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XF-11:

The second big digital sequence for the film takes place in 1946, in which Hughes flies and crashes his prototype spy-plane the XF-11. VFX Supervisor Rob Legato doubled as 2nd unit director and shot the model and location photography. The digital work in the sequence consisted mostly of surrounding live action cockpit photography of Leo with a digital XF-11.

Render passes for the plane were similar to those of the Hell's Angels bi-planes, using ambient occlusion to enhance the realism of the surfacing. The rendering of the XF-11 was probably the most difficult of planes because of the seemingly simplistic surface. It's a lot easier to make textured rusty things look real in cg vs. simple surfaces. So we added as much dirt and detail as we could at a fine level, without altering the overall look of a clean surface. The challenge was in the level of subtlety.

In the take-off shots, a texture cyclorama was used for the distant land and sky, created by photos shot at Palmdale airport. The ground, including the runway, is fully computer generated. Digital bushes were generated with particle instancing to give the environment some complexity.

It is also of note that Howard is 100% digital in some of the shots, being created from cyberscan data. Lens flare, specular blooming and camera shake were added to enhance the realism of the shots.

Aerial footage was used in the middle section of the sequence, which was shot over Beverly Hills. Buildings that were constructed after 1946 were removed digitally to maintain the level of accuracy within the Los Angeles skyline.

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  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Miramax
  • Initial Entertainment Group