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PRINCE OF PERSIA THE SANDS OF TIME

Highly Visual Effects Complete the Picture
Filmmakers Look to the Pros for Rewinds and Extensions

"Just when you think that you've seen just about everything,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, "we stand visual effects on their ear and do things that haven't been seen before. Hopefully, what you'll see on screen in ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' will be something fresh, interesting and innovative.”

Tom Wood and his extensive team of producers, managers, coordinators, data wranglers, and technicians were called upon to create nearly 1,200 visual-effects shots for the film. Some were long and involved—such as the time rewinds, the massive sandstorm in the climactic sequence at the Sandglass of the Gods, and the Lead Hassansin's vicious pit vipers—and some were minor little fixes at the edge of a frame.

Wood enlisted all of the modern technologies and techniques at his command. Among the most important effects for Wood were the four time rewinds, caused when the jewel on the hilt of the dagger is pushed, releasing the Sands of Time. "We decided immediately that we couldn't just run the film backwards,” explains Wood. "We didn't want it to look like a VCR rewind. We had to develop an original and visually interesting approach. What we aimed for was a kind of slit-scan effect where everything would be warped by time and space.

"What we've done for the time rewind was designed by the visual-effects house Double Negative,” Wood continues. "They call it ‘event capture.' We pre-visualized the sequence thoroughly with ‘animatics' resembling animated storyboards. We then came onto the main unit set and shot the forward-running action, followed by four days of effects coverage, putting cameras in the positions that we wanted to capture the shot from.

"We have nine Arriflex 435 cameras shooting with identical lenses, up to 48 frames a second at a 45-degree shutter angle, which has caused a lot of challenges with relighting the set,” Wood continues. "That's to get as sharp an image as possible. We have a number of people from Double Negative who have laid out the cameras each time, surveyed into position. They have to be very precise. It takes about two hours to set up each array of cameras. "We had to have our principal actors do 20 minutes of acting, go away for two hours, come back for another 20 minutes, and remember where they were. It's a challenge, trying to keep it fresh for each time that we see it.”

The arduous filming of the time rewind sequences obviously challenged the actors' abilities of recall and concentration. "I'd never done visual-effects sequences before, and it's a really, really long process,” admits Gemma Arterton. "But when you see it, it looks magical, adding a whole other dimension to the film.”

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