Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lemony Snicket: A Boy Thinks.

While working on Lemony Snicket, Brad Silberling introduced me a book called "The Architect's Brother" by photographer Robert ParkeHarrison. Its great to work with directors like Brad who not only are great story tellers, but who also have great interest in fine art and photography. It makes the Visual Effects business a lot more interesting when the director is willing to use the digital tools to not only mimic reality, but to use them to evoke imagery from a wider aesthetic spectrum. The children's book upon which the film is based has to do with the tragi-comic events that besets the Baudelaire orphans, and the clever ways in which they use their ingenuity and imagination to save themselves. The entire series also has a timeless pseudo-victorian vibe to it that Brad wanted to translate to the film.
The images here represents some early experiments with how to cinematically represent the way Klaus solves a problem in his head by thinking about all the things that he has read and learned. The 1st few panels show a dense cloud of words (in courier font) so cluttered that the screen is almost black. As he thinks, the cloud of words parts, revealing the solution in the shape of an umbrella tied to a rope with shower rings as footholds. The feel of ParkeHarrison's manipulated silver gel prints is evoked with a very compressed stage-set depth.
Cinematic visual design is the art of taking words on a page and giving it an undeniable reality, until it becomes completely understandable to the audience.
Even though this concept didn't make it to the final movie, this is one of my favorite example of concise cinematic visual design in the service of a fairly abstract concept.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. COPYRIGHT ©2001 WARNER BROS. AND DREAMWORKS, LLC. All rights reserved

The Hulk: A Child's Nightmare

Working with Ang Lee on "The Hulk" was definitely one of the high points of my career. He challenged the entire ILM team to come up with visual effects that depicted not so much the external reality of this comic book hero, but rather the internal reality of what makes The Hulk such an interesting character. Of course, looking back at Ang's body of work, this makes complete sense as in every movie he's ever made he's always delved into the character's deepest psyche and built the film upon those submerged feelings and emotions.
For a particular sequence in the film when we flash back to Bruce Banner's childhood memories, Ang wanted some concept art to see what we can do with the stuffed animals - to make them symbols for all the repressed anger that the young Bruce experienced in his childhood home. I was - and still am - a big fan of David McKean's photoshop manipulations and how he manages to blur the line of reality and fantasy. So, I did this peice for Ang using a few photographs of the dolls that we collected on set, along with some photos of a great white's mouth and dental tools found online.
In the end, due to time and budget, the shot was cut and in its place was a pretty simple motion-blurred shot of young Bruce playing violently with the dolls.

The Hulk. COPYRIGHT © Copyright 2003 Universal Studios All Rights Reserved