Ron Howard has completed Angels and Demons, the second outing of the Dan Brown franchise featuring Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks). MPC is reunited with VFX Supervisor Angus Bickerton to help create some of the integral visual effects for this action thriller set in Rome. MPC completed 170 shots for the film ranging from full CG environments and effects sequences to complicated composites. The work involved a wide range of VFX techniques including the creation of a CG ring, set extensions for key Roman sites and the design and conception of the Antimatter and its journey through CERNâ€™s Large Hadron Collider. The team also produced the title sequence and handled the 2K dailies for the production.
Liaising closely with Angus, MPC VFX supervisor Richard Stammers oversaw the London team with the help of Kevin Hahn as CG supervisor and Richard Baker as 2D supervisor. Richard Stammers later joined by Kevin Hahn and James Kelly attending the shoot in Rome, with Richard, Kevin and Jigesh Gajjar travelling to the Los Angeles shoot between May and September 2008.
Chronologically, MPC started at the very beginning of the movie creating the opening titles for the feature in eight different languages. Lens flares and hints light effects mirroring the design of the Antimatter were added to the Columbia Logo and a series of transitions through the titles into the opening shot of the film were all timed to Hans Zimmerâ€™s dramatic score. The titles fade back to the opening shot of a fully CG Papal Ring built by MPCâ€™s asset department composited with a macro style depth of field into a CG background created from tiled live action plates.
One of MPCâ€™s larger focuses was the â€˜Birth of Antimatterâ€™ sequence set in the CERN facility in Switzerland. The 40 second shot describes the creation and storage of antimatter by travelling through the inner workings of CERNâ€™s Large Hadron Collider and Atlas Detector. The true nature of CERNâ€™s particle collisions was adapted to suit the story and provide a visually thrilling moment for audiences. An extensive pre-vis was created as a guide for the onset crew who filmed the first part of the shot in a green-screen backed Control Room set and the last part of the shot in the antimatter collection lab. The middle section of the sequence was entirely a CG creation. The interior of the facility including the outer parts of the Atlas, were built based on photographs taken by Stammers, using image modelling and camera projection techniques. To re-create the X-Ray look of the interior of the Atlas detector, MPC was provided with a complex CAD model from CERN, and Kevin Hahn adapted this so he could develop the look in Renderman. Sections of internal pipes for which MPC had no access to they used reference photos sourced from the internet to construct CG sections to join the multiple environments. Particle collisions and antimatter FX were provided fx animators Matthieu Chardonnet and Xavier Lestourneaud and all layers were composited by Scott Taylor.
The majority of the rest of MPCâ€™s work revolved around large scale CG environments and set extensions to locations in Rome and The Vatican City that were impractical or forbidden to shoot in. These included The Sistine Chapel, the Passetto, Castel Santâ€™Angelo and Piazza Navona.
The Piazza Navona and Passetto sequence both required digital set extension to partially built environments. An 80 foot long reproduction of half of the Piazza Navona was built on a parking lot in LA, the opposite half was a green screen set which was later replicated using camera projections taken from the real piazza.
For Langdon and Greyâ€™s last chase at the Passetto – an ancient 40 foot high walkway linking the battlements of the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo â€“ MPC again extended a green screen stage using real environment projections and day for night reference photography.
The movie goes on general release May 14th 2009.