2006 Movie News Archives

Superman Returns Poster

July 21, 2006: VFX Supervisor Talks “Superman Returns”

Academy Award nominee Richard Hoover worked as the Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks for "Superman Returns". Post magazine sat down with Richard recently to ask him about his work on the movie. Here's an excerpt from the interview...

    Q: There's a heroic sequence in the movie where Superman saves a jet from crashing. It's quite spectacular, so how did you do it?

    Mark Stetson, the visual supervisor for the entire production, whom I have known for 20 years, created pre-vis shots for the whole sequence with Pixel Liberation Front.

    We followed their design religiously - to the point of importing the pre-vis camera and rendering the first pass of the shot with that camera. PLF exported Maya files and we would replace their models. In some cases we would provide them models for their pre-vis.

    I would say 90 percent of the sequence is digital. There are several green screen Superman elements. Dodgers Stadium was used for the background. Otherwise all other elements are CG. We made a photo double of Superman capable of speaking dialog, but he actually never had to speak. There are, however, several close-up fully digital Superman shots in the sequence as well as images made of part CG and part greenscreen.

    Q: What are the challenges to making that look realistic?

    The biggest challenge [was] making the likeness and shape be honest to what the character is. As artists all want to be God, and correct the imperfections that are human. We need to resist that. When you go into a close up of real character you see the differences. We shot greenscreen for everything. A lot of the greenscreen had Brandon hanging horizontally and his skin was hanging down, subject to gravity. The digital double was created vertically from a scan of Brandon's body. Gravity mattered. We did make corrections shot by shot, and blend the shapes in the face to make what Bryan wanted in the expression.

    The aircraft were all modeled to the manufacturers' plans except the shuttle, which was a production design. However, we textured the shuttle with known shuttle materials. The fire and smoke were simulated in software and rendered in Renderman, and the embers were created in Houdini.

    The stadium was photographed with the Genesis camera plates, but many were replaced with texture maps made from the Genesis plates and projected on a lydar model of the stadium. This allowed us to move the camera like the pre-vis instead of the other way around.

    We filled the stadium with a CG-animated crowd. We had about 70 different animations of crowd behaviors with each being several hundred frames long. Software, with artist direction, could direct their orientation and select similar performances to give a life-like feel to their overall movements.

    The clouds were volumetric particle renders. We created layouts of cloud shapes to give the shots speed and great compositions, then rendered from foreground to background with the required clarity for realism.

Read the complete interview at the Post magazine website.

2006 Movie News

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