THE BREAKDOWN
No. of f/x shots: 825
F/x shops: Barbed Wire, Cantina Edge FX, Entity Pacific Title and Art Studio, Pixel Magic, Radium, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Title House, Zoic Studios
Why it will be nommed: CGI skin developed for the movie sets a new standard for one of the most difficult tasks for visual effects artists.
Why it won’t: While it surpasses the original creatively, it’s still a sequel that lacks the visceral punch of seeing the characters move through New York for the first time.

Sure, the flashy tight suit and the amazing powers help. But for an audience to really believe in him, Spider-Man has to be weighed down by the very human problem of gravity.

“The business of animating superheroes and superphysics has to lend itself to the human cues of real physics or you won’t believe what you’re seeing,” says “Spider-Man 2″ visual effects designer John Dykstra. “It’s critical because then people relate to what’s happening and they see it as real, and making the impossible seem real is our major challenge in a picture like this.”

Dykstra and “Spider-Man 2″ visual f/x supervisor Scott Stokdyk have the same favorite sequence in the film.

“Most of the people who talk about ‘Spider-Man 2′ talk about the train sequence where Tobey Maguire is carried over people’s heads, but for me it’s the sequence where Spider-Man and Doc Ock are fighting on the side of the building,” says Dykstra. “The movement in the sequence is based on those sticky toys that can be thrown at a window and then sort of fall down while rolling over and over and still sticking to the window.

“It inspired us to put these two superhuman beings … in a situation where they would be using their superpowers against each other but still have to deal with mundane things — like the weight of heavy objects when they throw them at each other.”

“In that battle on the side of the building between Spider-Man and Doc Ock, we used most of the major bits of technology we had on the computer side — CG environments and our computer-generated Doc Ock — because the filmmakers wanted to do things you just couldn’t do in camera, like slamming someone into the side of a building,” says Stokdyk. “It’s a really exciting combination of a lot of things — these two characters, the buildings and the fighting.”

Stokdyk also cites the use of reflectance field rendering of human faces, based on the work of Paul Debevec, an Institute of Creative Technology graphics researcher, as one of “Spider-Man 2’s” most significant visual effects innovations. “We had to come up with a convincing version of Alfred Molina in many different circumstances and this allowed us to reproduce a light stage and get the actor’s face under every conceivable lighting condition.”

The ability to create and alter lighting gave the filmmakers and visual f/x artists an opportunity to affect the emotional content of an actor’s performance. “In the last shot of the movie that has Doc Ock in it, the lighting in that scene really affects how you perceive the expression of his face and how the audience reacts to everything,” says Stokdyk. “We were able to animate Alfred Molina’s expression and then light it to get just the right lighting to express just the right emotion.”

“God is in the details,” says Dykstra. “People think of ‘Spider-Man 2′ as a huge action picture but it’s the execution of subtleties on a project like this that are most exciting.”

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