CIS Vancouver, Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus”

During the summer of 2009, while in the midst of post-production on his Warner Bros. picture, Invictus, Clint Eastwood approached the film’s visual effects supervisor Michael Owens about creating an even more gritty and realistic look for the rugby players in the film. CIS Vancouver, under the direction of visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Hancock, was already well into visual effects work on the virtual crowds and stadiums for the rugby matches when they were also tasked with creating the digital make-up and costume enhancement effects for the film.

Invictus 1

Over 200 shots now required the addition of digital cuts, bruises, blood and dirt to the players to enhance not only the intensity of the games, but their authenticity. As each rugby match progressed, the players needed to become more “beaten-up,” with a variety of cuts, scrapes and abrasions. In addition, this also meant the enhancement of the players’ uniforms with mud and grass markings, as well as bloodstains to help the make-up work more look even more believable.

While CIS compositing supervisor Martyn Culpitt set-up some initial test shots to begin to flush out what would be required on a per shot basis, CIS digital make-up and costume effects supervisor Bruce Woloshyn worked closely with Michael Owens to identify all of the shots that would be required for each scene and begin to craft a design plan for what each individual player would look like and how it would evolve with them as each match progressed. Bruce then painted make-up treatment frames as references to guide the artist teams. From this point, a library of player make-ups guides, frame placements and a full library of elements for the artists to use in applying the digital treatments was created by Bruce at CIS Vancouver, to be used by all CIS artists at both Vancouver and Hollywood facilities.

However, these make-up and costume enhancements needed to be tracked and applied to moving players that had been photographed with moving and often hand-held cameras, which led to several technical challenges for the CIS team. The areas to be tracked (such as faces, limbs and players’ costumes) were sometimes extremely low in detail. Combining this with the high motion blur from players running and tackling meant using traditional point tracking methods would not be an option. Hand tracking of patches or match moving faces was also deemed impractical given the deadline for the film and the sheer volume of shots that had been identified.

To solve these various tracking issues, the CIS team decided on mocha by Imagineer Systems while refining the technique to execute the work. Several of the early tests completed by senior compositor, John Cairns, with mochashowed that it was able to deliver what would be required for this unique assignment. According to CIS’s Bruce Woloshyn, “mocha was able to quickly and accurately track large patches of screen area with sometimes little or no detail. During our initial tests with both Martyn and John, we also found it worked very well in dealing with motion blur and perspective shifts from faces and bodies turning. With the ability to run concurrent multiple tracks on the same shot, I was extremely happy at how quickly we could start in on each scene and get shots up for review.”

In addition to handling footage with many artifacts due to camera motion and the players’ dynamic performance motions, Woloshyn was also impressed on how well mocha performed with close-ups and subtlety. “Near the end of the film, there are many close-up shots of the actors that convey emotions on both ends of the scale as South Africa defeats New Zealand to win the World Cup. By now, all of the players have their maximum make-up treatments and these shots needed to be absolutely believable to maintain the emotional impact of the scene. Each digital make-up treatment had to track absolutely perfectly and be invisible in its application. mocha did a wonderful job to help us achieve that.”

About CIS/Method Vancouver: 
CIS Visual Effects Group is an award-winning international visual effects entity with facilities in Hollywood and Vancouver. The company services high-end feature film, television, commercial and gaming clients in the global marketplace. CIS Hollywood, founded in 1984, is one of the industry’s most respected visual effects facilities. In early 2008, the company launched CIS Vancouver. With its boutique accessibility, the company has the capacity to service its clientele wherever production is situated. CIS Visual Effects Group is a division of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.


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