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EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS

About The Visual Effects
The limited special effects offered by the genre movies that had inspired the filmmakers have little resemblance to today's computer generated visual effects. For Devlin and Emmerich, who helped expand the boundaries of that technology with their collaborative work in the last decade, this made the project even more enticing. Knowing that the spiders themselves would be perceived as stars of Eight Legged Freaks, the filmmakers began developing them as early as possible.

They enlisted Visual Effects Supervisor and former Godzilla collaborator Karen E. Goulekas, whose feature credits include True Lies, Apollo 13, Terminator 2 and, coincidentally, Spider-Man, and who won a BAFTA Award for her work on The Fifth Element as well as a Saturn Award for Godzilla. The filmmakers also reunited with Visual Effects Supervisor Thomas Dadras (Starship Troopers, Deep Blue Sea) and Visual Effects Producer Drew McKeen (Armageddon, End of Days), who most recently teamed to work on the stunning visuals for The Patriot. Together, they supervised a creative team of approximately 70 specialized artists and animators engaged in bringing the eight-legged freaks to life, with Dadras and McKeen concentrating on pre-production and Goulekas leading the six-month post-production phase.

As Emmerich recalls, Dadras and McKeen lost no time in getting involved with the project, seizing on the artistic challenges immediately and beginning their work seven months prior to production. "Right away," he says, with a laugh, "they started running into stores and buying spiders so they could study them." An admitted arachnophobe, Emmerich found this somewhat unnerving when visiting his effects team to check on their progress. "I'd come by to see how they were doing on the effects and there would be aquariums full of spiders everywhere."

Research was extensive. The animators viewed hundreds of hours of nature documentary footage on arachnids in order to understand exactly how the creatures move and behave and what their individual characteristics are. Five different types of spiders appear in the film, each with its distinct look and hunting method, as itemized by Thomas Dadras, who says, "we had jumping spiders, that were the fastest-moving across the screen, trap-door spiders, that pop up in a flash and drag their victims underground, spitting spiders, that envelop their prey with a stream of sticky webbing, tarantulas, that are like tanks, and the orb weavers, that wrap everything up tight as a mummy. It's the female orb weaver that's seen as the evil leader in the film, protecting her vast underground nesting site where millions of baby spiders are incubating. She's certainly the most ferocious.

"Each spider has its own gait," Dadras adds, noting the team's minute attention to authenticity. "The tarantula is relatively big and heavy so it walks differently than a spitting spider which is more agile and faster."

Using software specially designed for the task, the effects crew set up a virtual world inside the computer, consisting of digital cameras, lights, actor models and spider models. As Dadras explains, "We created in the computer 3-D models of the mall and the main streets of the town so that we could see where the spiders are running and which buildings they're climbing on. That's for reference, so we knew where they should be."

For proper scale, photos were taken of crewmembers standing alongside various objects of graduating size like bicycles, cars and trucks. Then,

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