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THE MUMMY

The Special Effects
A large-scale, big-screen production such as Universal Pictures' new and ambitious version of the 1932 classic, The Mummy, requires a vast amount of effects filming

A large-scale, big-screen production such as Universal Pictures' new and ambitious version of the 1932 classic, The Mummy, requires a vast amount of effects filming. This included state of the art visual effects, supervised by Industrial Light and Magic's John Berton, the live action creature effects under the supervision of Nick Dudman, and the special effects, supervised by Chris Corbould.

John Berton, ILM's visual effects supervisor on The Mummy, was given the daunting task of overseeing the film's numerous visual effects sequences-many which involved the Mummy itself.

Berton says, "We first had to figure out what the Mummy would be like and we knew we wanted him to be totally unique, we didn't want him to be just a guy in bandages. He had to be mean, tough, nasty, something that had never been seen by audiences before."

"It took us about three months to develop the look," Berton says. "This was before filming started because we had to plan the effects and, until we knew what the Mummy was, we couldn't plan how to make him real. All those things are very much intertwined and there's a certain kind of synthesis that goes on in terms of thinking how you would do it as opposed to thinking about how it will look."

From the very beginning, Berton felt that 'motion capture,' which is a construction of motion information, was the best way to go. While motion capture doesn't have the same expressiveness as animation, it does provide for a tremendous amount of realism.

Berton says, "In this case we tried to achieve realistic motion. We were not trying to make a magical Mummy, we were trying to make a menacing and very realistic Mummy, and human motion is incredibly difficult to do because we all know what it looks like. We all know exactly how a human being moves. And if it's not right, you are going to see it right away."

The best way to create the natural movements of the Mummy was through simple observation, one of the basic necessities of good animation. "Not only do we have all the witness cameras recording the 'Motion Capture'", Berton says. "But we also poured over all the other photography that was done on Arnold. We also did some specific photography of Arnold so that we understood what his gait was and other things about the way he moved and how that worked in three-dimensional space.

There were two techniques that were used to create the Mummy. In the Mummy's earlier stages he was completely synthetic. But when he begins to look more like Arnold, Berton used combinations of live action and computer graphics of Imhotep. They then had to match what were essentially digital prosthetic make-up pieces on to Arnold's face.

Berton says, "As Imhotep, Arnold obviously brings a tremendous amount of live action presence to the film. When you see his film image, that's him. When he turns his head and half of his face is missing and you can see right through on to his teeth, that's really his face. And that's why it was so hard to do."

Berton was persistent in stressing that he didn't want people to know how the effects were accomplished, as he considers it a failure when pe

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