While Industrial Light & Magic’s big effects in Terminator 3 may be wowing sci-fi and action fans at cinemas across the nation, digital trickery of the less noticeable variety can be seen in the No. 2 movie in America. Toluca Lake, Calif.-based effects house Pixel Magic completed 48 effect shots for MGM’s hit sequel Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.
The film’s story has Harvard Law grad Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) taking an animal rights issue to the Supreme Court. And while most of the action takes place in Washington D.C., the entire film was shot in Los Angeles, Calif.
Included is a three and a half-minute sequence comprised of 36 shots placing Witherspoon in the Lincoln Memorial, which she never actually set foot in. Since the movie is set in springtime but was shot during the winter, snow was an issue for exterior shots. Also, filming permits were extremely difficult to obtain due to the heightened security alert triggered by the impending war in Iraq.
Pixel Magic was called upon to digitally recreate the interior of the Lincoln Memorial. Visual effects supervisor Raymond McIntyre Jr. photographed the actual site with a digital still camera and composited it with live action footage shot against a blue screen.
Another scene has the movie’s heroine reading inside the Library of Congress. Since filming is not allowed in the building, Witherspoon was shot against a green screen during principal photography. A permit was granted for a two-hour still camera shoot inside the Library, and the images were again composited with the live action green footage. This time, a digital camera move was added to give the illusion that the scene was filmed at the location.
The Million Dog March sequence called for thousands of demonstrators to march on the National Mall. Extras were filmed in Los Angeles against a green screen and duplicated to create a large crowd. Pixel Magic then shot 35mm plates of the National Mall in early springtime. Detailed rotoscoping was necessary to place the marchers into the newly created surroundings. Additional trees, the Washington Monument and a street were added in proper position to further sell the illusion.
Green screen compositing was also used to insert actor Luke Wilson into scenes that he wasn’t in during principal photography. Detailed rotoscoping was required to insert the actor into the line of marchers for both medium close ups and a wide shots.
Pixel Magic is currently working on Sony Pictures’ S.W.A.T. and completed effects for 20th Century Fox’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which opens this weekend.