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CHANGELING

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Changeling, the true life crime drama from director Clint Eastwood, does not make obvious use of visual effects, but wouldn't be as successful without them. The Vancouver team was proud to pick up two Visual Effects Society (VES) Awards for their work on this film which primarily involved enhancing the look and feel of Los Angeles in 1928 by creating 3D set extensions - cars, trucks, trains and street furniture - in addition to CG crowds.

Geoffrey Hancock, VFX Supervisor, comments, “It is very gratifying to have the VES award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Feature Motion Picture, as these types of invisible effects often go unnoticed. I'm very proud of the work our entire team labored over.”

Through visual enhancements, Method gave life and depth to a storyline that had the definition of subtlety at its heart. While not the standard VFX fare of action packed explosions, the visual effects in Changeling helped reveal the power of emotion.

BUILDING THE PAST


Principal photography took place mostly on the back lot at Universal - a location so often used that it was felt important to mask familiar structures as much as possible. The back lot was mapped out with an eye toward figuring out where visual effects would begin and end in relation to the physical buildings.

Hancock’s team collected together all the photographic reference material gathered by the art department, along with texture references shot on location of vehicles, buildings and costumes. This material was organized by creating style sheets and concept art to guide the digital set builders in the creation of the set extensions. Modern satellite and period aerial imagery was also used to help define appropriate geography for matte paintings.

“It took a lot of research to figure out what really needed to be shown,” said Hancock. “We had to start from scratch because so much of the material that is commonly available is more modern, and we weren’t able to leverage any existing models. In most cases, everything from textures to models to mocap was recreated from the ground up”.

In terms of putting the building blocks together Hancock comments, "We made up several key models which could be rearranged restacked to create either wider or taller buildings of the same architectural style. By mixing up the pattern a block up the street you could create a very different looking city with only minor texture differences."

VINTAGE MOVEMENT


The project called for extensive city crowd scenes, for which the VFX team turned to a combination of motion capture and the Massive crowd-generating software. This was an ambitious task as the digital characters had to move amongst figures mirroring the live action movements without the audience being able to tell the difference. The artists created the very dramatic end credit sequence of a busy downtown street which involved live action actors that eventually turn into all-digital extras.
The mocap performers were briefed on how people walked differently in that time. They weren’t just strolling down the street, especially in the parts of the movie Method was recreating. It was center city, some of the busiest intersections in LA, where people were out on the town.

Method used primarily MAYA to animate and mental ray to render the city scenes. A number of matte paintings were created using XSI and Maya, and some 2D work was done using Digital Fusion.


Keywords

  • Award Winner
  • Environments
  • Crowd simulation
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