ComputerCafe Delivers the Title Sequence and Effects For Director David Fincher's "Panic Room"

IRIDAS Products at Computercafe

IRIDAS customer Computercafe has FrameCycler Standard deployed site wide on both Santa Monica and Santa Maria locations.

David Ebner, President and Digital Effects Supervisor is a longtime member of the IRIDAS beta team

About Computercafe

Founding partners Jeff Barnes and David Ebner opened ComputerCafe, in 1993, to create broadcast promotion and ID packages for television stations. Today the company draws clients from all corners of the entertainment world, including feature films, (Armageddon, Battlefield Earth, Flubber), commercials (Doritos, Microsoft, AT&T) and broadcasters (Entertainment Tonight, HBO, NBC). Both the Santa Maria, and the new Santa Monica location, opened in 2000 to serve their growing number of feature film and commercial clients, are outfitted with the latest effects, design, compositing and rendering technologies, including Discreet Logic Flame, Cyborg 5D, Commotion, Lightwave, Digital Fusion, PhotoShop and After Effects. Both studios are NT and Unix based and T1 networked for real- time creative collaboration.


HOLLYWOOD CA MARCH 29 -ComputerCafe ( the Santa Maria, California-based CGI, design, animation and visual effects  studio, recently completed nearly 50 special visual effects shots for Sony Pictures' new psychological thriller Panic Room, including the engaging opening title sequence and climactic end scene effects..

Panic Room, directed by David Fincher, stars Jodie Foster as one half of  a mother daughter team terrorized by three burglars (played by Forest  Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto) who are determined to find a hidden fortune in the woman's New York City brownstone.

"Panic Room is not really an effects movie," says ComputerCafe digital effects supervisor and partner David Ebner, "but in fact it contains  more than 100 seamlessly integrated effects shots that are important to  the unique visual language of the film."

Ebner reports that ComputerCafe originally came on board to create effects for the film's title sequence and final scene. "We were commissioned to do Forest Whitaker's dramatic rain and wind courtyard scene at the film's denouement. In that scene Fincher wanted wet leaves and a pile of stolen bonds that drop from Whitaker's hands be caught up in a whirlwind that spirals up and around him. (See Quicktime)

He knew there was no way to accomplish this with practical effects due to the rain and also due to the specific motion that was desired," he says.

"After working on several shots and seeing them edited into the film, Fincher decided to add leaves to additional shots in the daytime sequence at the beginning of the film. We were later asked to create the gun-shot, head-wound effects, as well as several other miscellaneous shots," said Ebner.

ComputerCafe artist Akira Orikasa says, "Nature would not allow the kind of spiraling motion we see in the leaves shots. By using Lightwave's particle effects and key frame animation, we animated the leaves' motions, then linked them to assigned 3D modeled and textured leaves and controlled every element in the shot."

"Architectural" Titles Floating Over New York City Panic Room's slow moving, aerial opening title sequence features dramatic architectural shots above New York City. "The titles themselves
are constructed and fit so that they appear to be real and near but not attached to building facades," says Orikasa. "It was important to light and composite them so that the light shining on each title matches the lighting in the scene."

"We balanced photo-realism with readability, and to give the titles a sense of weight, we worked on font selection, avoided redundancy in plate selection and, especially, created a lighting pattern that insured that the light shining on the titles captured and reflected the light behind, below, and around it," Orikasa explains. ComputerCafe employed Lightwave's radiosity rendering application to capture diffused lighting and color from the environment, and add a "weighty" dimensionality to the titles.

Camera movement in the titles was captured, in part, using a method called Photogrametry. "Fincher shot background plates of the city, then  he wanted to alter the camera motion," Orikasa explains. "We had to create 3D camera motion that did not exist in the real footage. Photogrametry allows you to move a virtual camera freely by taking a still image, in this case from the architecture photo stills from a high-res Imax camera, model the geometry of each building in the plate to match the still, then move the camera around. The result is the original shot scene from a new camera angle or motion," he says. Some shots we created using a mixture of several pieces of film and 3D textured objects.

"The background sticks to the real geometry of the shot, but then when the camera sees an area without picture information, you have to stretch the picture. In that way you cover empty space with picture texture,giving the shot a very unusual look." Orikasa says, "Panic Room was an exciting project for me as a fan of David Fincher's films, and it was an opportunity for all of us at ComputerCafe to contribute to what we are anticipating to be a wonderful film."

ComputerCafe's digital effects producer Vicki Galloway Weimer, who supervised the Panic Room project, noted that the film "was an important project for our team. Panic Room allowed us a year-long opportunity to work closely with David Fincher and his visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug, while we translated the director's desired look to 3D, and at the same time, developed a strong relationship with the creative title design team at Picture Mill." Weimer says, "David (Fincher) is a hands-on director who speaks the language of visual effects. He was always specific about what he wanted and worked closely with our team to achieve his desired results. ComputerCafe brings 10 years of experience
and a real enthusiasm to every project, but that kind of collaboration makes the results even more rewarding for our clients and for our entire staff."

Download Quicktime (8MB)

Click on images to see larger versions

Click on images to see larger versions

Download Quicktime (8MB)

Images Courtesy Columbia Pictures - All Rights Reserved



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