|No. of f/x shots: 416
F/x shops: Digital Domain, Dreamscape Imagery, ILM, Hydraulx, the Orphanage, Ring of Fire, Tweak Films, Yu+Co, Zoic Studios
Why it will be nommed: The innovative work in the area of “volumetrics” — the rendering of amorphous stuff such as clouds and tornadoes — stands out in a movie full of flashy effects.
Why it won’t: The publicly aired acrimony between the producers and Digital Domain might sour some voters on the project.
As storms go in Hollywood, the air has blow pretty cold between the producers of Fox’s “The Day After Tomorrow” and Digital Domain.
Six months before finished reels were due to Fox, helmer Roland Emmerich and visual effects supervisor Karen Goulekas grew unhappy with the lead digital f/x shop’s work and concerned about delays. They pulled DD’s finished — and unfinished — shots and gave them to other firms. There’s been plenty of back-and-forth ever since.
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Still, the eco-disaster pic has grossed nearly $370 million in box office and DVD revenue on the domestic side alone — and that’s probably not because of its snowflake-thin story.
The film is full of flashy, difficult-to-execute volumetric f/x work — lots of water, clouds and snow. It’s the kind of stuff that stands out with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ visual effects branch.
In terms of digital f/x, “The Day After Tomorrow” ended up an ensemble success.
“We have to take the higher road,” Goulekas says of the tiff with Digital Domain. “At the end of the day, the work they have in here is great.”
Before its firing, Digital Domain was able to complete the twisters that ravage L.A. and the freighter that sails the streets of Manhattan. It also had started thousands of elements that were completed by other houses.
The smaller Hydraulx — which lists “Terminator 3” among its credits — stepped in late in the process. But the shop ended up contributing 120 of “The Day After Tomorrow’s” 416 shots — the biggest share — finishing an impressive flyover sequence at the beginning of the film as well as the breaking ice shelves, the space shots, and the Tokyo hail storm, among other sequences.
The Orphanage, meanwhile, contributed the instant-freeze sequences involving such things as the British military choppers and the Empire State Building.
Industrial Light & Magic chipped in with the hungry wolves, while Tweak Films completed aerial sequences of such things as the huge storm tide pummeling Manhattan. Several other shops also were involved.
Creating the water, snow and cloud effects proved more challenging than the pic’s f/x shot count would indicate, Goulekas points out. “You can’t just go by the number of shots in the film. It’s what those shots are.”
In the end, Goulekas adds, having a number of houses concentrate on a few specific elements worked better than relying on one shop to create and composite everything.
“Roland and I learned so much from this,” she says, noting the benefits of spreading the work around. “It taught us to look at the skill sets of different companies and not be afraid to use boutique shops. If we had just gone to Digital Domain with the storm tide and the twister (sequences), we wouldn’t have walked away as unhappy clients.”