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LIGHTS, CAMERA . . .

One bear of a scene

December 12, 2007

In Lights, Camera . . ., a below-the-line craftsperson talks about his or her current film. This week: Michael Fink on the hardest part of the visual effects for "The Golden Compass."

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The most difficult effect to create has to go to the bear fight. Not because it was so incredibly complex or long, which it was. The difficulty came from the situation.

The bear fight is a totally CG (with the exception of Lyra) animated sequence in the middle of a live-action movie that absolutely could not feel like "animation." To do this, we spent months building bears, doing test renderings of fur and muscles and fat and paws. Then developing the bear armor, simulation software for it and software to handle the interaction of the fur and the armor, and between human contact and the fur. Then traveling to Svalbard and photographing extensively anything we thought might be interesting to see in the film. Then building the 3-D environment based on art department sketches and what we knew the real place to be like. Then developing methods to light and render the CG ice in concert with the bears. Then creating all the interactive elements of flying ice chips, shadows, blowing atmospheric ice crystals.

Wait, I guess it was simple. What was I thinking?

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To see this scene, visit TheEnvelope.com.

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