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A Non-Blizzard Doesn't Keep Lit Post From Its Appointed Snow Job

Innovative DI Turns Perilous Scenes Into a "Frozen" Thriller

Much to the consternation of millions of people, the U.S. was hit last winter by a series of bone-chilling blizzards. But for Frozen, a feature film about three skiers stranded on a chairlift and forced to make life-or-death choices that prove more perilous than staying put and freezing to death, a snowstorm was what was exactly called for to make the peril complete.

Plans were dashed, however, when the weather turned uncooperative and the film had literally no budget to create the demanding visual effects in post. Lit Post's ingenious solution was to innovate a method of creating FX in real-time in the Digital Intermediate workflow. Of 270 total shots 130 were weather shots-close to 20 minutes of film-- that had to be delivered in 3-1/2 days.

"Where most visual effects used to be done on a Flame and with Shake, we now can handle in our DI toolkit," said Tyler Hawes, head of Lit Post. "A typical shot that a VFX artist could well devote a day to might take me 15 or 20 minutes in our DI system, which is fast and powerful. Even though the colorist is a lot more expensive, if you're at least breaking even, it's a more cost-effective way to work. Advances in speed and power are increasingly making the DI suite the more efficient place to work on certain kinds of VFX. You can view the work product immediately, approve it, move to the next shot and feel comfortable that the shot is completed."


Lit employs a Nucoda Film Master that allows much more flexibility with VFX work as well as color grading. For Frozen, much of the time was devoted to adding snow effects employing six different plates of snow involving different types of snow falling at different rates of intensity. "The snow becomes a performance," said Hawes. "While we added layers, we have the option to change the skin shading of an actor, do a window or shape or change the exposure to increase his visibility. Since these choices are all interactive elements, it's intuitive to do it in the DI mode."



Lit's DI system allowed the team to create multiple layers of footage and composite it together. The tools they commonly use to isolate a person's face with a shape that tracks it was employed to control where the snow could and couldn't go and to adjust the transparency of the snow, speedups and slowdowns, and de-focusing. "I could take multiple layers of snow and build them up, adjusting transparency, color, density, focus, and speed. The result was incredibly convincing.

 "We shot some snow-machine snow in front of black backgrounds. Because the DI system is so powerful, we could actually sit in the room with the director, Adam Green, and, very quickly, go through a shot and build up exactly the shot he wanted."

 Hawes says advances in DI technology are increasingly making the DI suite the best place to work on certain kinds of VFX. "Even with a larger budget, the producers of Frozen would have found the best way to do the visual effects was in DI."

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Related Keywords:digittal intermediates, DI, Digital Intermediate, Lit Post

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