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Mr. X Creates VFX for "The Greatest Game Ever Played"Delivers over 150 visual effects shots for Walt Disney Pictures film (September 28, 2005)
Toronto-based Mr. X Inc. delivers all the visual effects shots -- over 150 -- for the Walt Disney Pictures release THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED. The studio's workload covered the gamut, from computer-generated (CG) crowds and flying golf balls, to virtual camera moves, dream sequences, matte paintings and even a CG ladybug.
The period golf drama, directed by Bill Paxton, is based on the true story of the 1913 U.S. Open, where 20-year-old Francis Ouimet (played here by Shia LaBeouf) defeated reigning champion Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). "Bill wanted the camera to be another character in the film," says Dennis Berardi, Visual Effects Supervisor for the film. "He wanted dynamic, exciting shots to put the audience right into the action."
One shot required the camera to follow a powerful drive by character Ted Ray, played by actor Stephen Marcus. In this exciting sequence, the camera takes off into the air, catches up to the ball in mid-flight and passes right through the ball's interior to beat it to the green where the ball eventually lands. Realizing the filmmakers' vision for this sequence was a complex, but rewarding task. "We opted to shoot the backgrounds using a remote-operated Helicopter," recalls Berardi. "It was a considerable challenge to design the flight path for the ball. We also had to add the CG crowds and, of course, the ball." The end result is a realistic and dynamic shot that will have viewers asking, "How'd they shoot that?"
In addition to these stylized shots, Mr. X contributed a number of highly realistic and 'invisible' effects to Greatest Game, such as the film's opening shot, which features a wide coastal vista and then moves back to reveal Vardon's cottage home. Although the shot was intended to establish the film's locale on the coast of the Isle of Jersey, due to production constraints, the film was actually shot in a forest in Montreal. "We spent a great deal of time and care on that shot because we knew it would set the tone for the whole film," says Berardi. "We had to remove all the trees, add a CG ocean to the background, and painted in the entire coastline as well." The end result is as tranquil and realistic a view of the Isle of Jersey as any taken on film.
Another challenge for Mr. X was the extensive crowd duplication required for the golf competition. The effects team decided to save time on set by using a 3D approach for the crowds, using its artificial intelligence engine to run simulations. "There were never more than a few hundred extras on set at a time during the shoot, yet the climactic tournament near the end of the film required a sea of onlookers and a grand and epic feel. Visual effects allowed us to bring thousands of virtual spectators into the scenes, and to do so in an exciting and realistic way," adds Berardi.
During the early stages of production, Mr. X created a host of extensive previsualizations and designs as groundwork for its role in THE GREATEST GAME. This preparation truly paid off once the shooting began, as the team's involvement in the early planning of key sequences allowed it to streamline shooting steps and to resolve creative challenges. The team also took care to establish a collaborative environment with the filmmakers. "Bill was very specific about certain things, but in other areas he gave us considerable latitude in which to design shots and pitch ideas," says Berardi. The end result was a personal triumph for the team: "GREATEST GAME represents a leap forward for us as a studio, in terms of photo-realism," Berardi comments. "This film pushed us to the best of our abilities in every area, and we're really proud of the work we accomplished."
The Toronto-based studio has been growing steadily since its launch in 2001. Mr. X's recent addition of more production space -- as well as the appointment of visual effects supervisor Evan Jacobs -- has helped to increase its capacity to meet the overwhelming demand for its services. Mr. X is currently in production on SILENT HILL, SILENCE and SKINWALKERS, as well as REVOLVER, TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY, and 16 BLOCKS. The Mr. X team most recently completed visual effects for FOUR BROTHERS, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and WHERE THE TRUTH LIES.
A Walt Disney Pictures film, THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED stars Shia LaBeouf, Stephen Dillane, Justin Ashforth, Peter Firth, George Asprey, and Elias Koteas, and was produced by Larry Brezner, Mark Frost, and David Blocker. The film was directed by Bill Paxton, and is scheduled for release on September 30th, 2005.
Mr. X Inc. Digital Visual Effects Credits
THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (2005)
Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Berardi
CG Supervisor Shane Glading
Digital Effects Supervisor Aaron Weintraub
Visual Effects Production Manager Sarah McMurdo
Visual Effects Producer Fiona Campbell Westgate
Visual Effects Coordinators Brendan Taylor, Dev Singh, Lisa Marra
Animation Lead Brian Anderson
Animators Daniel Mizuguchi, Michael Mulock, Matt Ralph, Karl Sisson
Effects Animation Kyle Yoneda
Crowd Simulation T.D. Colin Hui
Software Developer Colin Withers
Texturing / Lighting Fred Chu, Sean Cohen, Jeremy Dineen, Aaron Pozzer, Geoff Scott, Mark Stepanek, Hoa Tran
VFX Compositors Anuj Anand, Barb Benoit, Kristy Blackwell, Kris Brockman, Rob Del Ciancio, Bonnie Dickson, Robert Greb, Winston Lee, Jef Lonn, Seth Martiniuk, Michael Stewart, Tamara Stone
Scoreboard Designer Brian Lui
Additional Compositing Joel Skeete
Operations Manager David Singer
Tape Operator Mike Diltz
Systems Administration Vladimir Popovic, Sasha Dragun
In-House Accountant Linda Rose
Office Administrator Andreea Denes
Who is Mr. X?
Bringing together a unique mix of artists, filmmakers, VFX supervisors, and programmers, Mr. X specializes in partnering with filmmakers to provide story-driven visual enhancements. The artists and creative minds at Mr. X are known for their superb, photo-realistic achievements in CGI, their skills in digital matte painting, VFX compositing, and Post/VFX supervision, as well as for their realistic digital creations of epic-scale and otherwise impossible stunts. With a studio equipped with a rare mix of the latest imaging technologies, the team at Mr. X is committed to pushing the limits of the digital realm, and in making the impossible, possible.
With credits on dozens of distinguished projects including FOUR BROTHERS, ICE PRINCESS, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005), RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004), WRONG TURN, BLIZZARD, ARARAT, THE SWEET HEREAFTER and many more, Mr. X helps to define the very look and feel of a film.
For more information on Mr. X, please visit their website at www.Mrxfx.com.
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