DIRECTOR DENIS VILLENEUVE MAINTAINS A GROUNDED APPROACH TO EPIC SPACE SAGA DUNE


“No wild pullbacks and moves that didn’t have some basis in how cameras are actually moved, and we tried to build as much as possible on most of our sets rather than encasing actors within a blue box. Trying to keep things grounded, we didn’t go for a big showy effect. We tried to avoid anything too FX-y, even when the ships fold space. In fact, the shield effect is based on past and future frames in the same shot, plus some color changes, so it isn’t like we’re adding or inventing, just using what was actually there. While there wound up being around 2,000 visual effects shots, realism was the word throughout.”

While the majority of work was handled at DNEG Vancouver and DNEG Montreal, an in-house crew, overseen by WylieCo, was also formed for the production. “I think it is very valuable to have offices close to the director,” says Lambert, “as it facilitates the fleshing out of ideas, which in turn affects and improves the shooting process. The in-house unit wound up doing hundreds of the simpler shots, plus we did a few shots with Rodeo FX up in Montreal. They have Deak Ferrand, a fantastic artist who is one of the fastest conceptualists I’ve ever seen. He’s also a good friend to Denis, having worked on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 as well.”

When production began in Budapest, Lambert assigned a scanning crew from OroBlade to LiDar parts of Wadi Ram, where later location shooting would take place. “That helped with the wides of Arrakeen,” he reports. “Our beautiful wides of the city are actually from helicopter views scanned into the computer. We built that CG world around those real terrain elements.”

For backlot work in Budapest, sand-colored screens were used instead of blue or green, allowing a more naturalistic Arrakis-desert coloration to reflect onto the performers. Natural light was employed whenever possible. “For some massive interiors, we had to come up with creative ways to light the scene,” Lambert reveals. “We connected two separate studios with a tarp across the roof, which had a specific shape cut into it allowing sunlight to come down into part of the set. We could only shoot at a certain time of day with this tarpaulin because the hole permitted sunlight to illuminate the interior just right for a couple hours only, but it really sold the reality of the environment with natural lighting beaming down into our stage sets.”

Close collaboration between VFX, camera and art departments led to a unique approach for interiors requiring set extensions. “Because of the scale involved, the question was often, ‘how high do we build this?’ Traditionally, you would have green or blue up above, but that compromises the lighting for the whole view. I suggested that we consider what the actual tones and shapes would be going up in frame when we did the VFX. So during the shoot, we’d place a particular colored form up there. If there were structural elements, like crossbeams, that were supposed to be up there, we’d represent them simply as well. DP Greig Fraser loved this, because he was able to light it like he would a fully-built set. We’d build a very cheap version, through which he could light as he desired.”



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