Case study: Rob Legato - Martin Scorsese's “Shutter Island”
12 January 2010

 Rob Legato is perhaps one of the most well known and respected VFX artist in Hollywood today, with a resume that looks more like the previews of the Oscars than a CV. He’s the visual effects visionary behind some of the most talked about, award winning films in Hollywood, and in the past decade alone has left his mark on such blockbusters as Avatar, Standard Operating Procedure, The Nanny Diaries, The Good Shephard and Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning drama, The Departed, to name just a few.


Now, Rob has teamed up once again with Martin Scorsese on the soon-to-be released, Shutter Island. Leonardo DeCaprio, Ben Kingsley and Mark Rufalo star in Scorsese’s new psychotic mystery-thriller in which an artful blend of cinematography and visual effects not only create an edge-of-your-seat, skin crawling experience, but also a series of challenges for Rob.

“When you work this closely with Mr. Scorsese, everything you do has to be of ultimate quality for a film of this caliber,” Rob began.

When working with the iconic director Martin Scorsese, as the VFX supervisor, you’re challenged to match his vision with what actually can be done; and in most cases, you can’t be sure until you get to post. And in most cases, that’s often way too late. So Legato had an idea.


What if you could plan your shots based on what you already know is doable? “How much easier would it be if we could produce a shot and say ‘yes, we can do that’ while you’re in production? Well, I was recently introduced to a tool that could help me do just that. mocha from Imagineer Systems,” Rob continued.


In a series of scenes - many appearing in the movie trailer - Legato was challenged to determine if the desired illusions could be done in a believable way; would the viewers be immersed in the scene or would they be noticing the effects? And any VFX artists will tell you, the best visual effects are the ones you never even realize.



“To test these shots, to see if they could be created effectively, there was a huge amount of roto and tracking necessary. And everyone hates roto,” Rob continued. “Roto and point tracking are tedious, painstaking raw labor tasks and I’ve always felt bad for the people who I forced to do it for me!”

“However with mocha, suddenly I was able to complete shots that previously, I would be hiring someone to do for me! It was simple enough and quick enough for me to operate, and believe me, tracking is not my forte.”








Rob work very closely with Mr. Scorsese. And he looks to Rob to help him decide what stays in, and what gets cut from the movie. “Scene by scene, I’m helping determine what’s going to make a better film. With mocha, I was able to quickly and easily produce incredibly complex scenes so we could preview them together and bring together the vision of what this film could be. Conversely, we’re able to quickly determine shots that just were not doable, and the time and money we saved because of this new workflow was invaluable!”
mocha broadened my tool box. It enabled me to produce more content for each shot, and therefore enabled us to preview more. The more content you have to work with, the more you can appreciate the vision for each shot. The fact is, mocha transformed the preview process for me on Shutter Island. All the stuff that seemed to be such a huge undertaking was made so remarkably simple thanks to mocha.”
The specialized world of content creation is changing, evolving. Roles are merging. And as the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, simple and accessible, content creators are using the tools once reserved for ‘specialists’ in imaginative, and even highly productive ways.
Shutter Island opens in theaters worldwide on February 19, 2010.

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