Digital Domain Does Night at the Museum Finale

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb was the surprise VFX bakeoff entry. Here’s a rundown of Digital Domain’s work, led by production VFX supervisor Erik Nash.

●     DD executed approximately 340 shots

●     Created all CG environments which were used in over 100 shots (Primarily in the diorama of Pompeii and Escher’s “Relativity” lithograph

●     Created CG Greek statues which were required to perform myriad actions in 8 shots

●     Remaining scope of work contained some complex split screens with interacting performances and some 2D only shots

Little Trouble in Pompeii

This required an all-CG build of a tabletop Pompeii diorama environment, including buildings with cobblestone streets and a very active Mt. Vesuvius.  DD was tasked with re-creating the 79AD eruption of the mountain which destroyed Pompeii. This required multiple complex simulations for the eruption itself -including smoke, fire, lava, and fireballs- along with the moving lava flow which was choreographed to match up to the live-action performers which were being composited in.  This sequence features crowd-favorite Dexter the Capuchin monkey who saves the day in quite a memorable way…

Escher Tablet Pursuit

In this sequence, three characters enter the Escher lithograph called “Relativity” where a chase ensues to try to get to the magical tablet, observed by the artwork’s native inhabitants which have now come to life.

When our characters enter the artwork, they take on a variation of the distinctive etched look that is immediately recognizable as Escher’s style and interact with the all CG environment and its residents in complex and intricately choreographed ways.

Greek Amputee Encounter

Wall friezes and Greek statues with various missing limbs come to life as we enter the hallway and display room.

To achieve this DD created a CG version of a practical frieze, along with six hero Greek statues and twelve partial statues on stands, all of which came to life when the tablet was around.

Jed and Octavius 

In order to maximize the illusion that Jed and Octavius are 1/23 scale, we shot the background plates using a technique called “Focus Stacking.”  This technique requires photography be shot at varying focus distances.  These images can then be combined, or stacked, in such a way to allow for the focal plane to be adjusted as the shot is being composited together to more closely match Jed and Octavius’s photography and better integrate them into the scene.

LLP (Larry, Laa Prisoners)

Night guard Larry and Laa the Caveman -both played by the multi-talented Ben Stiller- perform in several long and intricate motion control shots crossing back and forth in front, behind and interacting with each other furthering the illusion that these are two different characters.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Movies, Oscar, previs, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production

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