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WAR OF THE WORLDS

The Look of 'War of the World'
With hundreds of extras, crew members, trucks, and equipment, the company prepared to shoot one of the film's biggest sequences — the first time Ray comes face to face with one of the Tripods.

Spielberg was completely familiar with the intersection in Newark and several other key locations before he started shooting. He'd been working with them in a computer since the beginning of pre-production through a process called previsualization (or ‘pre-viz'), in which traditional storyboards are animated into 3D digital sequences that depict not only what a scene will look like, but reveal every aspect of a given location, including sets, actors, cameras and crew.

While he'd used the computer to help visualize sequences in pre-production before, Spielberg said, "This is the first film I really tackled using the computer to animate all the storyboards.” He was visiting his good friend George Lucas who showed him how the process was working for him. "I got all the experts who had been working with ILM on ‘Star Wars: Episodes I, II and III' for George. When they wrapped, I took most of them with me,” he says.

"It's really been a fantastic communication tool,” adds producer Kathleen Kennedy. "We went out in August and scouted all the locations. Then we scanned everything into the computer and built the sequences around the actual locations. Steven literally lived in the same office with the guys who were creating this on the computer. It's an extremely accurate representation of what he then shot.”

Previsualization supervisor Dan Gregoire was one of the leaders of the animatics team on the last two "Star Wars” installments. "It starts as a just a paragraph of text,” Gregoire explains, "‘A Tripod rises of out of the ground in Newark, New Jersey.' Steven has it all in his mind but it's tough to explain that to everybody involved — the D.P., the gaffer, the grips. We came in and built that intersection in 3D. We built the Tripod; we cracked up the ground; we blew everything up. We developed the sequence from scratch so that we could actually play that movie on set in Newark and everybody who saw it could understand what Steven was talking about.”

The pre-viz also allowed the actors to see what wasn't there. "I invited the actors over to the computer while we were shooting and showed them the entire sequence,” Spielberg describes. "They knew exactly the size of these leviathan Tripods that they were up against and where they were in juxtaposition to the where the Tripods were.”

"Steven always shows us that kind of stuff when we're doing something with an alien and it's actually not there,” says Dakota Fanning. "He would show us what it was going to look like and exactly where it was going to be. It was really neat to have the pre-viz to look at.”

"I wish I had it on ‘Close Encounters,”' says the director, "because the actors had to completely rely on imagination. I hadn't imagined some of the UFOs when I was directing principal photography. I had to say ‘Well, it's this big pie tin tip there and it's large.' Here, all the actors had a visual reference. They could see roughly what it was going to look like when the film was done. And that was exciting to everybody.”

After weeks and weeks of occupying a 3D model of the intersection where they would start their work, the director finally flew out to New Jersey to stand in the middle of the real thing. "He came out to the real intersection,” recalls Rick Carter, "and now, was looking at it in terms of how he was going to film it, the real place. I said, ‘So, what do you like better? Your digital intersection, or the physical intersection?' And, first, he said, ‘digital,' and then, he turned and went, ‘no, physical.' ‘No, I like them both.' He was right there, between the two.”

In spite of pouring rain, hundreds of onlookers, and a gag

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