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Cutting Edge Technology And Effects
"Shooting on a real ship was more problematic than one might think,” says producer Duncan Henderson. Considering their options early on, it soon became clear that no existing ship could compare to "Wolfgang's vision of the newest, the best, the most grand and luxurious,” as depicted in production designer William Sandell's preliminary drawings, which, Henderson says, were more appealing to the director than any of their other choices. "Wolfgang decided he didn't want to be held back by anything.”

By employing computer graphics to create the ocean, all exteriors and the ship in its entirety, the filmmakers did not need to compromise in scale, ultimately pitting a more-than 150- foot wall of water against a 20-story grand ocean liner more than 1100 feet long and carrying 4,000 crew and guests. Industry leader ILM, which previously contributed the groundbreaking aquatic effects for Petersen's The Perfect Storm, raised the bar again with new image-rendering techniques that bring the wave and the ship to life.

Meanwhile, extensive interiors were built on Warner Bros. Studios soundstages the old-fashioned way to accommodate practical effects. Most sets were duplicated in original and upside-down versions to depict, first, the ship's grandeur and then, post-impact, its utter destruction – all balanced on platforms that could pitch and roll the action on its side.

Combining practical sets with CGI, Petersen achieved the size and scope unlikely to be found in the real world yet scrupulously realistic: a ship not only ultra-modern but timelessly elegant in every way, from its sleek exterior construction to every detail of décor and atmosphere right down to the handcrafted initial "P” reproduced in the buttons of the staff uniforms.

The ship itself becomes a character in the story – constantly shifting, lurching and emitting deep metallic groans as supports give way and the increasing load of water slowly drags it down. "We all felt the physical power of this huge ship dying, which is how Wolfgang looked at it,” remarks Josh Lucas. "It was like we were inside some giant living beast that is mortally wounded. First it loses its heart, then vital organs start to shut down. All the while we're trying to get through it, everything is imploding, burning, sinking.”

Petersen brought to the project many key artisans with whom he has worked before, among them renowned cinematographer John Seale, an Oscar and BAFTA Award winner for The English Patient and recipient of three additional Academy nominations; editor Peter Honess, whose work on L.A. Confidential earned a BAFTA Award and an Oscar nomination; costume designer Erica Edell Phillips, whose designs for Total Recall earned a Saturn Award; special effects supervisor John Frazier, a 2005 Oscar winner for Spiderman 2 and five-time additional Oscar nominee whose work on The Perfect Storm merited a BAFTA Award as well as an Oscar nomination; and production designer William Sandell, an Art Directors Guild Award nominee for The Perfect Storm who brought home a BAFTA Award and an Oscar nomination in 2004 for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis (a BAFTA nominee for Speed) oversaw the implementation of more than 600 VFX shots. "In terms of scope it's one of the most complex VFX pictures ever created,” he says, and offers Poseidon's innovative opening shot as an example of the level of expertise brought to bear on the film.

"It starts under the water from the camera's point of view, then rises to reveal the ship, rotates around the bow and down the side of the ship, then spots a figure running along the deck,” Shermis outlines. "The camera comes in tight on him, dollying 180 degrees around him. We lead him up a flight of stairs, then pull back to take in the beauty and grandeur of the ship, the upper de

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