Cinesite Journeys to Solaris

Visual effects house Cinesite completed approximately 75 visual effects for the Fox Pictures release of Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris. The remake of director Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic 1972 Russian science-fiction yarn opened in theaters over the weekend.

Solaris is Cinesite’s sixth collaboration with Soderbergh, having worked on Out Of Sight, The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Traffic and Ocean’s Eleven. Cinesite contributed both 2D and 3D effects, including spacecrafts, waterscapes and digital flesh wounds. The planet Solaris was generated at another facility and delivered to Cinesite for final composite. Some shots involved as many as 50 layers of interactive light and gaseous emanations from the planet, using Cineon as the composite package.

Most of Cinesite’s work involved three computer-generated spaceships modeled in Maya by a team of Cinesite artists headed by John Hewitt and Mark Shoaf. The ships had to be extremely detailed since they move slowly in space and are seen at 4K resolution. Textures, which ranged from dirt patterns to pipes and other surface detail, were created using StudioPaint, PhotoShop and Deep Paint. The new IMAX film Space Station was used as a visual reference.

In another effects sequence, facial wounds were created in 3D and motion tracked to an actress’s facial movements. Cyber scans of her face and body were done with 3D cameras by Gentle Giant, a company in Burbank that specializes in the process. Cinesite imported the resulting 3D model into Maya and added photographed skin textures and painted in the wounds. The wounds also required geometry modeling, which gave Smith and his team control their movement and depth.

Cinesite is currently working on X-Men 2, Envy and The Wedding Party.