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HERCULES:

The last major digital sequence dealt with the first and only flight of the Hercules Flying Boat also known as the Spruce Goose. With the background environment, the sky was a blend of the live action sky shot with the miniature photography and matte painting. We used the sky photography as much as possible because it ensured that the brightness and lighting direction would match the miniature model.

The landscape was a multi-plane system made from source material shot at Long Beach Harbor, in the approximate location of the actual take-off. Additional elements, such as CG smoke were rendered to give the matte painting movement.

The water was, and had to be, an integrated solution. First the miniature photography was match moved precisely, including any deformations, such as a bend in the wing of the Hercules. Then certain textures, including bow wake displacement and oily surface maps, were pre-rendered to be applied to the final water. The trick with the digital water was to make it look like it was not a procedural solution, but a complex organic system. We spent a great deal of time examining water on a large scale, and we noticed the wide variety of looks, short wavelets, smooth pristine water, and choppy waves, that could all occur within the same square mile of real ocean water. We introduced multiple varieties of water within our renders to create the same intricate appearance. The water also had certain qualities such as refraction of the ocean bottom, to create the effect of shallow water. We added various reflection passes to integrate the plane with the water.

The Hercules was fully computer generated in a few of the shots. In those shots, a full raytracing solution was used to insure that the proper softness of reflections on the hull would match the miniature.

The spray from the wake of the Hercules was a particle simulation that was rendered as a particle solution. Within the simulation, we included the displacement of water from the bow of the plane, the splash from the bow, and the mist from the spray. The signature of the spray was matched to the original footage shot of the actual take-off. Additional reflection passes were needed to reflect the spray onto the water and on to the goose.

Digital boats and buoys were also added to give the Hercules a sense of scale.

It is of note that the camera shake used in the Hercules sequence was derived from 2D tracking the actual footage of the Hercules take-off. We took the tracked curve data from the cameras, brought them into our compositing software and then amplified the shake where necessary.

In closing I wish to thank Rob Legato and my colleagues at Sony Pictures Imageworks who worked so hard on this project.

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  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Miramax
  • Initial Entertainment Group