About The Production (Continued)
The story's action element enticed Kasdan, as it provided
him with an opportunity to work with the latest filmmaking technology. "I've
made a lot of movies where people sit around and talk to each other," he
says. "This movie has snowmobile chases and car wrecks and spaceships and
monsters. It's been wonderful to get out there and discover how you wreck a
car, how you simulate a machine gun battle between ground and helicopter, how
you depict an animal that's been infected with an alien body."
Kasdan has learned that the visual effects process is
grueling work. "It's incredibly frustrating," he says. "You're
doing the mid-step; you're preparing something for an effects shot that's
not going to be developed until months later. In addition to the technical
challenges, we had to find ways to make it look absolutely realistic, because
that's the standard we set for ourselves on this movie."
There are over four hundred visual effects shots in Dreamcatcher,
created by a post-production group almost as large as the main filming crew. The
visual effects team is comprised of some of the most accomplished professionals
in the field: Stefen Fangmeier, two-time Oscar nominee and winner of three BAFTA
Awards for The Perfect Storm, Saving Private Ryan and Twister,
headed a huge team at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM); creatures builder
Steve Johnson, two-time Emmy winner for Best Makeup in a Miniseries for his work
on The Shining and The Stand, created the puppet versions of the
monster known as the â€˜shitweasel'; and visual effects producer Jacqui Lopez
oversaw the realization of it all.
Taking a more down-to-earth, humanistic approach to the story
necessitated some changes in the way the team usually works. "Directors who
are used to shooting visual effects for science fiction or fantasy tend to work
more from a visual discipline," explains Lopez. "They do their
storyboards and adhere stringently to the dramatic concepts developed in
pre-production. Larry is used to working with actors, so he is much more story
and dialogue-driven. The visual effects must be a natural extension of the
elicited performances, rather than adhering to the storyboard, so you have to
allow for a lot more flexibility. It's more challenging for visual effects,
but I think it's a much better way to work."
Some of the effects that appear to be the simplest onscreen
were the most creatively challenging for the designers. One example of this is
"The Line," the physical manifestation of Pete's inner radar that
directs him to things that are lost. "The Line has a very mystical element
to it, so when you try to visualize it, it's very abstract, which is not
necessarily easy to translate onto film," explains visual effects
supervisor Stefen Fangmeier. "While it's a technical challenge to match
the realistic look of an Apache helicopter, we have very good reference
photography that's available, so we know exactly what it has to be. With more
abstract designs like The Line, we have to invent something completely
Bringing the hideous creatures that terrorize the world of Dreamcatcher
to life was a very laborious process. Based on Crash McCreery's design,
the creature team built a clay maquette, which was then digitally scanned into
the computer to form the bones of the three-dimensional monster. The computer
graphics modeler then "sculpted" it with all the features and details
required. Then the model was digitally painted, and the digital armature that
the animators use to control the creature's movement was embedded within it.
When the creature moves, it bends and might deform in odd ways. So the designers
employ a proces
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