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The Visual Effects
It began as a stunt at the highest waterfall in the world, Venezuela's Angel Falls

It began as a stunt at the highest waterfall in the world, Venezuela's Angel Falls. Stuntman Jake Lombard plunges from a 3,212-foot tall cliff, pulling his concealed parachute ripcord 18 seconds into the 22-second fall. The stunt fall is filmed 22 times.

On the screen that fall becomes one of the first realizations that Williams' Chris can do anything he wants. He can fly. Welcome to the merged world of stunt cinema and visual effects. It is only one of many aspects of this film in which visual effects are integrated into the narrative.

Enhancing this cinematic canvas were the effects wizards and visual artists from POP Film and Digital Domain. Together they would add layer upon layer to Chris' afterlife, merging reality with illusion.

The process of transforming the two-dimensional paintings into a three-dimensional world began in October 1996. Academy Award winner Joel Hynek and Nicholas Brooks supervised the visual effects team that would create the Painted World.

They began the process by mapping out sections of Glacier National Park, employing a revolutionary new technology called Lidar, which incorporates light and radar. With Lidar the team was able to map and photograph hundreds of acres at a time. These laser range-finding surveys provided data that enabled the visual effects designers to reconstruct the camera's motions and lens characteristics. From that, they were able to reconstruct a 3D computer generated wire form of the scene on a field of orange balls that were used as a reference for the scanners that recorded the live action.

Williams would refer to acting in scenes amongst those balls as the "Union 76 out takes," invoking the bright orange ball signs that top Union 76 gas stations in the Western U.S. He calls them points of reference. "You don't focus on them, they're just there. I know them from doing computer-graphic movies like Jumanji," he says. "They're there to track down the field when (the effects artists) start adding in the background. It's very strange to be running through a field of orange balls, but you get used to them."

The Lidar images became the canvas for the visual effects team who used their computer wizardry to paint and enhance the scenes.

POP Film contributed 121 shots for the film which included visual effects design, 2D and 3D digital matte paintings, digital compositing, color correction, rotoscoping, computer animation, digital scanning and recording. POP's Visual Effects Supervisor Stuart Robertston, working closely with Ward, oversaw the project.

Digital matte paintings, using PhotoShop and SoftImage, were created by POP Animation's Senior Designer Deak Ferrand. Those paintings included the elaborate city of Marie's World where architecture from several periods is nestled in the clouds on the other side of a vast abyss. In the foreground, a giant staircase led to the edge of that abyss with water gushing over its rocky edge. From the waterfalls to the shadows of clouds moving over the city, all movement in the painting is animated.

In another scene, Digital Domain, the Los Angeles-based visual effects house responsible for many of the breathtaking sequences in the Oscar winning Titanic, created the huge weeping jacaranda tree in Chris' paradise. A turning point in the film comes when Annie washes the tree from her painting, devastated and convinced she has forever lost touch with her soulmate.

Chris' Painted World was designed by Technical Supervisor and Effects Developer Pierre Jasmin and Senior S

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