Recreating The Twin Towers for The Walk

The Walk, which recreates Philippe Petit’s amazing high-wire act across the World Trade Center Twin Towers in 1974, has been shortlisted for the VFX Oscar. And on Tuesday, it was the subject of a special case study on virtual production held at Sony for a joint tech committee comprised of the ASC, ADG, VES, the Previs Society, the PGA and the ICG.

Indeed, final 28-minute balancing act over New York City was a virtual production wonder, overseen by VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie of Atomic Fiction, who has collaborated with Robert Zemeckis since his pioneering performance capture crusade.

“For the third-act walk, we built one corner of one of the Towers (40 feet long and 12 feet high),”¬†Baillie¬†explained. “That’s all they could fit on the stage in Montreal and still have room for about 100 feet of cable for the walk action to happen [with actor Joseph Gordon-Levit as Petit].

“The rest was green screen in all directions. We had to do digital extensions of the rooftop and the Towers and recreate those. And 1974 New York looks remarkably different from today, so we couldn’t just take photography of modern day New York. We had to recreate New York completely from scratch. What you see is 20% filmed real and the rest recreated. Rodeo did set extensions of the World Trade Center lobby.”

Building New York from scratch (including buildings, hot dog stands, newsstands, cars and people) first began by getting reference footage for two days in a helicopter to monitor traffic flow and how people look from that height. “The unexpected outcome for me was getting permission to hover right over Ground Zero at 1,400 feet, which is the exact place where Philippe walked. I was able to evaluate every shot in post around that sensation,” Baillie added.

The cityscape was achieved through a combination of Maya and Modo for model making and then they used Mari and Modo, depending on the artist, to texture the buildings. Atomic did all of the look development, shading, and lighting in Katana. Then it was all rendered in Atomic’s in-house cloud-rendering platform called Conductor, which is being released commercially at the end of the year.

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

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

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