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Cutting-Edge Tools For A Perhistoric Tale
The vast and colorful world of WALKING WITH DINOSAURS provides the perfect backdrop for a thrilling family-themed story with vivid and fun characters. Moreover, no other motion picture has created dinosaurs that look this real and that interact with their environment in such an authentic way. Bringing it all to life are the latest dinosaur research and discoveries, realistic designs created in collaboration with paleontologists, cutting edge visual effects delivered by the award-winning company Animal Logic, and 3D wizardry from Cameron Pace Group (CPG). CPG's groundbreaking work includes Avatar, captured, like WALKING WITH DINOSAURS, using the Fusion Camera System developed by company principals James Cameron and Vince Pace.

This collective talent has created a layered world rich with incredible sights and astonishing characters.

The filmmakers tapped a century of collective research to ensure authenticity in locations and dinosaur renderings. Director Barry Cook notes that, "Although dinosaurs roamed the Earth millions of years ago, they are relatively new to the human experience. Only recently have we been able to see these creatures brought to life on film. We've learned more about dinosaurs in the past 100 years than in the rest of combined human history."

Marco Marenghi, Head of Animation at Animal Logic, adds: "As a movie, WALKING WITH DINOSAURS is designed to entertain but it is driven by many factual discoveries and whenever possible, it is as accurate as we could make it."

In the course of their exhaustive research, the filmmakers learned about many dinosaur species that lived in Arctic Alaska and Canada 70 million years ago. Those findings provided a wealth of types and characters for the film. Moreover, Cretaceous Alaska creates a stunning backdrop because it had a much milder climate than it does today, closer to Seattle's or Scotland's, with distinct summers and winters. This presented an exciting new world for the filmmakers to bring to life.

To achieve their goal of transporting audiences back in time, the filmmakers shot most of the environments on location, in the wilds of Alaska and New Zealand. "The intention," says Nightingale, "was for WALKING WITH DINOSAURS to look as though a real wildlife cameraman had gone back in time to capture the footage. So we found locations that would replicate, as closely as we could in the modern world, Arctic Alaska in the Cretaceous Period."

Bringing a new dimension to this world is the 3D Fusion Camera System - the world's most advanced stereoscopic system. Key crew members from the Cameron/Pace Group team, including director of photography John Brooks, lent their talents to the shoot, which yielded fantastic real-life backdrops that merged seamlessly with the computer generated dinosaur characters to create a unified whole.

"We knew the project was ambitious so wanted to partner with the industry leader in 3D technology," explains producer Mike Devlin, CEO of Evergreen Studios. "Cameron/Pace is highly respected for its technology innovation, R&D, engineering and manufacturing.  They are truly creative artists and have over eleven patents such as the Fusion 3D camera and workflow system that was used on this film.  Their rigs and equipment for the 3D settings of the cameras allowed for an immersive filming environment.

They have the highest standards of quality, and it was an honor to work with them." According to Vince Pace, CPG's approach to 3D was a key element in bringing the film's you-are-there qualities to life. "We use a specific approach to 3D. So as a shot gets more intimate or more distant, we're adjusting those settings of the two cameras on a dynamic basis. It's an approach that has worked very well for us; we let the shot breathe in 3D and really tell its own story based on the look and feel of 3D," he explains.

When asked about a favorite scene employing these cutting-edge 3D systems, Pace instead points to their big-picture benefits. "I think the most important thing is almost forgetting the movie is in 3D and instead getting the sense of how real it feels. That's the biggest payoff for me. The 3D in WALKING WITH DINOSAURS makes you feel you're traveling back in time and that this world and characters all blend together

"I have an eleven-year-old and a nine-year-old and I can't wait for them to see it," Pace continues. "I know the film is going to resonate with kids and with families."

Director of photography John Brooks embraced the challenges of bringing audiences into this incredible world: "It's all about presenting environments that feel like you're a part of them. We've done that with every shot," he notes.

While Pace is reluctant to pinpoint a favorite sequence that highlights this 3D magic, Brooks cites the enormous fire that threatens Patchi and the herd as one of the most intricate and rewarding. He explains: "If you watch fire, even in your own fireplace, you'll see it has a certain volume and three dimensional character. So we shot tests to see where we wanted to put the volume on film, and we found the necessary roundness the fire needed so it didn't pull apart and seem fake. The final version of the fire sequence makes you feel like you're right there with Patchi. You will feel the heat!"

For Barry Cook, filming on location in 3D for the first time in his impressive career was a revelation and not just in the film's sweeping action scenes. "I've learned ways to use the power of 3D to enhance certain moments in the story," he explains. "One of the most dynamic 3D moments in the film is when Patchi is at his very lowest, emotionally. At first, the idea of using a very 'deep canvas' for this scene seemed counter-intuitive. But by doing so it tends to draw the audience in to experience a real empathy for Patchi."

"WALKING WITH DINOSAURS had to be bigger and more immersive than anything that had gone before," Cook adds. "The dinosaurs you see are really believable and the level of action, drama and emotion is intense. With the world of CGI moving on we've created a 'you-are-there' experience. By seeing the movie on the big screen you are transported to that time, the story envelops you, and you're amongst the dinosaurs, sharing their adventures."

The filmmakers digitally married the 3D live action backgrounds to the computer generated characters to create an impressive photorealistic effect. This was accomplished by scanning the locations with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). LIDAR uses light pulses to find distance information about environmental objects, which provided the filmmakers with a high resolution CG model. LIDAR technology has been used for years in CG shots to capture backgrounds, but never before for nearly an entire movie, as it was with WALKING WITH DINOSAURS.

"You will be able to see that this process brings an entirely new level of realism in contact dynamics as the characters interact with each other and their world," says Mike Devlin.

Only two scenes employed CGI instead of LIDAR and were set in an icy lake where two characters battle. "We wanted the dinosaurs to interact with the ground, so we created ice in a computer," explains Nightingale. "This was the most effective way for us to get our dinosaurs to interact and fight, ensuring their fall through the ice looked and felt realistic in keeping up with the dramatic pace of the movie. The way we can create realistic worlds using CGI is incredibly exciting, allowing us to tell stories that just a few years ago would have been impossible."

The dinosaur characters are remarkable for their incredible detail. Audiences will see every scale and feather on the creatures. Cutting edge and proprietary software created a CGI muscle system based on painstaking research - all of which ensured that the film's dinosaurs move as their real-life counterparts did 70 million years ago.

The award-winning visual effects house Animal Logic created the film's digital dino magic. The company's groundbreaking CGI work in animal skin, collision dynamics, particle systems and feathers had long impressed the teams at Evergreen Studios and BBC Earth. Says Mike Devlin: "Animal Logic's software innovations helped create the most realistic creatures ever projected. Their contribution to WALKING WITH DINOSAURS is instantly recognizable in the remarkable realism of these prehistoric characters."

Marenghi, head of Animation, credits two rendering breakthroughs as being "game-changing." "The two big ones," he elaborates, "were the skin/scale system and the excellent muscle system our team of character setup artists created for us. This really told us a lot about how these amazing creatures were built, moved and interacted."

The visual effects department, headed by VFX supervisor Will Reichelt, also created footprints, splashes, dust and a myriad of other generated effects, which make us believe that a dinosaur is inhabiting a given setting. "We made sure the production received all the necessary information for integrating the dinosaurs into the live action plates captured on location," says Reichelt.

Before Animal Logic created its digital wonders, dinosaur designer and paleo-artist David Krentz worked on early dinosaur renderings using a sophisticated computer-modeling and sculpting program called ZBrush. "I'm a traditional clay sculptor, so ZBrush fit me well," says Krentz, who credits the 1933 classic King Kong with inspiring his interest in dinosaurs and natural science. "You squish, pull, rake and slap on digital clay until you get a nice base model."

But creating characters, notes Krentz, transcends physical modeling. "It's always about telling a story, so I have to know what the characters are about before I even begin to draw or work up a CG model," he explains. Making a 'Scary Tyrannosaurus' or 'Hero Herbivore' is just not enough. Why are they scary and why are they a hero? You have to forget all about the bones, at first, and concentrate on traits that will underscore the character's life journey. Things like attitude, gestures, and the look in their eyes are important."

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