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Motion control maven

Vfx vet goes along on 'Crazy' ride

Gravity’s Vfx supervisor Jim Rider has always been as transfixed by the ways films get made as by the pics themselves.

“When I was a kid, I remember learning about how the effects in ‘Star Wars’ were done and the early days of ILM,” Rider says. “The stories of them blowing up spaceships in a parking lot in Van Nuys were as fascinating to me as watching the whole movie.”

It’s no wonder then that Rider has spent his career in moviemaking — starting out in motion-control camera operation and compositing, and working on TV series such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and films ranging from such blockbusters as “Titanic” to indie darlings like “I Love You Phillip Morris.”

Rider likes artistic challenges. His motion-control skills were put to good use in “Crazy Stupid Love.”

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa wanted to do a lengthy, continuous tracking shot showing the transformation of Steve Carell’s character from a depressed divorced man into a skilled pickup artist. As the camera pans inside a bar, it finds Carell seated in various places, each time wearing a different outfit and picking up a different woman as it traces his growing confidence.

Rider tackled the challenge by doing a 3D pre-visualization of the points of view needed to get what the helmers wanted, worked out the camera moves, then loaded that information into the computer of the motion-control system.

“We used a Bulldog crane because it worked well in the bar set that was built for the movie,” says Rider, who has known Ficarra and Requa for 20 years and worked on many student and professional projects with them.

“Even though CG has made a lot of motion-control work unnecessary, situations always come up where skills you learned a long time ago help you solve a new problem,” adds Rider, who’s now at work on Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist” for Gravity in New York.

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