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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

About The Visual Effects
Sony Pictures Imageworks - which previously handled VFX duties on director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy - returns to oversee the visual effects on The Amazing Spider-Man. For this film, the work was overseen by Jerome Chen, an Academy Award®-nominated VFX supervisor who has been with Imageworks since its founding 20 years ago.

Working with director Marc Webb, Chen and the visual effects teams created a visual style that naturally blends cutting edge live-action stunt work with CG character animation and seamlessly integrates both into extensive digital environments. Imageworks created many digital characters, environments and VFX elements including: Spider-Man, The Lizard villain, OsCorp Building including spire and extensive rooftop set, New York Sixth Avenue, Mid-Town High School hallways, library, sewer tunnels beneath New York City and Spider-Man's new webs.

Chen says that Webb's new vision for Spider-Man set a new bar for the Imageworks artists. "Marc had a specific vision for Spider-Man's world: an organic, naturalistic New York City, a place full of dirt, scaffolding, and steam. He wanted Spider-Man to be more physical, to really react with this environment, rather than a stylized version of the character," he says. "I loved this concept, but I knew that an organic, naturalistic Spider-Man would make the visual effects work a lot more challenging, because the CG imagery would now demand a higher level of visual sophistication. The CGI would need more textural and tonal detail in order to integrate with the photography. And, of course, the organic feel of the movie has a huge impact on how we realize our completely CG villain - who would have to feel real and be as sturdy and gritty as the rest of the picture."

Webb's vision didn't just apply to the look of Spider-Man, but also to how he would move - and it would be different from what audiences might be familiar with. "What was really important to Marc was that the movement was natural and physical, in the sense that a real person could do it. Because of that, there's a physicality of Spider-Man in the way he responds to gravity," says Chen. "Andy Armstrong's stunt team worked hard on suspending Spider-Man from the right geometry of wires that allowed him to swing in the correct way. We were able to mimic that - we looked at what gravity did to the real stuntmen, then simply enhanced it to give it a bigger scope."

For example, the chase sequence that takes place under the elevated portion of Riverside Drive showcases the marriage between practical stunts and visual effects. Armstrong's team started the process with practical stunt work. "We integrated that with CG for wider shots, simply because the mechanics of the truss work didn't extend far enough. We had great reference from the real movement," says Chen. Similarly, Chen's team provided CG animation on the Williamsburg Bridge sequence where practical effects were not the best solution: creating the Lizard, of course, but also some blue screen work and a CG Spider-Man when needed.

Webb's previous film work - including the indie hit (500) Days of Summer - might not seem to make him a natural choice for a film with hundreds of visual effects shots, but Chen says that the film was in quite capable hands. "Marc had a very clear vision for the characters and how he would handle the love story between Peter and Gwen - that's the heart of the movie. But what really impressed me about him when I first met him was that he knew, in his mind's eye, what he wanted the film to look like, and his direction to me about what the effects needed to be, the movement of the Lizard and the movement of Spider-Man, was very specific."

Chen also says that Webb uses pre-visualization (or "pre-viz") techniques in an interesting way. While many directors use pre-viz to explore, say, how much of a set should be built vs. constructed in the computer, or which camera lenses will work best for a given shot, or blocking out camera movements, Chen says that Webb has another goal in mind. "It's not just technical - Marc uses pre-viz creatively, to explore a whole sequence. It will show his intentions for the physicality of movement, the energy of the scene, the emotional beats, the dramatic intent. It's a very finished pre-viz and it becomes a great starting point for the scene."

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