Artist in Action: Freeze Frame : Daredevil
Posted on Saturday, March 15 @ 04:24:10 CST by mseymour7

Based on the 1964 character published by Marvel Comics, the film begins with the son of a boxer, Matthew Murdock (played by Ben Affleck), rescuing a man from being hit by a truck, but in so doing, being struck by a radioactive isotope which leaves him blind. The accident does, however, also grant him exceptionally advanced senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell, as well as providing him with a form of mental radar which helps to compensate for his lack of vision. After training in the martial arts, and excelling at law school, Murdock becomes a lawyer by day and the vigilante, Daredevil by night. Dardevil's enemies include mob boss Kingpin, Bullseye, and his love interest, Elektra, also trained in martial arts.

Pixel Magic produced over 125 visual effects shots for the action adventure feature film. Included in this body of work was computer generated (CG) shots for the "Church" Sequence, "Shuriken" sequence, and Daredevil Ledge sequence. As already stated, because of the super-human display of acrobatics and quick pace style of the movie, almost every shot had difficult rig and wires to remove. All of the visual effects shots created by Pixel Magic were completed in four months.

In the Church sequence, the film's VFX director, Rich Thorne ( known for his outstanding work on films such as Behind Enemy Lines) wanted a church with walls 300 feet high, and a huge pipe organ for a dramatic fight sequence between Daredevil and Bullseye. As no practical location was found, Pixel Magic created an entire CG interior of a church including a large complex pipe organ that matched the green screen set. A Lidar scan was completed of a real church interior located in Los Angeles to serve as a guide for the look of the CG church. Pixel Magic's 3D department modified the geometry of the Lidar scan in order to give the illusion of a 300ft height ceiling, and to add more detail where needed. Lighting of the virtual set was matched to a master clip of the real church interior. The camera moves were then tracked using REALVIZ MatchMover Professional. After tracking was completed, the 3D team determined which shots included both the pipe organ and church floor. If one of these elements were not in the shot, the geometry and texture maps for that section were eliminated to reduce the long render times. Each element was further broken down into a diffuse and specular highlight pass. Also, mattes were generated for individual elements of the scenes such as the pipes, wood structure, chandeliers and candles. Other items created were a depth pass and illumination pass. All this gave the compositors maximum control over the final look of the textures, lighting, and depth of field when melding the CG church and the green screen actors into the scene.

In the Shuriken sequence, Bullseye stands on a motorcycle and displays his shiny throwing stars wedged between his fingers. For safety reasons, the stars were not put into his fingers while shooting the plates. Nor was the actor capable of throwing them. In the original plate, Bullseye does some exaggerated movement with his hands. This required extensive rotoscoping and tracking, again using REALVIZ' MatchMover Professional, in order to add the CGI shurikens to the motion of Bullseye's hands and fingers. To accomplish this, the 2D team used match move techniques for tracking, and Commotion for rotoscoping. The Lightwave object was imported into After Effects to allow the compositor to control the orientation of the object in real 3D space. In addition, this gave the compositors final control of lighting, and metallic surface texture of the shurikens.

For the Ledge shot sequence, Daredevil as a boy, performs a handstand off a building ledge several stories high. For safety reasons, this could not be shot practically. Pixel Magic was supplied with green screen footage of Daredevil in a wire-assisted handstand on a green-box. After tracking the camera move using Maya, the virtual camera data was imported into Lightwave. Also, supplied still photographs of distant buildings, street, and cars were projected onto geometry incorporated into the virtual camera move. Pixel Magic created a CG building and CG birds flying. The wire and rig that supported the actor was removed along with an extensive number of tracking markers. The CG building, CG birds, people walking, cars driving on the ally, smoke and debris, and a sky replacement were all composited into the scene to achieve total realism.


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