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Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, tells the tale of a 1950s family headed by Mr O’Brien played by Brad Pitt, a father overwhelmed with trying to bring up his sons by way of grace or nature. Mrs. O'Brien (grace) is gentle and nurturing whereas Mr. O'Brien (nature) is authoritarian and struggles to reconcile his love for his sons with wanting to prepare them for a world he sees as corrupt and exploitative. The film was a deeply personal project for Malick who spent two years refining the film in post.
Dan Glass was asked by Malick to be the film’s Senior VFX Supervisor and so began a journey as epic as the VFX sequences the motion picture contains. During the film’s production, Glass oversaw VFX work produced by multiple vendors which included scenes created by the team at Method Studios (supervised by Oliver Dumont). Once the film was completed, Glass settled at Method Studios becoming the company’s Executive Vice President.
In general terms, the film required the typical effects work demanded of a tale set in times gone by, including rig removal and clean-up. The section of the feature which holds the greatest interest for visual effects enthusiasts however, are the extensive sequences that describe the creation of the universe – from light to galaxies to cells to complex life. Many articles have appeared in the press describing Glass’ methodology, the best of which are included below:

Digital Media World article
CG Society article

The shots the Method Studios team completed include fully CG 4k shots for the Microbial section of the film which plays effectively alongside fully practical and mixed technique approaches. Method was approached for their creative zeal and ability to collaborate in designing the shots from the initial concept stages.

The goal was to provide a full 3D camera move showing two chromosomes being separated. Oliver Dumont, Method’s VFX Supervisor on the project comments, “The only reference we had was a YouTube video of an embossed grey, microscopic view of this event. Our task was to interpret the biological process and design the scene and camera move from scratch, adding organic colors to the different parts of the cell and chromosomes. The brief received from Malick was to keep the shot backlit and to be as scientifically accurate as possible. It was very interesting work and we paid great attention to detail it in order to satisfy the director's eye.”


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