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Cinesite Provides 100 Effects Shots for Rush Hour 2

By John Virata
Cinesite Digital Studios provided approximately 100 shots for Rush Hour 2, the blockbuster Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker action comedy. Among the shots Cinesite contributed to include the American consulate explosion sequence, the scaffolding sequence (where Jackie Chan remarks Chinese Bamboo very strong) the "Red Dragon" hotel explosion sequence,the fight sequence between the two girls (the DEA agent and the girl who delivers bombs to the Embassy and police headquarters), the 18-wheeler sequence where the truck drives over Chan/Tucker, and the sequence where Chan runs along the side of the moving truck.

"The trick is to create the illusion that Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker survive imminent danger by doing heroic and breathtaking feats and making it totally believable," says Cinesite Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Lingenfelser. "This sequence was all in Brett's [Ratner] mind. He storyboarded everything, though it constantly was evolving. We went through many variations and combinations. We just had to figure out how to do it."

The individual shots making up the finale are a combination of numerous 2D techniques and applications. Lingenfelser credits his effects team, including Digital Effects Supervisor David Lingenfelser, and a close collaboration with Ratner, 2nd unit director Conrad Palmisano, and cinematographer Matt Leonetti, ASC. The Slide For Life sequence was broken down into two types of shots. Wide shots of Chan and Tucker are digital paint removals of safety rigs and up to six cables. Close-ups of the stars are digital composites accomplished using a 40 by 60-foot digital bluescreen matched with background plates filmed in Las Vegas. Intricate split composites and bluescreens were used for the shots involving Chan and Tucker swinging over Las Vegas Boulevard. Foreground and bluescreen elements of them were filmed in both Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.
Cinesite is migrating to Linux OS and PC hardware.

Backgrounds were then filmed in one night in Las Vegas using camera data from the foreground and bluescreen shoots. Another heavy effects shot, in the film's opening, involves a terrorist bombing of The American Consulate in Hong Kong. The shot starts with the camera high above an intersection and cranes down to follow the female villain (Ziyi) leaving the Consulate. She crosses the street and stops just as the third floor corner offices explode in a massive fireball, spewing multiple layers of glass, fire, debris and smoke out of the windows. The Consulate building was shot in Hong Kong without the benefit of an actual explosion. An air horn was used to provide the proper timing and stimulus for crowd response. Mike Joyce of Cinema Production Services built a 1/6-scale miniature of the top six floors of the Consulate. Pyrotechnics were designed and supervised by Ian O'Connor. The miniature, with pyro explosion, was filmed three separate times at 96fps to achieve the proper scale. The miniature element was then tracked to the original background plate, accounting for lens distortion. Elastic Reality was used to match and warp the miniature building's perspective to the live-action building.

"There is not a single 3D computer generated element in this film," Lingenfelser says. "There wasn't the need or the time for the complexity of 3D in this accelerated post schedule. Matt [Leonetti] frequently came into the facility while we were compositing elements and offered advice about fine-tuning and perfecting shots, which helped to expedite the shots more efficiently. I prefer that kind of interaction with the film's cinematographer. I am essentially an extension of his work and we both have the same goal of achieving the director's vision." Leonetti's first and second unit crews photographed all of the background plates in addition to the foreground and bluescreen elements featuring the actors and their stunt doubles. Lingenfelser notes that all of the effects elements were filmed in the same 35mm anamorphic format (2.4:1 aspect ratio) that Leonetti used for live-action camerawork. The only difference was that the bluescreen elements with Chan and Tucker were recorded on a slower, 200-speed Kodak Vision (5274) negative to reduce grain that would adversely affect proper matte extraction during the compositing process.

Digital Media Net senior producer John Virata discusses some of the effects work with Cinesite artist Kevin Lingenfelser

DMN: When did Cinesite begin work on its effects shots for the film?
KL: We began our work on Rush Hour 2 in late March of 2001. And delivered our final shot on July 19th, 2001.
DMN: How many artists worked on the 100 shots for Rush Hour 2? And are these artists full time at Cinesite or artists for hire?
KL: Rush Hour 2 had almost 100 shots. For Rush Hour 2 we had a crew of roughly 15 artists and all are staff employed
DMN: What hardware did the Cinesite artists use to create these shots? Are Windows NT or SGI workstations used in the creation of these shots? How about big iron boxes like Quantel?
KL: All of the Rush Hour 2 shots were accomplished using SGI hardware. Octanes, O2s and even several Onyxs. We are currently migrating to Linux OS and PC hardware as a facility. We have no Quantel boxes.
DMN: What were the software tools used to create the effects? It is known that Cinesite uses a lot of proprietary software, but what about off the shelf tools like Adobe Photoshop?
KL: Rush Hour 2 utilized mostly proprietary software i.e.: Cineon, mooVRoto and mooVPaint. However, for the U.S Embassy shot, I used Elastic Reality to match a miniature building's perspective to a real one.
DMN: What is the primary OS used on the machines at Cinesite. Has the company investigated the Linux OS and if so, is Cinesite using Linux in the production process?
KL: Our 3D Tracking Department is currently running on Linux OS machines.
DMN: How did Cinesite accomplish the scene where Jackie Chan is running on the side of the truck? How was Chan positioned?
KL: That stunt is ALL Jackie. He was hanging from his rope and got into position as the truck came at him at about 30 mph. Matter of fact, that was Jackie's last shot of the film. We filmed that at the Chandler Stages on Saticoy Road at 4 am. I only added the Las Vegas background with the Stardust Hotel.

Cinesite Digital Studios

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
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