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PLEASANTVILLE

The Design And Technical Production
"Red irritates one group, another finds blue objectionable and a third set of people balks at yellow

"Red irritates one group, another finds blue objectionable and a third set of people balks at yellow."

- Cecil B. DeMille, bemoaning the coming of Color.

Not since The Wizard of Oz has a film so rigorously and creatively used color to define two different worlds and to express ineffable emotional shifts inside the story's characters. When Gary Ross first wrote Pleasantville, he realized that his concept of having color slowly saturate the village of Pleasantville - one pair of lips and one flower at a time - was going to require the latest color and special effects technology. But he could not have foreseen the epic, several-year process that making Pleasantville a palpably real place would entail. A focused and talented production crew used every last bit of invention and know-how to forge this unconventional world, a monochromatic milieu where color could blossom and alter dreams, desires, and lives.

Ross decided early on to bring the visual effects in-house for two reasons: first, the larger effects houses would be too expensive for his tight budget; and more importantly, he wanted the greatest amount of control over the effects as possible. The combination of high-end technology and an accessible team of experts provided the director with an unprecedented amount of input into the film.

"Creatively, every single effects shot was under Gary's control," explains producer Bob Degus. "It gave him the ability to shape and mold color as a character the same way he would mold a performance of one of the actors. Doing the effects ourselves allowed us to create this essential environment."

In its completed state, Pleasantville reveals the power that technical filmmaking elements have to provoke deep emotional responses. The tension between the deep sense of nostalgia imbued by the black-and-white Pleasantville and the visceral engagement of the senses excited by the full-color Pleasantville becomes part-and-parcel of Pleasantville's themes. Soon, black-and-white characters are confronting color characters in an all-out battle for the future of the town.

To create this illusion, the filmmakers brought in a team of animators, color experts, programmers and visual effects editors, all under the aegis of visual effects supervisor Chris Watts and color effects designer Michael Southard. Watts set up a state-of-the-art computer system, including custom animation and design stations running propietary software specifically to tackle Pleasant ville's enormous challenges. Southard then stepped in to design the digital palette.

Though the equipment and manpower numbers were small compared to a large visual effects facility, the effort was more massive than anything ever undertaken before. The team used more than 1700 digital visual effects shots to tell the story of Pleasantville, making it the largest digital effects movie ever produced. To put this in perspective, an average Hollywood film might use 40 to 50 digital shots at most, while a big special1-effects blockbuster like Independence Day would utilize 300 to 400. This entire process was managed by Chris Watts and Michael Southard in Ross' offices.

'This is a new kind of movie in which nearly every frame has been digitally manipulated in some way," says Watts. "This meant storing, managing and creatively altering an immense library of images that ranged in the multiple terabytes of information. And for each frame that we worke

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