AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS
About The Special Effects
With the help of visual effects supervisor
John Grower, his Santa Barbara, California team, and digital effects
supervisor Bruce Walters, the first digital werewolf in history
has been filmed. "It was always going to be a digital werewolf
because we wanted to use all the advances in special effects,"
says director/writer/executive producer Anthony Waller. "Werewolves
on screen have always looked unrealistic, with people wearing
costumes and they were never really scary or convincing. Ours
had to be convincing beyond 'An American Werewolf in London' which
won an Oscar for its special effects, but even that film was limited
in what it could show. The werewolf didn't walk or run in its
entirety. They could only show parts of it. Ours will be running
and jumping and springing out of fountains. The first CGI werewolf
There were four main sequences which
needed digital computer graphics: anything with the werewolf;
the falling scene from the Eiffel Tower; Serafine's transformation,
which also included highlighting the prosthetic makeup;
and removing legs or parts of bodies, and backgrounds that were
The first thing that happened was
that director Waller would run through exactly what he wanted
on screen and to approve the story boards. Once he had decided
on them it was essential to stick to them exactly. John Grower's
team of 25 people at Santa Barbara Studios began working on backgrounds
and effects from the beginning of the shoot.
"Once the look of the werewolf
was defined, we then did a halfscale clay sculpture that
was very detailed and it was sent to Jez Harris in England. with
Joachim Gruninger, he was designing a puppet werewolf to use for
closeups," explains John Grower. "We sent off
another to a company in Utah to digitize so that we had a database
to work to. From there we started to define the joints and bones
and the angles that the arms and legs could move in. The shoulders
had to rotate up and down, muscles had to work, if the arm is
in a certain position, and when the neck stretches, there are
certain ligaments that stick out it all had to be
put into the database."
From there they were able to start
to animate and block in the motion of the werewolf and having
it act to camera which took as many as sixty interactions. In
normal film terms, sixty takes. The quality of the information
that goes in is important so a good animator is vital and they
don't come better than James Straus. One of the four top animators
on "Jurassic Park," his most recent film was "Dragonheart,"
for which he received an Academy Award nomination. He joined SBS
as their animation director.
Bruce Walters and his assistant Nick
Waller were responsible for shooting backgrounds and sets into
which the werewolf or actors would be digitally placed. "The
werewolf skin is actually airbrushed in. We don't use paint, it's
all done on the computer. To match the colors to the puppet we
took photographs and picked the colors off so they would be an
exact match," Bruce explains. "The important thing is
the quality of the hair. The werewolf hair is kind of curly and
straight in some areas. The tricky part is getting them to move!
Every hair on the werewolf is a separate model. Every hair has
its specific actions such as color, length, the shape of its shadow.
Then it has to react to movement so that when the werewolf is
moving, it moves with it. Each werewolf was covered with 400,000
There were about 40 werewolf shots
that were computer generated. Some have as many as three werewolves
in one shot all doing differe
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