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Frantic Films Makes Time Stand Still in Swordfish with REALVIZ ReTimer

Bullet-Time Sequence Made Seamless with Additional Frames Generated Using ReTimer (July 31, 2001)
REALVIZ announced today that ReTimer was used by the digital artists at Frantic Films to build the opening sequence for Warner Bros' "Swordfish." Swordfish is the latest film from producers Joel Silver and Jonathan Krane, directed by Dominic Sena, starring John Travolta, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman. The 42-second frozen-time sequence opening the action-thriller has been wowing audiences worldwide since its theatrical release in June of 2001.

Swordfish stars John Travolta as Gabriel Shear, a dangerous spy who together with his beautiful partner Ginger, played by Halle Berry is attempting to pull off a high-tech bank heist. Hugh Jackman stars as Stanley Johnson, a world-leading hacker enlisted by the pair to help pull off a cyber-crime cracking into an airtight security system. Gabriel and Ginger lure Stanley into their clandestine world, and once Stanley enters their world, he realizes that nothing in the operation is what it seems and he has become a pawn in a plot that's a lot more sinister than a high-tech bank robbery.

Winnipeg, Canada-based Frantic Films worked closely with the film's visual effects supervisor, Boyd Shermis to build the impressive open. Frantic Films Effects Supervisor Chris Bond, and 2D Lead Artist Mike Shand went to Los Angeles in the pre-production phase of the film to work on the pre-visualization of the shot. The pre-visualization included an engineered break-down of the shot, including measurements, location of scene objects and placement of cameras to ensure a successful shoot. Frantic Films was also selected by the production to complete the digital effects in the final version of this sequence.

In the opening sequence, the camera follows a girl as she enters into an intersection, and explodes. The moment of the explosion is frozen in time as the camera navigates through the haunting stillness of over 500 elements of debris, shattered glass, people, police cars and buildings. The exterior shot was created using 134 35mm still cameras that were timed to go off with the action during the shoot, 45 cameras were used for the interior. Frantic Films' Chris Bond explains, "For all of the exterior photography in the shot, we had to slow down 134 frames to 400 frames per second in-between frames to convert a 45 frame per second shot to 102 frames per second. There were approximately two new frames that had to be generated between each camera shot; however, because of the way that the cameras were curved in the scene, some instances required as many as seven synthetic in-between frames to be created using ReTimer."

Mike Shand worked as the 2D Lead artist on the shot at Frantic Films, "We had to slow down the shot significantly, and do a massive interpolation of literally hundreds of frames. Once each element was stabilized and color corrected, we used ReTimer to generate the in-between frames for most of the full frame elements and some of the stunt men. ReTimer was also used for object removal. In one case a single camera from the array was partially blocked by a city street light. To remove it we took the frame from the camera before it and the camera after it and retimed them to create a perfect in-between that would replace the original unusable image. Using the same technique we were able to replace many dropped or over-exposed frames from the camera array."

"ReTimer was also used to generate vector tracked motion blur for many of the elements. This was very useful because the source footage from the camera array contained no motion blur as the cameras were stationary. Motion blur in some of the CG particle clouds was also achieved this way to cut down on rendering time. This is a crucial shot in the film and we relied heavily on ReTimer to complete it successfully," concluded Shand.

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