American Cinematographer Covers Dreamcatcher, X-Men 2 and The Core

by malducin

The April 2003 issue of American Cinematographer magazine is filled with VFX coverage. There is an article about John Seale's cinematography for Dreamcatcher, plus a sidebar story about the ILM's work with VFX Supervisor Stefen Fangmeier. Also in this issue the cinematography and VFX of X-Men 2 is covered, along with The Core, the completion of Ray Harryhausen's The Tortoise and the Hare, the ever increasing use of digital intermediates and a report from this year's Sundance Film Festival. Starlog's and Cinefantastique's April issues also covers Dreamcatcher with a few comments from VFX Producer Jackie Lopez and Stefen respectively.

Stefen Fangmeier discusses Crash McCreery's designs and the use of Softimage for animation and subsurface scattering via RenderMan for the alien's skin. ILM handled 350+ shots in the film.

The article on X-Men 2's VFX is quite extensive and discusses mainly the work of Cinesite, under the supervision of former ILM Supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum, and Rhythm and Hues, under the supervision of Richard Hollander. Michael Fink served as the overall VFX Supervisor and the work was almost split 50-50 between those two facilities, though quite a few others participated like Hammerhead (which did Wolverine's blades in the first) and Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company (who did Mystique's transformation in the first film). Stephen Rosenbaum and his colleagues talk about Nightcrawler's "Bamfs", or dematerializing/materializing effect via particle systems, and the use of HDRI and tracking to accomplish the shots inside Cerebro, Prof. X's chamber. Richard Hollander talks about the workload at Rhythm & Hues, which handled around 300 shots, which included digital matte painting of Stryker's frozen hideout, Magneto's escape, with much of the environment being CG and rendered in their proprietary renderer called Wren, and a climatic dogfight which is a 6 min., 100 shot sequence, with much of it being CG too.

The Core article has a VFX sidebar too, with comments from the shows supervisor, Gregory McMurry. The film includes 450 digital shots or so provided by a dozen or so facilities, plus a handful of miniature houses including Fantasy II. Creo handled the Virgil's, the name of the ship, launch sequence (80 shots) while CIS handled the Virgil's trip to the core (70 shots). The Ray Harryhausen article details how animators Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh worked for 18 months to complete Harryhausen's short about 50 years after he started on it. The digital intermediates article talks about the work done on such films as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Frida, Stuart Little 2 and The Lord of the Rings. There is much discussion about the facilities doing the digital color gradings, like EFilm, The Digital Film Lab, CFC, Cintel, and others, plus the technologies and issues such as the Spirit Datacine, C-Reality, the Imagica Imager XE, and the Northlight film scanners, color and pixel resolution, storage formats, the Colossus system, telecine tools, Quantel's iQ system, the Arrilaser and Celco film recorders, and storage and management issues.