Zemeckis Talks The Walk as Career-Defining

The Walk, which fittingly opened the New York Film Festival last week, couldn’t have happened without Bob Zemeckis’ pioneering (if controversial) performance capture work (The Polar Express) in IMAX 3D and his previous tech wizardry on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future and Forrest Gump.

Indeed, The Walk best sums up Zemeckis’ ethos about idealistic dreamers and technical perfection conveyed through immersive spectacle: “Everything I’ve done my whole career has prepared me to make this movie,” Zemeckis said. “It’s a win-win for me and I used performance capture invisibly with digital doubling. I certainly identify with that passion that Philippe has. The thumbnail description of the whole act [110-stories high and 140-feet across] told me that this has the potential to be a movie. And so I kept running it down and, of course, when I spoke to Philippe and he told me the story, it was instantly obvious that this could be a movie. It could do everything that movies are supposed to do — that was my instinct.”

Zemeckis’ original intention was to make The Walk as a performance-captured animated feature. But that was before Disney closed down his ImageMovers studio. However, he still got Petit to don the mo-cap suit and virtually pantomime his legendary high-wire balancing act as part of an elaborate animatic of the entire movie. That performance-captured walk obviously served him well as a choreographed roadmap.

“It morphed and it changed but the one thing that was a constant was that I knew it had to be a 3-D movie. I knew instantly that inside/out this was a 3-D movie. But being sort of the modern day inventor of 3-D, I was saddened seeing all these 3-D movies being converted which have no reason being in 3-D whatsoever.”

VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie of Atomic Fiction (who began working with Zemeckis during his performance capture crusade) studied the Towers intensely. He got photo reference from ’74 and shot plates from a helicopter and then accurately recreated the historic New York moment by digitally stitching the environment together (Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed on a green screen stage in Montreal).

“I spoke to Kevin about how they might be lit and evoke a feeling of color like I would talk to an actor. What I learned is that you get the same feeling of awe looking up at them as you do looking down from them. There’s something about the way they scrape the sky that’s amazingly powerful when you’re at the base looking up. Of course, I only did that virtually because I haven’t been able to do that in person for 15 years. It almost gives you the same visceral feeling as it does when you’re looking down from up on top of them.”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Below the Line, Clips, Crafts, Movies, previs, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production

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