RIPD posterAfter Elysium – one of the best projects I’ve worked on – I stayed at Image Engine and moved onto R.I.P.D., which turned out to be one of the least fun projects that I have ever worked on.

I joined the project towards the end, so it was crunch time when I got there. The hours were long, the edit kept changing, the deadline kept pushing and because of the 14-hour days and six-day weeks, we missed a big chunk of the snowboarding season.

And on top of that, it turned out to be a pretty terrible movie.

I was put onto a long sequence of a conversation in a car that was shot in front of a green screen. Car window comps are always hard, because the VFX should be completely undetectable, so the slightest flaw just makes them stand out and look terrible.

The background plate for this sequence was shot using an array of five cameras mounted to the back of a camera truck. This gave us a 180° arc that we could place behind the actors in 3D space. The seams between each camera in the array weren’t perfect so we usually hid them behind something in the foreground.

There was a lot of camera shake on this background footage from bumps in the road. We needed to do a rough 3D camera track on the footage in Nuke and then use some expressions to smooth out the jitter. By using expressions attached to sliders we could dial in the amount of smoothing.

The perspective of this array didn’t quite match up with the foreground so there was a bit of repositioning, rotating and corner pinning.

The work was technically challenging, but creatively not very rewarding. Three or four of us were working on the sequence and in the end, I think technically it worked out pretty well.

I did get a couple of CG environment shots and a couple of quick shots of the CG character Pulaski, one of the main characters that Image Engine worked on.

Check out this short sequence of some of my shots (there were a lot more car shots):