Not So Anonymous VFX

Now that the Academy has expanded the VFX category to five nominees, it gives movies with more supporting work a better chance to compete. This is perfect for Uncharted Territory’s superb virtual recreation of Elizabethan London for Roland Emmerich’s provocative Shakespeare authorship drama, Anonymous.

One of the first prestigious movies to be shot digitally with the new Alexa at the Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany, Volker Engel and Marc Weigert (who also served as exec producers in a more creative capacity) built the entire city of London in the computer, relying on accurate maps prior to the Great Fire of 1666.

They constructed tens of thousands of buildings (which were very crooked by design) in a system they created called OGEL (LEGO spelled backwards). They utilized three types: half-timbered, stone, and mansions along with one-offs such as The Tower of London and the Globe Theatre. They made basic variations (one floor, two floors with different roof types) and LEGO’d them together.

The OGEL software was customized in-house primarily because of the nature of the crooked design, which was also part of its charm, according to Weigert. They worked regularly in 3ds Max with both hand and automated work. They wanted to adhere to the map and accurately depict what London supposedly looked like.

“We wanted to use visual effects to create history as it was, so we built the White Hall Palace, for instance, which was Queen Elizabeth’s home,” Weigert explains. “It doesn’t exist anymore and is in a totally different place and looks totally different. But we built it accurate to old paintings.”

Ironically, the original White Hall was more of a red brick palace. “The interesting thing about the old one was that it had actually been built over a long period of time, and they kept adding to it, so there are at least two or three different styles on the outside,” adds Engel.

What’s especially new in Anonymous are the wide panoramas of London across the Thames. “We had several sweeping helicopter or ‘balloon’ shots that show sweeping vistas,” Weigert continues. ” There was a lot of detail in these vistas, not only thousands of people arriving at the Globe, but also row boats, ships on the Thames that have sail animation blowing in the wind, cats on roofs, birds and chickens, and cows in the street, even laundry blowing in the wind.”

This required a lot of R&D for new projection mapping techniques and moving the assets around in the compositing realm, allowing for quicker turnaround, using projection techniques in Fusion. Engel and Weigert thus worked with eyeon to develop new tools, including full 3D water as a compositing package inside Fusion, which helped create the River Thames.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production

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