created and integrated an entirely 3D animated robot named AMEE (Autonomous
Mapping Exploration and Evasion) into approximately 120 shots for the
Warner Bros. release Red Planet.
on any image to get a closer look
sci-fi film is presented by Warner Bros. Pictures in association with
Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment, a Mark
Canton production, and is directed by Antony Hoffman and
produced by Mark Canton, Bruce Berman and Jorge Saralegui.
The premise of the film is that it's 2050. The Earth is dying and colonizing
Mars is the only alternative to obliteration. Mission Commander Kate
Bowman is the pilot and commander of the most important mission of the
21st century: saving the human race.
Bowman and her crew have made the journey to investigate what went wrong
with the malfunctioning Mars Terraforming Project and to repair it.
What happens when they get there is far more terrifying than anyone
could have guessed: a crash-landing leaves them without scientific,
communication or escape equipment and causes their military mapping
and exploration robot (AMEE) to malfunction into an enemy, relentlessly
dedicated to breaking the team down.
Defying orders from Houston, Bowman refuses to leave the crew stranded
and instead attempts to guide them back from above. But as the landing
team explores the harsh new planet desperately seeking a way out, they
make the most terrifying and baffling discovery of all: Mars may be
barren but it's not uninhabited.
Visual Effects Supervisor Jeff Okun tapped Cinesite to create
and integrate the animated robot into critical shots, including approximately
80 shots of AMEE interacting with live-action characters and other elements
of the film, and 40 more from AMEE's viewpoint. His instructions were
to make AMEE believable, interacting with humans in a credible way.
He also wanted her to be somewhat empathetic.
Cinesite Visual Effects Supervisor Tom Smith describes AMEE as
agile and athletic, with smooth and fluid movements. One of his main
challenges was to infuse the robot with life and personality. He assembled
a team consisting of some 40 CG artists with specialized skills and
talents, including Animation Director Steve Markowski and CGI
Supervisor Serge Sretschinsky.
The character animators rendered AMEE's general appearance, but there
were also many technical details. For instance, the animators had to
decide how her joints moved and how her weight was distributed when
she walked. Smith also worked with Okun and the second unit crew, whose
responsibilities included shooting background plates that would be composited
with character animation of AMEE. They filmed plates on locations in
Australia, occasionally with green background screens.
crew emulated the styles of lighting and camera movement that cinematographer
Peter Suschitzky, BSC, established in live-action scenes. Smith's team
used motion tracking software to provide a roadmap for camera movement
and angles for the character animation and compositing teams at Cinesite.
All of the visual nuances had to blend, so it seemed like AMEE was in
the live-action shots.
The film of the background plates was scanned and converted to digital
format at Cinesite. At that point, the facility digitally corrected
colors to match Suschitzky's live-action footage in surrounding scenes.
Smith contends that audiences notice even subtle differences in contrast,
colors and camera movement, if only subliminally. "In one scene AMEE
is fighting with the astronauts," says Smith. "When we shot the
plate, a stuntman was attached to a cable. He was vigorously jerked
backwards when AMEE kicks him. The animated character had to be drawn
so she delivers a powerful kick at exactly the right time, place and
force when the CG and film are composited. It's a very collaborative
In another scene, the astronauts take refuge in a cave during a violent
ice storm. The wind is blowing 160 miles per hour. Some of that effect
was created while the plate was being filmed, with wind machines blowing
an environmentally safe substance designed to look like ice, but that
wasn't sufficient. The digital artists created and composited eight
shots to fit into the existing sequence. They used a particle generator
to create flying chips of ice with snow building up on the ground. They
also created footsteps in the digital snow where AMEE was going to be
inserted into the scene.
"All of this requires both a solid grasp of technology and a sense
of photo-realism," Smith says. "We had people who specialize
in texturing give AMEE a little more character, and others who did lighting.
The goal was to make her look like she belonged in each shot. If there
was a fire in a shot, we wanted the angle and color of the flames to
look right when they reflected off of AMEE. Jeff (Okun) was involved
every step of the way. We showed him every shot and were able to respond
in an interactive environment for fine tuning."
"AMEE is a state-of-the-art CG character," says Cinesite President
and COO Ruth Scovill. "Cinesite is proud to have the creative
talent who can execute the available technology to make this 3D robot
come to life. We strive to provide seamless integration of visual effects
into the filmmakers' storytelling process. AMEE has some of the best
CG metal I've seen to date."
Cinesite is a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Kodak Company,
and part of the Entertainment Imaging division. For more information,
visit the website at http://www.cinesite.com,