Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spider-Man 3: Autodesk Technology Helps Web-slinging Superhero Conquer the Dark Side


Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) announced on 4 July ’07 that Sony Pictures Imageworks used Autodesk’s media and entertainment technology to create the visual effects shots in this summer’s blockbuster film, Spider-Man 3.
Marc Petit, Autodesk’s Media & Entertainment Senior VP said, “With Spider-Man 3, the artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks have reached new heights in character animation and visual effects. We’re proud that they used Autodesk solutions to enhance characters’ performances with digital doubles and to generate detailed, photo-realistic sets. We congratulate them on this milestone film.”
Sony Pictures Imageworks used Autodesk Maya 3D animation software for modeling, texturing, rigging, match-moving, character animation and visual effects animation on approximately 50 percent of the shots completed by the facility. The Autodesk Flame visual effects system was used for character face replacements and to composite live footage of the main characters into fully computer-generated environments.
For the “Birth of Sandman” sequence, the most technically complex and dramatic sequence in the entire film, Flame technology was used. During the three minutes of on-screen magic, a pile of sand slowly gathers itself into a sentient being and poignantly transforms into the human that is Thomas Haden Church in the role of Flint Marko.
The first shot in the “Birth of Sandman” sequence is approximately three minutes long (2,672 frames), without a cutaway, starting with a few dozen grains of sand that gradually gather with billions of others as the creature is formed. The computer-generated Sandman was created at Sony Pictures Imageworks by a team led by Visual Effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, Animation Director Spencer Cook and Digital Effects Supervisor Kee-Suk Ken Hahn. The work also highlights the talents of CG Supervisor Bob Winter, Sand Effects Supervisor Doug Bloom and Software Engineer Jonathan Cohen.
“The Sandman shots involved many paint-fixes to blend between different takes of sand simulations,” said Peter Nofz, Sony Pictures Imageworks’ digital effects supervisor for Spider-Man 3. “The Flame system’s versatility and speed enabled us to deliver extraordinary results. Overall, Flame was used in the final step of the production pipeline. It was the tool of choice for many difficult changes and fixes.”
In addition, Sony Pictures Imageworks used Maya to design the “venom” goo. The use of this software in the design of the evil, shape-shifting symbiote allowed animators to build goo-rigs on a shot-by-shot basis. The artists could then animate each shot with those rigs, retaining very precise control over the animation. The result is a powerful, alien-looking black silky goo that slithers and pulls itself along with dramatic fluidity.
“One of our most significant accomplishments on Spider-Man 3 was integrating character animation with effects animation, as they are were very closely related. The Autodesk Maya software‘s flexibility and adaptability made it possible for character animators to work concurrently with effects animators to produce seamless results” concluded Nofz.

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