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At the end of the shoot, the Rainmaker team had video feeds for 60 different angles. And, with those 60 angles in mind, the team returned to Paris to make sure the film crew hadn’t shot angles they couldn’t build. “We knew the final edit could consist only of the angles we’d shot on set,” says Breakspear.
To reproduce the church, the team used a combination of photos and painted textures. Shots that looked down from on high were especially tricky because the crew couldn’t take reference photos to match, so they generated painted textures for those. They also replaced pillars from the set, which had been modeled using Bickerton’s stepped-off measurements, with CG pillars. And, they replaced the candles. “They were real, but they didn’t look real enough,” says Breakspear. “It was totally bizarre.” Breakspear took the candles that had been shot on set to his London apartment and filmed the wicks and flames with a DV camera. “I sat there for an hour blowing on the flames,” he says. “Every little flicker is mine.”
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For this project, Rainmaker used Lightwave, boujou for tracking, digital fusion for compositing, Photoshop for painting, and proprietary code. Breakspear is coy about the proprietary process the studio uses to model, texture and light the church, but admits that it’s tied to data collection and how that data is applied.
He says, “If you’re in visual effects, you’re aware that rendering objects with CG renders gives you only a glimpse of reality, a pseudo reality. All render engines have predefined characteristics. Textures give you a glimpse of another reality for the same thing, but in environments like the church, there are so many reflective surfaces – even wood has a sheen – you can’t just apply wallpaper. You need to have the refractive, reflective, and ambient light. When the camera moves around, objects have to react like marble and wood. So, we’ve been working out ways to combine the two and get the best from both. There aren’t many tools for that.”
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| ||He continues: “We use stuff that exists. The technique of using wallpapering is not a new technique, but we ask, ‘How far can we push it? How far can we push CG? And, if we combined the two, how much farther can we go?’” |
Because the Rainmaker team could access and photograph the church only in the daytime, they built a daytime model, even though the scene takes place at night. Then, for reference, they used other churches to get a feeling for being in large spaces at night. The compositing team led by Matthew Crenz converted the digital model to nighttime. “Part of the technique we use strips out the real lighting and we can replace it with the lighting we want,” says Breakspear. “Converting from day
| ||to night was a major part of the job. We got rid of sunlight textures and shadows and added moonbeams and bluer environments, while still protecting the red in the flickering candles and the skin tones.”|
Breakspear believes that the secret code they have developed helped the crew create a virtual Saint-Sulpice that’s so believable audiences will think the crew filmed in the real church. They had to do that. “It’s one thing to create a dinosaur or a UFO,” he says. “Who knows whether they look right? But a church ... everyone knows.”
According to Wikipedia, this message is posted at the real Saint-Sulpice: "Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent best-selling
| ||novel, this [the line in the floor] is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a Rose-Line. It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. Please also note that the letters P and S in the small round windows at both ends of the transept refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of the church, and not an imaginary Priory of Sion."|
If Breakspear is right, they might want to add a postscript that reads, “At no time did the film crew for a recent Hollywood movie shoot scenes in this church.”