- In Reel Order -
HELL'S ANGELS MOVIE SET:
This sequence was created with a combination of 2nd unit footage and VFX to create the illusion we had more than the six non-flying biplanes afforded to us for the montage of the takeoff. A shot featuring the propeller being spun up has one foreground extra with the rest shot on an exterior green screen, complete with a wild spinning prop to match into the live non working planes. The shot featuring the planes taking flight was produced from a post tilted plate of the biplanes going as fast as they could (20 mph) on the ground and post tilting and tiling up to see an armada of CGI inserted flying planes.
HELL'S ANGELS DOGFIGHT:
To recreate the idea of Howard Hughes directing the spectacular 1927 aerial sequence from Hell's Angels required careful study of the actual footage from the film. The original sequence was almost totally created by live full-size biplanes flying in pre-arranged dogfight formations. Too costly, dangerous and impossible to find 60-80 working biplanes, we resorted to creating the sequence on the computer. The first order of business was to rotoscope the actual footage to mimic the flight patterns as seen in the final film.
The various shots were culled together and animated into a virtual fight pattern and used as our backdrop. On a shot by shot basis we pre-visualized the vantage points where Hughes must have filmed from to create the actual sequence in his movie. Creatively we wanted to establish such a familiar pattern that subliminally the audience might pickup on the fact that we were recreating an authentic behind the scenes moment of Hughes filming the actual take used in the film. The real clips from the 1927 epic are featured in Hughes' screening room as he edits the picture with the choreography remarkably similar to our behind the scenes sequence.
The pre-visualizations involved operating the CGI camera live via pan and tilt wheels to give each shot a more organic hand operated look. The sequence was edited on an Avid stationed right next to the wheels and the pre-viz computer running Maya and Kaydara. As each pre-viz was hardware rendered (real-time) it was cut into the sequence and modified instantly. This method of workflow helped to create a very nimble and iteration friendly sequence. Since the speed of trying out a new angle or idea was literally minutes from hand operating the camera to being cut into the sequence, we had the luxury of being fearless and adventuresome with our options.
Once we were pleased with our result we showed the director the cut scene complete with music and sound effects to help him contextualize our thoughts as well as his own. In essence we now made it "direct-able", it became possible for Martin Scorsese to make specific suggestions and see the finished sequence in some comprehensible form before we committed it to film. The Maya files from the approved pre-viz were then used to control a six-axis motion base and Milo motion control camera. Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed in front of a green screen on a partially built green cockpit facsimile on the Kuper controlled motion base. The pre-viz and its various separated layers were used as live playback plates for a video mix to help Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese understand how each element was to be used in the final shot.
Once photographed, the sequence was re-animated and fine-tuned at Sony Imageworks before rendering the various CG planes, clouds and tiled background needed to complete each shot. (See Digital Effects Breakdown for more in depth coverage of the process.)
Original black and white archival footage of the real "Hell's Angels" premiere was restored and colorized to match the 2 Strip Technicolor palette. Our contemporary footage was treated to match into the archival restored footage and culminates in a shot featuring three biplanes revealing Hollywood Blvd. as the photography returns to normal.
The tilt down shot combines a partial Grauman's exterior set (shot in Montreal) with 350 extras crowd extended into an 80-foot long model complete with motion-controlled searchlights. Robert Stromberg added more buildings and we added colored smoke to the 3 CGI biplanes in the final post-tilted composite.
SIKORSKY AMPHIBIOUS PLANE LANDING ON THE BEACH:
This sequence most clearly demonstrates the tonal range of the digitally created 2 Strip Technicolor look. (See photographs on page 10)