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DREAMCATCHER

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 ‘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 original."

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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