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Sapphire Plug-ins Provide Big Help on "Little Manhattan"

The task of creating Gabe?s experience fell in part to editor Alan Edward Bell (October 26, 2005)

When youre ten years old, living in New York, and in love for the first time, the signs of your beloved seem like theyre everywhere. You think you see her face in every store window, billboard, and movie-house marquee you pass. At least, thats the experience of Gabe, the principal character in 20th Century Fox and New Regency Pictures romantic comedy, ?Little Manhattan. Starring Josh Hutcherson as Gabe, and featuring Charlie Ray, Cynthia Nixon, and Bradley Whitford, the film opened in New York in September, with wider distribution later in 2005.

The task of creating Gabes experience fell in part to editor Alan Edward Bell, who also handled the majority of visual effects on the film. One tool he came back to again and again was GenArts Sapphire Plug-ins -- both during the editing stage to create effects within Final Cut Pro, and during the finishing stage to finalize the effects at film resolution within Autodesk combustion.

?This isnt a big visual effects picture, but there were many cases where I used Sapphire Plug-ins to save time and achieve a realistic result as opposed to creating effects that would stand out on their own, Bell explained. ?Like most people probably do, I got them initially to solve a particular problem. I needed a quick way to generate a very high-quality, natural-looking de-focus effect. He downloaded the trial version of Sapphire, ?threw on an effect to see how it would work, and after noting the quality and depth of the de-focus tool, purchased licenses for both his Mac-based editing system and Windows-based compositor.

The scene that prompted Bell to enlist Sapphire is a turning point in the film. In it, leading boy Gabe imagines visuals of his beloved are everywhere he looks in Manhattan. The filmmakers had shot one part of the scene on Broadway, with Gabe in the foreground and the famous Beacon Theater in the background, thinking they would spell out a message about Rosemary, the object of Gabes affection, on the marquee. When the theater wouldnt allow them to change the signage, they composited in what they wanted during post production.  Bell explained, ?The shot rack focused from the kids face to the sign, then back to the kids face. The issue was that when we shot the clean plate with just the sign, it was shot sharp. We couldnt just rotoscope and replace the sign the defocus would have looked fake. When a real shot goes out of focus, things dont just blur the highlights bloom and dark elements blend and squeeze down. The Sapphire RackDefocus plug-in was perfect. It did more than just apply a blur and made it amazingly easy for me to match.

He noted, ?That plug-in alone was worth the cost of the whole bundle to me. It saved me hours that I would have spent creating a complex matte from scratch. The fact that it integrated right into the Final Cut and combustion UI made it extremely fast and easy to use.

Another corrective fix that Sapphire simplified for Bell was in removing the interlaced look of NTSC footage that had been composited over shots of a clean TV screen. ?The Sapphire de-interlacer plug-in, FieldRemove, looked fantastic.  I could have worked with the standard interlace effects in either Final Cut Pro or combustion, but it would have taken me hours to get to the quality of the Sapphire effect.

While Bell had brought Sapphire into play initially for corrective use, he also applied it as a creative tool, using the BlurMotion effect to complete the look of a unique ?postcard approach he had developed. ?There was one scene where Gabe was describing the 9-block radius where hes allowed to roam. It was just done in voiceover, and we had to find an interesting way to show it.  We had a map and red line showing the area, but it wasnt enough.  We came up with the idea of showing postcard vignettes of each of the key places.  I went out one morning with a digital still camera and took pictures of each place, and got the idea of doing a stop-motion-like thing where wed zoom from one place to the next.  We took a picture, zoomed 25 feet, took the next, zoomed 25 more feet, around to all four places, and compiled the whole thing in Final Cut Pro. As the image turned each corner and we got closer to each place, we wanted to create a blurry tunnel-vision feel, and we judiciously added Sapphires motion radial blur, BlurMotion, to help blend the shots together and generate a greater sense of speed.  I roughed it out in Final Cut Pro, and used the same plug-in to re-master at film resolution in combustion.  When I showed the director, he was completely wowed.

Bell also used Sapphire BlurMotion to create a ?snap-zoom look. ?Some of the shots you see that zoom in from a wide angle to an extreme close-up werent actually shot.  We had the wide shot, and we had the close-up. We manufactured the zooms using Sapphires BlurMotion. I just took the wide shot, blew it up to match the size of the close-up, reversed it, and added an extreme amount of blur on top so that it would appear we were zooming in super fast to a clean close-up.

For his work on ?Little Manhattan, Alan Bell didnt come close to using all of the packages 175+ image-enhancing effects.  ?I probably just used about five of them, he said, ?And I probably could have rolled my own and eventually gotten what I needed.  But the time it would have taken wasnt worth it especially when you have an effect that works exactly the way you want it to.

He added, ?As a freelance editor, I now have a great package that I can use on other projects.  Sapphire is great!  It has the whole gamut the standard stuff that you need and take for granted, and the really creative stuff that you can use if you want to do something crazy.

About GenArts' Sapphire Plug-ins
Sapphire Plug-ins provide digital artists with a collection of over 175 state-of-the-art image processing and synthesis effects. They fully and seamlessly integrate into a number of editing and compositing systems including: Adobe After Effects and Premiere; Apple Final Cut Pro, Shake and Motion; Avid Media Composer Adrenaline, Media Composer, Xpress Pro, Xpress, Xpress DV, Symphony, DS, Nitris and Newscutter; Autodesk combustion; Discreet flint, flame, inferno, fire, smoke and burn; eyeon Software Digital Fusion; Quantel generationQ; and Sony Xpri. Sapphire Plug-ins offer a comprehensive suite of tools and effects that can transform any film or video clip. They are resolution-independent, include multi-processor support for faster rendering, and run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Irix. Effects in the package range from everyday tools such as Glows, EdgeRays, LensFlare, Glint, Blurs and RackDefocus, to more exotic effects like Lightning, FlysEye, JpegDamage, HalfTone and Textures.

About GenArts, Inc.
Based in Cambridge, Mass., GenArts, Inc. is a premier provider of digital visual effects plug-ins for the film and video industry. Introduced in 1996, Sapphire Plug-ins have become an industry standard for high-end visual effects creation at leading studios, broadcast and post production facilities around the world. They are widely recognized for their unrivaled quality and ease-of-use, and have been used extensively to create an array of feature films such as Star Wars-Episode I, II, and III, Sin City, Spider-Man 1 and 2, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix trilogy, I Robot, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, X-Men II, Daredevil, Ice Age, Pearl Harbor, Final Fantasy, Dinosaur, Titanic, and Armageddon. Additional GenArts product information can be found at

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Related Keywords:Alan Edward Bell, GenArts, Sapphire Plug-ins, Little Manhattan


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