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Sin City Gets A Touch Of Noir From GenArts Sapphire Plug-Ins

Visual effects company Hybride uses Sapphire Plug-ins on 735 shots of Robert Rodriguez' film (May 31, 2005)

Set in the dark alleys of Basin City, a fictitious corrupt city populated by crooks, bent cops and hookers, the noir drama Sin City is Robert Rodriguez’ stunning film interpretation of Frank Miller's acclaimed graphic novel series. Divided into three chapters, the movie faithfully emulates the stark black-and-white style of the original comic books, creating a stylized, groundbreaking new look in movie making.

Leading Canadian visual effects company Hybride Technologies has a long-standing relationship with Rodriguez including the Spy Kids trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, The Faculty, and the upcoming film The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D. For Sin City, Hybride was called upon to tackle 735 shots in the first chapter, “The Hard Goodbye,” as well as several other key shots and credits, totaling 54 of the movie’s 124 minutes. Sapphire Plug-ins from GenArts was a tool of choice for the dozens of digital artists, editors and compositors at Hybride who worked on making these shots possible. Sapphire was used in every single one of these shots.

“We have been using Sapphire Plug-ins for nearly 10 years now, and it has become the primary plug-in for our entire team of flame, inferno and smoke artists. We love it because unlike anything else we have seen, Sapphire is extremely subtle and versatile. You can easily combine many layers of effects to achieve a very precise look without making it look overworked or over-processed,” comments Daniel Leduc, Vice-President and Visual Effects Producer at Hybride.

Hybride’s work on Sin City included the design of over 45 virtual interior and exterior environments such as hotel rooms, alleys, buildings, statues, an electrocution chamber, a hospital elevator, a church, Roark’s guarded fortress, and many more. They also worked on the animation of many complex scenes, featuring helicopters, car chases and collisions, rain storms, gun shots, blood, gore, and severed limbs.

Because most of the movie was shot in color on a green screen, every shot had to be graphically altered, digitally re-lit, and recomposed to mix CG backgrounds with live characters. In each of the 735 shots Hybride produced, GenArts Sapphire Plug-ins played an important part in creating images with stark black and white contrasts, as well as smoothly integrating CG elements with live actors to create a finished ink drawing look.

“The underwater scenes were in my mind some of the most demanding and at the same time rewarding shots from a creative point of view," says Michel Barriere, Hybride’s Lead Compositor on the Sin City Project. "Sapphire Plug-ins played a crucial role in making the unique stark black and white underwater look possible. When we first started working on these scenes, we didn’t anticipate they were going to be so difficult. The initial results looked more gray than black and white. Then we tried to add more contrast, suddenly it didn’t look like an underwater scene any more. That’s where Sapphire Plug-ins came to the rescue. EdgeFlash helped us replicate the contrasts of the water environment onto the character. RackDefocus was also used a lot on these shots to smooth out the composited elements without altering the look of the underwater floating particles, and the Diffuse plug-in also helped us adjust the lighting which was particularly tricky on this shot. It was tough to achieve the final look, but I am very happy with it. The particles, the water, depth… it all worked out. And at one point in the shot, the character of Marv looks exactly like he did in the comic book. You can’t ask for more than that!”

Much of the movie’s unique visual style is due to the fact that it is entirely shown in black and white with only occasional elements of color for added impact. Again, Sapphire Plug-ins played a key role in making this possible, as Michel Barriere explains:

“We made extensive use of the Layer plug-in in Sapphire to add touches of color to certain elements of some scenes. The Layer effect was ideal because it features many parameters for adjusting the brightness, contrast, and color saturation of the inputs you’re working with. In one of the first scenes, which takes place in a bedroom, the whole shot is black and white except for the bright red sheets on the bed. To achieve that look we went back to the original footage which was shot in color, and thanks to the Layer effect in Sapphire, we were able to export the exact same luminosity and color of the original bed to the newly created black and white shot. And we made use of this extensively throughout the movie.”

“As a creative tool, Sapphire Plug-ins is second to none,” comments Daniel Leduc. “But its benefits go beyond its ability to help us create the perfect contrast or glow. Combined with burn’s multi-processing background rendering, Sapphire is so fast! And of course, better use of time means increased productivity, and ultimately more time for creating the perfect shot!” concludes Leduc.

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/Discreet Flint, Flame, Inferno, Fire, Smoke, Burn, and Combustion; eyeon Software Digital Fusion; Quantel generationQ; Media 100 844/X 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 Star Wars-Episodes I, II and III, 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, The Hulk, X-Men II, Daredevil, Ice Age, Pearl Harbor, Final Fantasy, Dinosaur, Titanic, Armageddon, and Contact.

Additional GenArts product information can be found at


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Related Keywords:GenArts, Sapphire Plug-Ins, Hybride, Visual effects, compositors,

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