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Look Effects created  seamless visual effects for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Posted on March 31, 2014 at 03:50 pm IST
LOOK Effects produced visual effects for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel
LOOK Effects produced visual effects for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. This film is the fifth film in which LOOK has collaborated with the brilliant director.

This latest film from the iconic director of Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel features Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars; and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting; a raging battle for an enormous family fortune; a desperate chase on motorcycles, trains, sleds, and skis; and the sweetest confection of a love affair -- all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent. The film also stars F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson and Owen Wilson.

One key image was of the titular hotel in the film - The Grand Budapest. On screen, the building was realized in miniature form for the hotel as it appears in the 1930s and in the 1960s. The backdrop for the 30s hotel’s establishing shot came from an oil painting photographed separately. Then, with multiple angles of the hotel shot as reference, Look Effects combined the miniature and backdrop.

“It was actually an interesting compositing shot,” says Look visual effects supervisor Gabriel Sanchez,” since we added in some subtle projection to get the proper parallax of trees and things between us and the hotel.”

“Also,” adds Sanchez, “a lot of time when you’re given a miniature and your task is to integrate it and make it look real, but to what degree of realism are you going for? Originally we treated the miniature and we adjusted the texture, put z-blur and z-depth on it so that it would feel like a ‘real’ hotel. But we were asked to dial that back - we still had to make it look real but we didn’t want to lose the charm of the miniature. So finding that balance was an interesting task.”

An establisher for the 60s version of the hotel also required visual effects enhancements when it was decided to give the shot a ‘time-lapse’ feel. “There needed to be a lighting change during the shot,” says Sanchez. “So what we did was some simple geo for that 3D miniature which we got with the baked in lighting. By creating this sample facade 3D model, we were able to put on a light source. As the sun moves and lighting changes, we were then able to generate these shadows crawling across the building as if the light source changes as if that miniature was sitting in that environment and they shot it overcranked to give it that feel.”

Later, two of the characters journey up the mountains to a monastery via a tram car, and then are chased down the mountain on a sled. Look Effects assembled miniatures, stop-motion animation, background environments and atmospherics effects for the sequences.

“It was a huge environment,” says Sanchez. “They’re going up into the mountains like the Alps, so we had to create these matte paintings which allowed you to see mountain ranges from different points of view. We had to deal with greenscreen pulls, miniatures and stop-motion animation and integrating all that together.”

“The air trams were miniatures,” adds Sanchez, “and after the first comp we got some comments that it still felt a little flat, so we had to pull the same trick we did on the hotel. We made a simple cube, put it in 3D space, tracked it over the real miniature and enhanced the lighting so it would feel like it had real dimension and depth as it traveled across the frame.”

The final chase employed elements such as a miniature trees flying past camera, along with the stop motion animation. “We had to re-time it sometimes,” describes Sanchez, “adjust motion blur, trailing, add mist and snow flying past the camera, and do some color correction to make it feel like it’s more part of the environment.”
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