WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
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
"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
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
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
"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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