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SIMONE

The Making Of A Star
Pretty simple instructions for being the point person in shaping the world's biggest star, says Valerie Delahaye, designer for the Los Angeles-based office of the French effects house BUF, Inc., which created SIMONE.

"She's pretty much 3D computer generated. It was important to Andrew to show the inside of her body and head as hollow so that you look inside and see the reverse of her, just this bended image. He wanted the simplicity of her to follow the story, the concept of an actor as just this head to fill."

Crystal Dowd, the film's visual effects producer, says the scenes in which SIMONE's bended image is given birth "are actually shot with two motion control rigs that were aligned perfectly to create the unusual effect you see."

In creating Taransky's ideal digital star, trademark qualities of Hollywood's "Legend Library" of leading ladies were incorporated into SIMONE. Her look is "a mix of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and others. She had to be contemporary but not so trendy that she would be quickly dated," says Niccol. In an effort to keep the mystery alive, Niccol quips: "Other voices and body parts (from the Library) were used to enhance SIMONE. But most of these prefer to go uncredited."

While Niccol and the effects artists declined specifics, all say SIMONE 's look was also shaped from different elements of an unidentified actress. "All synthespians are part pixels and part flesh and blood," Niccol says. "We're just not going to say which part is which."

In a sense, the hybrid image is nothing new.

"You have to realize digital work is done to real actors now," Niccol continues. "I've done it to actors in my films" – such as erasing unsightly blemishes, making limbs smaller or an actor's girth narrower, even face replacement if needed. Many stunt doubles are fakes now. Plus, you have scenes that are being digitally altered. Say you have a shot of two actors and maybe the performance of just one is great in one scene. You just take a different performance (of the same scene) with the other actor and splice them together. There's a lot more digital tricks being used today than audiences realize."

Blackbox Digital, which did the predominant share of effects shots in the film, also created the "Simonizing" effect in which Taransky enhances his star with the voice, body, smile and carriage of legendary actresses. "The concept is kind of endearing but also speaks to the whole superficiality of how we characterize actresses today like someone saying, `Oh she has that Lauren Bacall voice'," says Kent Demaine, co-owner of Blackbox. "It's about familiarity that we claim as new. Our job was primarily to make this look perfect and very smooth."

A third effects house, Grey Matter in Venice, utilized 3D animation to create the hologram effect in SIMONE ‘s concert performance, Dowd notes.

But making SIMONE 's performance believable meant a believable performance from her co-stars as well. When actors weren't working with a green screen, a stand-in would fill in for SIMONE, says Niccol. In the film, SIMONE ne

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