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Building A Spectacular New World
Immortals is loaded with visual effects, action, adventure—and nearly everything else under the sun. The filmmakers used the latest 3-D and VFX technology to seamlessly join layers of digitally created worlds and physical reality. "We kept seeing surprises on the set,” says Nunnari. "The technology is an exciting part of the audience ride.”

To make the creation of Singh's imaginary world easier technically and logistically, the producers decided to house everything at Cité du Cinéma Studios in Montreal. Production offices, special effects, art department and visual effects were all under one roof.

On the technical side, Singh worked with his long-time colleagues, director of photography Brendan Galvin and production designer Tom Foden. "I move at breakneck speed,” the director says. "The learning curve can be a bit steep. This gang moves very fast with me. So while the look of this film is completely different from what we've done before, the practical support they're able to provide is critical.”

Jack Geist, VFX producer, and Raymond Gieringer, VFX supervising producer, were added to the team to oversee Immortals' spectacular visual effects. "Just taking the environments into account, we had a large-scale effects show,” says Gieringer. "Then within the environments we had a lot of effects: enormous battle scenes, mountains collapsing, gods and Titans battling. There are over 100 shots that involve special effects.”

There was also a large physical component that supported the effects. About 20 sets were built, each containing a different virtual world, some with 360-degree views. Gieringer says the departments worked hand in hand to make sure things ran smoothly. "Their world is practical and they're going to build these sets. We need to take these sets and build the environments around them. Tom Foden and art director Michael Manson worked with us to make the process seamless.”

Geist and Gieringer became involved early in the development process to help Singh conceptualize his film. The director was very precise about what he wanted, according to Gieringer. "Tarsem is very specific in terms of his framing, and his composition is amazing, unlike that of any director I've ever seen before. We made a very beautiful, somewhat stylized film, with plenty of bang for the buck in terms of the virtual.”

Immortals utilized several cutting-edge systems to achieve its unparalleled visual style. During pre-production, the filmmakers implemented a system called InterSense, previously used on the movie Avatar. "It allowed Tarsem to see exactly what would be green screen and what would be set,” says Jeff Waxman, who served as both line producer and executive producer. "We were then able to build our sets to exactly the size that we would need. We designed everything months in advance. We had matte painters design all the environments on computers. Across the hall, the art department was designing the physical sets that would fit into those environments. Having it all under one roof, Tarsem could bounce between them and make changes on the spot.”

Because the technology is developing so fast, Kavanaugh says they were able to go one step beyond what was possible for James Cameron when he was making Avatar. "Tarsem could sit in front of a computer before he shot the scene, with it all mapped to scale,” says the producer. "He could actually see the shot before he shot it and make decisions about how to shoot and what lenses to use. It also allowed him to create the perfect 3-D reality and understand which parts of what scene were going to be popping out.”

During filming, the director used another high-tech system, called Moses, which gave him even more control of the shoot. "Moses is one of several systems that enable you to pre-visualize, so you can see beforehand what it will look like within the CG extension or a CG world,” explains DP Brendan Galvin. "Tarsem could see a person's head come over a mountain that doesn't exist. We used it in the monastery shoot, looking down from the monastery onto the encampment with the Heraklions, so you can see where all the stuff that's not actually there will be.”

Singh says the Moses System, along with his attention to detail in pre-production, allowed him to create shots that are perfectly composed. "I was able to construct a tableau,” he explains. "If some films are like comic strips, this is a painting strip. The system sees past the green screen, so I could control the composition.”

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