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THE GOLDEN COMPASS

The Photography And Visual Effects
From the inception, the visual palette for The Golden Compass involved varying moods that changed in subtle ways throughout Lyra's journey. 

An Emmy award winner and BAFTA nominee for Shackleton, director of photography Henry Braham worked with director Chris Weitz to bring into focus the vast canvasses he sought while never losing touch with the psychology of the individuals in the scene.

"The color at the beginning is rich, golden, warm tones,” Braham describes. "We're in a parallel world where the night and even the moon is golden, as opposed to a silvery blue moon. That is the Oxford world.”

In London, Lyra is dazzled by the dramatic change in scenery from Oxford. "She goes on this fantastic physical journey to Mrs. Coulter's London, which is sparkly and seductive,” he explains. "With the practical lights, we burned them out a bit so they're kind of white and crisp. But when she escapes from Mrs. Coulter, the night-time London in our parallel world has a much greener light.”

As Lyra moves north, the landscapes become "cold, silvery, blue hues, which will be a romantic version of the north,” Braham describes. "I've spent some time on the ice in the Arctic and it's actually very beautiful. There is a lot of color in the ice.”

Planning for the substantial visual effects – the film includes over 1,100 effects shots – was worked intricately into the production plan, so that tests could begin even prior to physical production. "Fundamentally, the process of how we were going to do something and, more importantly, why we were going to do something, was decided a lot earlier,” recalls Braham. "Some scenes required a huge load of visual effects painting, and previsualizations helped us all stay on the same page.”

Weitz entrusted visual effects supervisor Michael Fink and his VFX producer Susan MacLeod with helping to realize the film's complex effects needs. Three main visual effects facilities were also employed extensively on the project – Cinesite and Framestore CFC in Britain, and Rhythm & Hues in the United States. Cinesite's VFX supervisor Sue Rowe, Framestore CFC's supervisor Ben Morris and Rhythm & Hues supervisor Bill Westenhofer and their teams set a pace of 40 effects shots per week from the time they commenced their work until the final mix. 

Gassner, Braham and Weitz worked closely with the visual effects department to create a seamless relationship between practical and live action photography and digital effects. "They gave me the freedom to move things around and continuously make changes as the storytelling demanded,” recalls Weitz. "Nothing was impossible for Mike and his team. Their flexibility and ingenuity throughout this process have been remarkable.” 

After the initial storyboarding phase of the film, an animatic was created to help frame each scene for the effects elements that would need to be created and composited. "This is the biggest and most complex film I've ever done,” notes Fink. "It took me 30 years to figure out how to do it, and I feel like my whole career has led up to this film.”

"The greatest challenge was the film's various crowd scenes, with multiple humans and multiple daemons,” says Weitz. "These scenes would not have been possible with live animals because daemons don't act precisely as animal pets – they are an active part of the human they accompany.” 

The most immediate and ubiquitous effects elements in the film are two main characters who are not human – Lyra's daemon, Pan, who takes many forms as children's daemons do, and Iorek Byrnison, an armored polar bear. 

Rhythm and Hues handled the animation of the daemons and setting the stage for their interaction with human actors. "You need to know how big it is, how much it weighs, how it moves, and you need to communicate this to the actors and fi

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