typically add other elements and these elements we have dropped in CG rain drops that basically are falling through the set, so it really helps integrate our major extensions with what is happening in the foreground.

This was a very interesting shot that they accomplished on set by placing the staircase on a motorized turntable. This is actually taking part during a time in the movie where the lead character is going through a breakdown. This particular piece, the miniature that was built for this, we were not able to actually fit our camera up into the miniature and get a rotating move, so ultimately what we did was we sent a still photographer up into the miniature. He took a round of stills that basically gave us the entire interior of the building and then actually those textures projected onto a CG model that was used as a template to build our miniature.

For this particular purpose, it was very helpful to take a CG approach on this because the client was not sure, ultimately, how fast he wanted to be moving up and down the sequence. Again, because of the nature of the shot, and what was happening for the character, they needed some latitude and it was okay for this to be - feel slightly off. So again, we could adjust the speed of the ascent and also the tonality and what was happening within the lighting of the chamber to the client as they determined what was going to really effectively sell the shot.

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