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Rainmaker Nabs First VFX Oscar Nod For Western Canada

Creates spectacular house demolition sequence in Oscar nominated ?I, Robot? (February 21, 2005)

"I, Robot," the 20th Century Fox Sci-Fi Thriller starring Will Smith, has shattered all prior conceptions of a futuristic robot-integrated society to capture an Academy Award Nomination for Best Visual Effects. ?I, Robot is a seamless, believable work of genius combining highly complex visual effects and live action shots at a ratio of approximately one-to-one. The Lanning House sequence created by Rainmaker is one of the most talked-about scenes in the film.

A sense of reality permeates ?I, Robot yet all the action takes place inside completely digital photo-real environments. There is continual tactile contact between the actors and the robots, the actors and the CGI environments and the actors and CGI props all of it seamless. The first intense action sequence is the destruction of Dr. Lannings mansion. Thousands of man hours went into creating this highly interactive sequence that yielded only a few minutes of film but leaves an indelible impression.

The Lanning House sequence begins with Spooner (Will Smith) arriving at the mansion of the late Dr. Alfred Lanning. The robo-phobic detective is searching for clues to the doctor's death and suspects the robot known as Sonny to have murdered Lanning. A large demo-bot sits outside the house, scheduled to begin demolition the following morning. As Smith enters the mansion, the demo-bot begins to activate and the demolition is underway with Smith and Lannings cat trapped inside.

"This sequence is important because it is the first action sequence in the movie." explains Rainmaker visual effects supervisor, Dale Fay, "It involved very detailed photo-realistic CGI, live action and high-speed miniature photography. The sequence introduces the demo-bot which was entirely CGI when seen in the early exterior shots. These shots were particularly demanding due to the large screen presence they had and because the CGI demo-bot had a few interactive moments with Will Smith. This combination required tremendous attention to photographic detail, textures, animation and lighting."

As the sequence plays out, the demo-bot hammers and claws at the house while Smith desperately tries to escape. The result is an absolute razing of the structure, leaving no stick of wood untouched, no stone standing. Rainmaker's Director of Visual Effects Brian Moylan, explains the process: "We accomplished the sequence using a combination of green screen set footage of Will Smith, a scale miniature model of the mansion and demo-bot, and a full CG demo-bot and debris. Making all these elements work together in the same space was the big challenge. Using this method meant we could put the debris and destruction literally right on top of Will."

Model builders spent several months constructing 1/4 and 1/6-scale miniatures of Lanning's house. Approximately 30,000 individual bricks were cast in Toronto, which were exact color-matched to the actual house built on location in Toronto. A 1/4-scale demo-bot was constructed to interact with the Lanning House miniatures. "Here, the challenge was to create the correct scale, weight and choreography for the robotic vehicle, continues Fay, "We pre-visualized the entire sequence to develop dramatic action for the demo-bot as well as ensure that the mechanical puppet would be able to achieve the desired performance. Motion control was also used to match the high speed scale miniature action to the live action photography. This gave us the ability to supplement the basic performance with additional passes for special lighting effects, dust and additional debris.

Finally, the artists at Rainmaker added selective 3D animation of architectural components and debris to further enhance the drama and threat to a fleeing Will Smith. Rainmaker was one of several major visual effects vendors on I Robot, including Digital Domain, WETA and Modern VideoFilm.

?Rainmaker did a colossal job as our specialty house for our models and miniatures, remarks visual effects supervisor John Nelson, ?They also provided brilliant CGI work scans, volumetric CGI effects and a CGI robot very complicated stuff.

About Rainmaker
Rainmaker is a post production and visual effects company with a twenty-five year history of technical excellence and outstanding service. From its origins in the pioneering west coast post house Gastown Productions, Rainmaker has grown into one of North America's pre-eminent post production service providers. Rainmaker's facility in Vancouver provides producers with an array of post production services ranging from traditional film developing to the very latest digital image processing techniques.

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Related Keywords:Rainmaker, VFX, 20th Century Fox, Visual Effects, CGI, Dale Fay, Brian Moylan, 3D animation, Digital Domain, WETA, Modern VideoFilm, John Nelson,


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