2008 UNDER THE MOUNTAIN

Animator Euan Frizzell and compositor Emrys Plaisted came on board for this fx-heavy version of a classic New Zealand story.

Mike Asquith created the ingenious base tentacle rig and shaders; scaling it up to create the writhing human shape required Erlend Cleveland’s talents to make it animator-friendly.

Delivering the final shots of flaming destruction took Danielle Norgate, John Shearlock and I a 36 hour all-night shift – my first in a few years, and hopefully my last!

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2007 30 DAYS OF NIGHT

A gentle re-entry into feature film work after the lower res and faster pace of gaming, this project was all about clean and natural composites.

A small crew comprising Greg Pawsey and David Lee (compositing), Nimue Sheils (roto), Nick Cattell (matte painting), and myself (the rest) were kept on target by the brilliant singularity that is Georgina Allison.

The falling snow and fire we added using elements shot by Charlie McClellan were relatively straightforward, but adding power lines and poles to the travelling shot was a bumpy ride.(made a lot easier by Tim Capper’s solid camera track and Emrys Plaisted’s marker removal)

2003 PERFECT CREATURE

With VFX producer Charlie McClellan at the helm, I supervised the visual effects and VFX art director Nick Cattell made them look amazing. Writer/director Glen Standring’s distinctive and beautiful vampire film was shot on FUJI film by cinematographer Leon Narbey, whose skill and artistry inspired all of us to do better.

Combining miniatures and matte paintings, (no bluescreen allowed) this project was a great collaboration between VFX and production as we headed off post headaches with intelligent solutions on set. Working fast with video-split footage, we delivered bash versions of VFX shots to editorial within a day of shooting.

An amazing effort from Fiona Webb and DigiPost in Auckland managed to complete the huge workload; I delivered the final VFX shot to the colour grading suite at MPC in London on the very last day of post. (I’d rendered it on a laptop in my apartment the night before.)

2000 LOTR

Working on this project allowed me to meet so many amazing people – Ray Harryhausen, Randy Cook, Alex Funke, Sir Edmund Hillary – Art Clokey! I was very lucky to have played a key role in the evolution of this legendary VFX studio.

The Troll sequence from FOTR is one I was particularly involved with; working through the night with Randy Cook to create the VR Previs and deliver it to editorial, then following through on set over two long, cold and dusty weeks as we played each setup to the crew so that shot-specific backgrounds could be captured correctly.

1996 CONTACT

The opening shot was more complex than it looks; The exterior plate was shot on location and ended with the camera stopping in front of the door facing a blue card placed behind the window / the interior was shot on a set.

I did a manual matchmove on both the exterior and interior plates and fitted a new camera that smoothly went between the two. Both sequences were camera projected onto their respective geometry from the matchmoved cameras but rendered through the NEW camera. Richard Addison-Wood wrote code to remove the HMI flicker from the interior plate and Gray Horsfield did the compositing in Eddie. A lot of effort, but a seamless result that got Weta the contract for more shots.

The ‘spaghettification’ shots were tough in that they were both a moving target creatively and a big challenge technically. (Shooting a reflective metal suit against bluescreen was always going to be trouble.)

1995 THE_FRIGHTENERS

TasmanSt When I first joined Weta, there were 6 of us, and we were in the front room of a small house in Wellington. After initial tests, we moved to Weka St in Mirimar, where the rest of the crew were assembled as the cinema was built next door.

For the Frighteners I designed the pipeline and scripts for the Ghost Effect and set up the software GUI to streamline their use. The “Blobman” effects were all done in Explore and Dynamation; both products were eventually bought by Alias and evolved into Maya. Stephen Regelous wrote custom code to provide convolution surfaces (a polygonal version of metaballs). There was a lot of working overnight and sleeping under desks to get through the huge shot-count.

1994 RED SCREAM

Starting in 1991, my brother Michael and I embarked on an ambitious attempt to treat animation like live action. Based on his storyline and boards, we set up characters, props and locations, and then shot them with multiple cameras, multiple takes to eventually generate almost 25 minutes of footage.

This was (brutally) cut down by Johnathon Woodford-Robinson to a breathless 3 minutes 33 seconds of insanity to become Red Scream – New Zealand’s first computer-generated short film. (The reason it was started in 1991 but not finished until 1994 was a combination of money, time and the Cubicomp’s slow rendering speed)

Shot anamorphic 235, with an orchestral soundtrack scored by John Gibson (this sound quality does not do it justice I’m afraid), the animation was shot out to Kodak 35 mm film by a camera in a blacked-out cupboard pointed at the Cubicomp monitor. Mixed at the NZ Film Unit by Mike Hedges, Red Scream got a local cinema release playing before the film “The Mask”. It was shown at several festivals around the world, and is best viewed in a cinema, on a huge screen, LOUD!