Cinesite Goes Beyond For Bond

Cinesite (Europe) Ltd. has completed nearly all of the digital effects for the new James Bond film Die Another Day. The film, produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and directed by Lee Tamahori, features the largest number of digital effects shots in a James Bond film to date. Visual effects supervisor for the production was Mara Bryan. Alex Bicknell served as visual effects producer.

To complete approximately 480 effects shots, Cinesite increased its workforce by around 40%, bringing on board international talent. The film’s extensive use of 3D animation involves space sequences with a weather-controlling satellite, a scene were Bond dangles from an ice cliff that crumbles into the sea and an Aston Martin with an invisibility option.

The "Icarus" satellite was created with a combination of practical and digital effects. An 18-foot model of the rear two-thirds of the device was built, requiring Cinesite to complete it with CG.

The model portion was filmed using motion control at Pinewood Studios, supervised by Cinesite motion control supervisor Mike Talarico (Mission to Mars, Inspector Gadget, Armageddon) with Motion Control Cameras’ Ian Menzies as motion control operator.

Cinesite’s Matthias Larserud and Jon Neill then modeled and animated the front third of the satellite, which was tracked into the live-action plates. Earth in the background of these shots was created NASA stock photographs, combined with CG star fields and clouds.

The ice cliff sequence presented Cinesite’s biggest challenge. The impact of the cliff falling into the water produces a massive tidal wave. Recreating the scale and realness of the natural phenomenon involved an expanse of CG water, foam, ripples and spray. Approximately 350 icebergs and an entirely computer generated environment with 250-foot cliffs had to look photorealistic in bright mid-day sunlight.

Dottie Starling (Tomb Raider, Spiderman, Hollow Man) was sequence supervisor for the 20 shot ice and water sequence. Water software originally developed by Cinesite Hollywood-based Jerry Tessendorf was adapted by software developers Andy Whittock and Peter Yesley to meet the needs of the job. Additional research and development was required to add shaders that covered ripples, smaller wave movements, the texture of the water surface, foam, splash and deformations for the larger waves.

Cinesite’s compositing team was responsible for matching the live-action Pierce Brosnan with the CG environments and live-action splash elements. David Rey supervised the 2D aspects of the wave sequence and oversaw the integration of the CG Bond who appears in eleven shots.

This invisible car effect, known as Vanquish, was created in 3D by Mathias Larserud and Phil Borg, and in 2D by Gavin Digby. Cinesite was supplied with a CAD model for the Aston Martin, which was rebuilt and simplified. A custom written shader projected the distorted background image onto the car model and additional distortion effects were then added in 2D.

In other shots where the car is moving, Cinesite subtly distorted the clean background plates and added tire tracks in 2D to represent the movement of the vehicle. While the invisible Aston Martin was intended to be invisible when stationary, when moving there needed to be a suggestion of presence.

Die Another Day hits theaters on Nov. 22, 2002.