SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
Shrinking the Talent
VFX and SFX of the Dwarves
Sanders considers himself to be a practical director
who isn't interested in visual effects for the sake of them.
He'd rather use VFX to enhance what has already been
captured manually on camera. During the shoot, an
astonishing 90 percent of footage was taken on physical
sets or on location with limited green screen. However,
one of the biggest challenges for Sanders and director of
photography Greig Fraser was shooting the dwarves on
camera, but having them appear smaller alongside the
other cast members.
Several different techniques were used to produce
the specific looks for these characters on screen. One
potential solution came from one of the production's VFX
supervisors (and additional 2nd unit director), CEDRIC
NICOLAS-TROYAN, a longtime collaborator of
Sanders'. "An effects supervisor tries to find the technical
solution to a creative problem," explains Nicolas-Troyan.
"I had to come up with ideas of how to show well-known
actors as characters half of their normal size."
Nicolas-Troyan wowed the director, the producers
and the studio with a test reel of a concept he had
designed to "shorten" the legs of the cast. Though this
would make the actors appear smaller on screen, using it
for all the shots needed would blow the budget and time
frameā¦and make it improbable to hit the film's release
date. "We couldn't use visual effects every time we see a
dwarf, or we'd be dead in the water and never make our
days," says Nicolas-Troyan.
The VFX supervisor had long ago learned that there's
more than one way to get the job done. He reflects: "We
used some very old-school techniques, like rostrums
[platforms], which help fill the gaps in the viewer's mind.
In some scenes, we would shoot the actor and shrink his
legs, and in others, we used a face replacement."
Visual effects producer LYNDA THOMPSON adds:
"It's also about the framing of the shot: If you don't see
the actors' feet, they appear to be walking on ground
level. Principal actors for dwarves are walking about two
feet below them, so the framing of the shot makes them
appear shorter. This really helped to solve being able to
crack on with the shoot in camera."
On wider shots, shorter doubles for the actors were
dressed and made up to look like the principal characters,
which is another great way of saving time and allowing
the director and cinematographer
shoot physically. Thompson says:
"However, there are some scenes
where we have the doubles or stunt
doubles close up and you can tell it's
not a principal actor, so those were
our true print face replacements."
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