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CaféFX Creates A New World Outside "The Terminal"

Creates a slice of New York City digitally (August 20, 2004)

When Viktor Navorksi, played by Tom Hanks, finally takes his first steps outside "The Terminal," he enters a slice of New York City created by CaféFX, whose undetectable visual effects welcome him to a bustling streetscape seen through gently falling snowflakes.

The motion picture, directed by Steven Spielberg, ends with Navorski, no longer a man without a country, walking through an automatic door in a huge glass wall to exit the terminal and experience his first taste of freedom. As he steps outside, the camera pulls back from the traffic filled street and rises to show the dramatic New York City skyline as reflected on a glass-paneled frieze atop the terminal door and windows.

CaféFX's Santa Maria and Santa Monica facilities teamed to create the seamless digital effects, which required hundreds of hours of painstaking rotoscoping. While the terminal was an actual airport structure, the area opposite it was occupied by an enormous parking lot and a blown-out sky. There was no city street lined with buildings or skyline reflected in its glass panels.

"The large terminal windows reflected the real environment so we had to roto real windows and people going by, make mattes of those areas and put in a new digital reflection of a more overcast sky and 3D snow," says digital effects supervisor David Ebner.

CaféFX's team, roto artist Toby Newell, used eyeon Digital Fusion to rotoscope the glass windows and people's upper bodies to separate them from the reflection of the environment. Then Paul Graff composited in the new reflection of the city street, which was created from a digital matte painting by artist Robert Stromberg, who is a frequent partner of CaféFX.

"Everything down the street had to be roto'd, the buildings, street lights, flag poles, the horizon, so we could add sky and snow to the frame and snow drifting in the foreground," Ebner continues. The row of flagpoles, which needed to remain on the left side of the frame, required hundreds of hours of hand tracing alone."

Boujou and Lightwave were employed for the complex camera tracking, which replicated the move on the exterior shot from a ground-level handheld camera to a camera lift.

Alex Friderici created the falling and drifting snow using Lightwave's internal particle system, which added a wistful touch to the closing sequence.

The beautiful skyline panorama was a continuation of Stromberg's digital matte painting with additional mattes of the horizon to make the sky fill areas as needed. CaféFX artists color-corrected the skyline, giving it a colder palette than the rest of the shot and adding a fogging effect in the distance to lend a different mood to the scene.

CaféFX also did extensive rotoscoping on the shot that follows Navorski from inside the terminal out through the automatic door. "The glass between the camera and Tom Hanks reflected the camera crew and crane and had to be removed," Ebner reports. "It was a difficult task that required four days in Digital Fusion because of the way the lighting changed as the door swung open."

About CaféFX
CaféFX, founded as ComputerCafé, is headquartered in Santa Maria, CA, and has a studio in Santa Monica, CA. The company was founded in 1993 by Jeff Barnes and David Ebner to produce broadcast promotions and television ID packages. Today CaféFX attracts clients from all aspects of the entertainment world: feature films, (Master and Commander, LXG, The Core, Spy Kids 2 and 3, The Panic Room, The One, Armageddon, Flubber), commercials (Doritos, Microsoft, Burger King) and broadcasters (CBS, HBO, NBC). Both the Santa Maria and the new Santa Monica studio are outfitted with the latest effects, design, compositing and rendering technologies, including Discreet Logic Flame, Cyborg 5D, Commotion, Lightwave, Digital Fusion, PhotoShop and After Effects.

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Related Keywords:CaféFX, The Terminal, visual effects, digital effects, rotoscoping, David Ebner, Toby Newell, eyeon, Digital Fusion, Paul Graff, Robert Stromberg, Boujou, Lightwave, Alex Friderici, ComputerCafé,

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