June 10, 2004

Day After Tomorrow: movie review pt 2

Still here? You are such a geek. Those effects in more detail, then: the opening helicopter move over the ice and water was pretty good; all CG right up until we see our heroes, and then blue-screened. I‘d bet it was done with Maya and mental ray. The helicopter sweep was well done, the water was fine and the ice was mostly okay, but you could see the fractals where they modelled thin snow on top of translucent ice. Fantastic matte painting though.

Ths shots from outer space were also very good for all-CG work; really big volumetric displacement mapped objects (the clouds), and the lighting was excellent – global illumination for sure. Must have taken forever to render. And the big flood scene was excellent; some miniature work but CG for the spray and the elements that the water picks up and throws around. In general the particle work for the frost, snow and ice was flawless, but the water was slightly off here and there.

The scene where ice races down the sides of building and then chases our heroes (!) was ridiculous, but the ice effect was really well done; it‘s fiddly to do translucent material on top of something else, because calculating the proportions of reflection and the internal bouncing around is hard. But without it, it would have looked more like dust or plaster.

The sunlight breaking through in the final scenes with the helicopters was exaggerated to the point of lunacy, but that‘s the cool thing about sunlight and cloudscapes; you can go nuts on them without bothering the audience, because crazy lighting effects do happen – albeit rarely – in real life. They were also unusually restrained in resisting the God camera with the helicopter shots; with CG scenes, you can put the camera in places that would be unworkably difficult or dangerous in real life, so one dead giveaway for CG is a shot where the helicopter flies within 6 inches of the camera, or the camera goes places a real camera clearly couldn‘t. In general too, they were quite good about showing their effects in bright light, in long shot, and in reasonably long takes – the mark of confidence in your work. Effects that you see mostly at night or in the rain (Godzilla) or in very quick edits (Armageddon) or close up so you can‘t judge scale or context (MIB2) are normally being disguised for a reason.

Things that didn‘t work so well: the wolves were only partially successful; the fur was great, but the facial expressions were pretty ropey. it was done in very fast cuts though, and I suspect that was as much to cover up the naffness of the modelling as to generate tension. And the digitally added clouds of breath never looked quite right; they‘d have been better comping in real breath clouds rather than doing CG. Perhaps that was why they were so casual about whether they bothered to add it in or not.

If you went to see it just for the effects, I reckon you‘d be pretty satisfied. But that‘s a pretty poor excuse to see a movie, and frankly a ridiculous thing to write a review about. Won‘t happen again. :)

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