WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
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
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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