Luma Zooms In on VFX

Venice, Calif.-based visual effects studio Luma Pictures completed approximately 80 effects shots for Sony Pictures’ Zoom, a tween-targeted superhero action-comedy that opens in theaters today. The company was one of several studios contracted to provide effects design, compositing and 3D animation for the Tim Allen vehicle about a retired superhero who agrees to help a quartet of young misfits learn to harness their special powers for good.

According to Luma visual effects supervisor Payam Shohadai, the nature of Zoom‘s challenges allowed the studio to rediscover its ‘generalist’ roots. ‘The typical films we’ve work on in recent years have required us to segment work among teams of specialists to handle the complexities associated with CG creatures and CG environments,’ he says. ‘But for Zoom, much of the work was better served by having individual effects shots executed by artists with generalist skills who could oversee a shot from start through completion.’

In one shot, we see one of the young characters using his talents to make an apple slowly disappear dimensionally towards its core. ‘We used a volumetric rendering technique coupled with a fluid simulation to produce the main element,” notes CG supervisor Vincent Cirelli. For a scene involving a character using super powers to repair a spaceship engine, Cirelli says they designed a series of geometric interlocking cylinders that could only fit together if rotated in a specific way. ‘The design of this puzzle presented many challenges in that we needed to allow clearance between the shapes to rotate and translate precisely into place in three dimensions.”

Accustomed to demands for photo-realistic effects for films and television, Luma switched gears a bit for Zoom since producers wanted the effects to look a bit more cartoonish to play better to its target audience. ‘Since Zoom is a kids movie, elements must easily read on screen,’ explains vfx producer Steve Swanson. ‘The paintballs we created for the training sequence initially were made to be photo-real. However, the client asked that they be modified’that they be brightly lit, with bright, over-saturated colors. Our challenge then was to maintain realism while accommodating a somewhat exaggerated appearance.’

Luma Pictures’ previous credits include Underworld: Evolution, Hoot, The Cave, Into the Blue, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Crash and Ray. Currently on the studio’s plate are The Covenant for Screen Gems, The Holiday for Columbia and No Country for Old Men for Miramax. Luma Pictures is located at 248 Westminster Ave. in Venice, CA.