Warner Bros.’ period epic The Last Samurai easily took the top spot at the box office over the weekend with an estimated $24.4 million. While the film’s success may have something to do with the star power of Tom Cruise, it also owes a debt to inconspicuous digital effects supplied by Pixel Magic.
Directed by Edward Zwick, The Last Samurai has Cruise playing fictional U.S. Civil War officer Woodrow Algren, who is sent to Japan to train the Emperor’s troops in modern warfare in order to defeat the country’s remaining samurai warriors. Algren’s loyalties sway, however, once he is captured by the samurai and learns of their traditions and code of honor.
To help create the film’s sweeping battle sequences, visual effects supervisor Jeff Okun tapped Pixel Magic, which contributed more than 90 EFX shots. Work included compositing additional human, smoke and fire elements to increase the dramatic impact of the battlefield imagery. In some cases, CG combatants were created and animated to more selectively fine-tune the composition of shots.
Pixel Magic also applied selective CG enhancements to an early, stylistic dream sequence, which plays an important role in the film.