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
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
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'
'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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