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Weta Digital Uses Nothing Real's Shake Technology in Lord of the Rings

New facility outfitted with more than 50 Shake GUI's and 100 render licenses (December 14, 2001)
Nothing Real today announced that WETA Digital, New Zealand's foremost visual effects facility, is using its Shake software as the primary film compositing system to handle the enormous visual effects requirements for New Line Cinema's and Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

WETA is producing all three films in the trilogy: "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers," and "The Return of the King," simultaneously. To date, Shake has been instrumental in helping WETA tackle more than 1,000 compositing intensive effects shots on the projects. The first film, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," is scheduled for release December 19.

WETA has installed more than 52 GUI and 100 render-only Shake software licenses since it began building its new state-of-the-art studio and model post-production environment, nearly three years ago. Shake now serves as the cornerstone of the facility's compositing pipeline.

"WETA's massive undertaking in bringing to cinematic life three of the world's literary masterpieces, demanded, and continues to demand, technological innovation at every step of the post production process," said Allen Edwards, president of Nothing Real. "Nothing Real is especially thrilled that they have selected Shake as a foundation application to support its digital post production pipeline and successfully create cutting-edge visual effects that will serve these hugely visual and epic stories."

Numerous Compositing Challenges Met

WETA faced a number of compositing challenges in the creation of more than 570 shots for the first film in the trilogy. The casting of actors of normal stature as hobbits and dwarves required the development of scale compositing techniques to seamlessly integrate them with the larger races on the screen.

Thousands of CG elements, including crowds, creatures, environments, digital matte paintings, and digital stunt doubles were also created by WETA for integration by the 27 members of the compositing team. Motion control photography was used extensively on both the live action and miniature stages. A typical shot might depend on twin backgrounds, a digital matte object, multiple blue/greenscreen and CG smoke and creature elements, and miniatures. The most complex shot had over 300 input layers of various types, thousands of operations in the final compositing script, and was nearly 1500 frames in length.

"Integrating Shake facility-wide as our primary compositing system was mission-critical to our production efforts on these monumental projects. Shake's speed, flexibility, and scalability make it unquestionably the best compositing tool for complex imagery creation and manipulation," said Jon Labrie, chief technical officer at WETA.
"Simply put, we couldn't have completed 'The Fellowship of the Rings' without it."

Since the beginning of the films' production, a team of Nothing Real engineering and customer support staff has been working with the WETA production to extend and customize the popular compositing tool's functionality for efficient and seamless integration throughout the facility. The collaborative relationship also insures that technical issues are resolved in the most efficient and expedient manner possible. "The production-proven experience of Nothing Real's development team coupled with its superior understanding of film compositing technology has been invaluable to our efforts to jointly develop and customize aspects of Shake to our particular production needs," added Labrie. "Our relationship with Nothing Real remains essential as we move forward to complete the following two films."

"Working closely with WETA and having access to 'real-world feedback' allows us to exchange ideas and information so that we can continue to deliver superior quality and innovative compositing technologies that helps our customers raise the standard by which special effects for high-end film applications are realized," said Arnaud Hervas, chief technology officer at Nothing Real.

About WETA Digital

WETA Digital, Ltd. is Australasia's premiere digital visual effects studio, with established pipelines encompassing all aspects of modern digital effects production. Core competencies include CG creature design, animation, and lighting, CG crowd generation and control, CG environments, digital compositing, and digital film I/O. The facility is based in Wellington, New Zealand. Contact: Jamie Selkirk, +64 (4) 380-9080.

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Related Keywords:compositing, post production, filmmaking


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