EXCLUSIVE: The Base Studio On Converting Captain America: The First Avenger To 3D, THOR And Much More!
Despite being busy with various projects, Jordan Freda of The Base Studio was kind enough to take the time to talk to me about their work on Captain America: The First Avenger, THOR and even The Smurfs! Click to head on over to their site and be sure to give their Facebook page a "Like" for all the latest news and gossip from the studio by clicking here.
Taking us through the visual effects work they did as well as the process behind converting the movie and why it’s worth seeing it in 3D, check out this fascinating and revealing interview with The Base Studio...
What is Base Studio?
Rooted just south of San Francisco California, The Base is a media production powerhouse specializing in the art of visual effects, motion graphics and creative content development. With a strong foundation in cutting edge technologies, our diverse team of multi-disciplined artists consistantly delivers quality beyond our clients expectations.
The Base Studio, January 2011 VFX Demo Reel from The Base Studio on Vimeo.
What can you tell us about your work on Captain America: The First Avenger?
The Base Studio conducted a few various tasks for the film. Our primary assignment was working on the film's rotoscope process of the 2D to 3D conversion alongside StereoD. We also produced some visual effects compositing work on various shots involving "Skinny Steve" (a.k.a. Chris Evans before his transformation) We had a total of 75 employees working on the feature full time. Of those 75, 65 were rotoscope artists, 9 were compositors and one was a matte painter. In terms of the conversion, when all was said and done, The Base rotoscoped a total of 1000 shots.
How much involvement did Marvel Studios have as you were working on the movie?
Marvel Studios had more involvement with the actual visual effects (compositing) work on the film, whereas I'm sure StereoD, the main company on the conversion, surely had communication about the conversion on a daily basis. For the visual effect shots, we would work with Marvel Studio's VFX supervisor to insure the quality and continuity of each shot which was assigned to our studio. We also had hour long phone conversations and screening sessions with SterepD about the shots being handed off for the depth/conversion process.
Can you take us through the process of what you did to covert Captain America into 3D?
Our team conducted high detail rotoscope work and isolated every element within each shot that was assigned to us. Rotoscoping is a form of spline based keyframe animation. In essence/normal English, it is a skillful form of digital tracing to isolate people and or objects within each plate. (Plates are the shots from within the edit.) Stereoscopic conversion takes the art of rotoscope to a new level of difficulty and higher standards. Every single frame of the film is touched by hand and "drawn" by a human to near perfection. The best way to describe this to someone moderately computer savvy would be: Take the pen tool from Photoshop or Adobe After Effects, stencil out every object within the scene and then perform that on a full movie. Time consuming and labor intensive.
What other visual effects did you work on?
Prior to the film's release, I can't speak much to what specific shots we worked on due to a non-disclosure/secrecy agreement, that is standard to the industry. However, many of the shots required crowd replication or enhancing the size of crowds within a given scene, integrating matte paintings and creating set extensions or making a set from the movie seem appear larger by digitally extending or creating it's its background and removing/replacing some of the original set, and compositing/replacing the actor, Steve Evans, from his normal size to a skinnier version of himself.
Some people are still sceptical skeptical about post converted 3D movies. What would you tell them about Captain America to put those fears at ease?
This has been a growing debate throughout the film community. Dare I cast an opinion? This is one of those "Oh man, the people commenting on this article will eat you alive" type of question. Comic Book Movie, you guys have me in a bind! How can I properly answer this? Where is my PR person when I need them? Here goes nothing: Movie and comic fans alike, fear not! All parties contributing to this film from both a conversion and visual effects standpoint worked very hard to create a great viewer experience. I will say this now, my personal opinion which follows is strictly my opinion and is not endorsed by anyone or any company/studio other than myself: Stereoscopic conversion certainly has it's its place, and contrary to what seems to be the vast popular belief, can actually look just as good, if not "better" than films shot with a stereoscopic camera system. "Better" is of course a matter of opinion, which I stand behind based on the fact that conversion itself enables the director or story teller to have full control of the depth within the film. For example, in a scene containing many trees scattered among a forest, we can pick exactly where we would like the trees to appear in depth. Stereoscopic conversion gives us the power to create a theme and feel within a film based on depth and placement of people and objects within each scene. Also, large stereoscopic camera rigs can be cumbersome and difficult to work with while on set when engineering shots in confined spaces. Conversion when conducted and applied correctly can be used to enhance and customize a films visual experience. As 3D technology advances, so will the methods of production and implementation. I truly believe 3D, both converted and shot with stereoscopic camera systems has a bright future.
I saw a trailer for the movie in 3D, and it looked amazing. Have you seen the finished product yet?
I have seen various scenes our company worked on while at StereoD in Burbank, everything was looking great! Spoilers are not allowed. :)
I see that you also worked on another Marvel Studios movie, THOR. Can you describe what you did on that as well for us?
We worked on 400 rotoscope shots for Thor.
How about Smurfs?
For the Smurfs movie we worked on over 250 shots conducting both rotoscope, paint, 3D tracking and full stereoscopic conversion. One of the shots within that film set a new landmark of difficulty for us in terms of conversion. The shot itself was one minute long and had over 800 items within the scene and a camera move which conducted a 540 degree rotation while flying through the streets of a busy city.
What other movies will you be working on next? Anything superhero related? (The Avengers perhaps?!)
We would, of course, love to work on Avengers! As for the movies The Base is working on next, that will have to remain a secret. We recently just finished working on an IMAX film and we are currently working on a few advertising items for Samsung.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
With an all star cast which includes Chris Evans as Captain America, Sebastian Stan as Bucky, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Captain America: The First Avenger will be released in 3D on July 22, later this year!
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