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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Technical breakthrough

In the pulp sci-fi action adventure flick “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” director Kerry Conran for the first time shot an entire movie against bluescreen.

While recent “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” entries extensively mixed live actors with digitally animated characters and virtual sets, “Sky Captain” goes all the way, with the performances of Jude Law and co-starrers Gwyneth Paltrow, Giovanni Ribisi and Angelina Jolie being the only non-digital elements in the film.

“To shoot a movie completely on bluescreen and doing it in such a way that it was consistent so all the human elements you shot on stage work together to tell a story was definitely the hardest part,” says visual effects supervisor Darin Hollings, whose credits include the 1998 effects extravaganza “Armageddon.”

In all it took around 80 visual effects artists a little over two years to create “Sky Captain’s” 2,000 effects shots (by comparison, “Armageddon” had 200 visual effects shots). “This is a quantum leap,” says Hollings. “Every single shot was put in front of an artist. It was like a huge jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces were blue.”

Though particulars like maintaining spacial relationships, matching actors’ eye-lines and keeping lighting effects consistent were obvious challenges, the biggest difficulty, according to Hollings, was simply putting it all together.

Visual effects artists used archival photographs and took some of their own photos of locations such as New York’s Radio City Music Hall and downtown L.A.’s Chronicle Building, as the basis for virtual sets created from a combination of manipulated photos, 2-D matte paintings, 3-D animation, and compositing. All the live action was shot on hi-def cameras, resulting in a uniquely digital workflow from pre-production through post.

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