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Luma Pictures Takes a Bite Out of ?Into the Blue

Studio Creates 3D Sharks & Gore for Ocean Thriller

Luma Pictures was selected by Mandalay Pictures to serve as a key visual effects supplier for Into the Blue, the MGM (Sony Pictures) thriller, opening today, about divers who find themselves in trouble when they come upon a sunken cargo plane. Applying its expertise in 3D character animation and compositing, Luma executed several critical effects shots for the film, including 3D sharks, gaping wounds from shark bites, ocean and environmental effects, and other elements.

Luma won its portion of the effects package in an intensive competition with other visual effects vendors. ?We were asked to perform a CG shark test, and based on what we delivered we were awarded several shots requiring sharks, explained Luma Pictures Visual Effects Supervisor Payam Shohadai. Luma has had considerable experience in creating 3D characters for major film releases that look realistic and blend seamlessly with live action characters and environments. The studio delivered nearly 200 visual effects shots for the recent release The Cave, many of which included 3D creatures. Luma is currently involved in even more complex and larger scale creature work as the sole visual effects provider for the upcoming Lakeshore Entertainment release Underworld: Evolution.

Lighting before

. . .and after

In developing the look for the sharks and in choreographing their movement, Luma worked with Director John Stockwell, Visual Effects Supervisor David Stump, Producer David Zelon and Editor Nicolas De Toth. As the production team gained confidence in Lumas ability to control the creatures and make them move and behave in a realistic manner, they chose to strengthen the action sequences by having the sharks perform more complex manuevers. ?For one shot, it was decided to make the shark bite one of the actors in a difficult place, explained Visual Effects Producer Ian Noe. ?We match-moved the live action talent and added dynamic animation to the shark to make it appear as though the actor was really being struck.  After getting approval on the animation, we lit the shark to match the plate, added caustics and finally CG blood.

One of the most difficult shots for the film was producing a CG shark bite.  During a key moment, one of the characters has her leg almost completely bitten off.  ?The shot involved match-moving the leg, painting a clean plate to fill in behind the missing parts of the appendage and replacing the leg with a CG element, recalled Noe. ?In order to conform to MPAA regulations, we went through many different models of the leg with different wound sizes and varying amounts of gore and blood coming from the wound and filling the water.

?Each element was manually animated including small strands of skin and muscle hanging off the leg, Noe added. ?In the end, the gore was scaled back to lessen the shock value, but it is still pretty gruesome.

While Lumas achievements with the shark effects are clearly evident, the studio also did some impressive work with shots where the effects are subtler. One of those involved a scene near the opening of the film where a plane crashes into the ocean. Luma created a CG windshield for the cockpit of the plane that shatters upon impact. It also produced the entire background of the scene, including stormy skies, rough seas and rain. ?We started with the windows, painting foggy glass, noted Noe. ?We then used several particle systems to create the rain, including one that generates the rain collecting on the glass.

Artists took pains to achieve the right look for the ocean, experimenting with varying degrees of wave size and rates of speed. ?The challenge was to make the waves seem massive, but still natural for a very large body of water, explained Noe.  ?Using Maya Fluids we also went through several iterations of the clouds rushing at the camera in order to fine tune the feeling of speed.  Finally, the elements were composited together and additional camera shake was applied.

Lumas toolset for the project included Maya, Mental Ray, Shake, Photoshop and Combustion.

Lumas other recent credits include A Lot Like Love, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Crash. Additionally, Luma recently completed a 6-spot, CG-intensive Nike commercial campaign for Wieden & Kennedy.

Luma Pictures is located at 321 Santa Monica Blvd., 3rd floor, Santa Monica, CA 90401. For more information, call (310) 888-8738.

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