Vision Q&A: Weta Digital/Ohio Edit

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Weta Digital, the Academy Award-winning New Zealand-based VFX shop behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy, recently collaborated long-distance with New York-based Ohio Edit and director Fabien Baron for a CK One cinema spot, via iSight and iChat "cursor control" technology. In the spot, the camera moves through rooms of models partying in a bottle-shaped building. Ohio owner/editor Frank Snider and Weta VFX Supervisor Dan Lemmon talked about the process and the effects behind the complicated spot, Weta's first in the U.S.

C: What is virtual communication like for visual artists?

Snider: We look at the work together and we discuss the progress. It basically goes like this: "This part's great, we love that scene; let's change this and we'll talk again tomorrow." It takes only a second to get used to iChat. It seemed as if the Weta folks were right here at Ohio.

Lemmon: It's really helpful to be able to point at different parts of an image or scrub through a Quicktime and know that on the other end of the line, the director is looking at the exact same thing you are. That's the critical difference between a conference call and an iChat with synchronized Quicktime players-with the latter, you know that you're seeing what they're seeing.

C: Which were the most challenging shots? How did you resolve them?

Snider: Each bit had its own problems and solutions. Matching the motion control camera to the Steadicam took a little time, but it worked out fine. Timing all the moves became like a little puzzle.

Lemmon: As the CK One campaign was going to be shown in cinemas internationally, we executed the commercial at film resolution and with higher image fidelity than is typical of commercials. The commercial presented a variety of technical and logistical constraints. The camera move needed to appear to be a single continuous take. It also needed to reveal hundreds of people hanging out in a giant bottle-shaped building. However, we had a limited number of models and could only build one story of the building. Working within those parameters, we decided to shoot the first part of the spot with a Steadicam, the second part with a motion-control camera, and for the last section we transitioned to a CG camera. The big challenge, of course, was to create the appearance of a single unbroken camera move.

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