The Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron starring take on Disney’s classic tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, recently hit cinemas across the world, with audiences wowed by the opulent special effects throughout. These stunning sequences wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of top UK pre-vis house Nvizage and its use of OptiTrack’s innovative virtual camera system, Insight VCS.
Insight VCS became Nvizage’s window into the world of Snow White, helping them to bring in six major sequences and over 320 shots. “Whatever film we work on, our objective is the same,” said Nvizage co-founder Martin Chamney. “We want the audiences to feel like they are in the middle of the action. The Insight VCS helps us find a realistic perpective in real-time, so our scenes can quickly jump from interesting to immersive.”
By using motion capture to track the special camera’s physical position, Nvizage could visualise how live action and CG elements interacted with each other in real time. As such, the team could flesh out shot and lens ideas before principal production set everything in stone. For instance, when trying to evoke the cavernous look established by the concept art for Ravenna’s Throne Room, FP Greg Fraser used the VCS Insight’s real-time display of the CG environment to assess how different lenses would paint the room. He found his match in a wide angle.
When a scene called for more dynamic camera moves, the VCS’s versatility was key. Since the system’s mo cap data can be mapped to any type of CG camera in Autodesk MotionBuilder, achieving the look of a handheld or even helicopter-mounted unit was easily attainable. Nivazage used this freedom to pre-vis a variety of small and large scale shots. The VCS’s software plugin and mappable controllers also allowed them to easily ajust camera speed while they were in their virtual environment, as well as automatically smooth out any accidental bumps and jolts that came with the rough terrain. Streamed shots were ported into MotionBuilder, faciliating instant takes that could be screened or carried on into Autodesk Maya for further animation and rendering.
It wasn’t just OptiTrack’s virtual camera system used for the film’s production. During the film’s Troll Bridge sequence Nvizage utilised OptiTrack’s body mocap system to record performance footage of VFX supervisor Cedric Nicolas. Incorporated into the sequence as a supplement to the production’s pre-existing animation, his troll impersonation provided the realistic movement required to really bring the scene to completion. Other collateral data gained from the shoot like step diagrams, hand impact points and spatial measurements that revealed the distance between camera and actor could be used by the SFX team as detailed reference pieces for their design work.
“The OptiTrack suite is a big part of what makes the Nvizage arsenal of previsualisation so effective,” added Chamney. “Big productions always required big results from companies in our position, and with the Insight VCS we feel we can add that extra something that continues to bring clients through our doors.”
Snow White and the Huntsman is in cinemas now.