Gulliver’s Travels, the movie, is a humorous adaptation of a popular classic by the same name, written by Jonathan Swift. The story revolves around a character played by Jack Black, who lands up in a strange place called Lilliput, inhabited by tiny people. The plot, which revolves around how he ends up even fighting a war in that strange land, made use of stunning visual effects and technology to highlight the stupendous difference in physical structure between the Lilliputians and Gulliver.
The movie produced by Twentieth Century Fox and directed by Rob Letterman needed the skills of quite a few digital studios including India-based GEON and Tata Elxsi, Pixel Playground, Method Studios, Hydraulx, Scanline VFX and Weta Digital. The unbelievable disparity between the size of Gulliver and the inhabitants of Lilliput is the theme that needed a major portion of the efforts.
GEON, which was involved in around 150 shots from the movie, has been applauded for exemplary compositing by the overall VFX supervisor of the movie. Ellen Somers had special praise for India based GEON, applauding the Indian digital effects giant for its excellent work in compositing, saying that it would be one of the names to watch out for in the near future. GEON Studios had started working on it towards the end of April 2010, delivering on various sequences in phases. The final sequences were delivered in early November. The nature of work involved includes scaling, matching the eye lines and environment between Gulliver and Lilliput, Motion Graphics, addition of CG elements, BG sharpening and other simple and complicated compositing works.
Madhu Sudhanan, who has previous experience with films like Lord of the Rings and Click, headed the team at Geon Studios as the Visual Effects Supervisor. Madhu who was pleased with the efforts said, “The movie was shot well and my experience of working with Jim since the last 8 years helped me in knowing what he wants very well.” Madhu who was elated about the creative freedom added, “At a later stage, we got a huge support from Ellen Somers who was very clear about what she and the director wants and gave us complete liberty to give our creative suggestions on shots and these were well accepted and implemented.”
Asmita Bharrati was the Visual Effects Producer. She applauded the team effort saying, “It has been an awesome experience working on the challenging shots of Gulliver’s Travels. The entire VFX production and creative team was very co-operative and forthcoming while working on the shots.”
Few shots worked by Geon Studios on Gulliver's Travels:
Shot 2: Jack Black is made to look almost monstrous in the room. There are similar shots elsewhere where he walks along and talks with his friend. The challenge was to match the eye line of Horatio and Gulliver keeping the scale in perspective.
Shot 3: This is once again a visual enhancement where the whole shot has been brightened to enhance the vivacity. The graphic on Gulliver's cell phone required replacement; tracking and compositing the graphics below fog and rain was the difficult part. The colours become vivid and the lighting effect is enhanced providing a more attractive look to the shot.
Shot 4: This shot demands three different plates composited to a single frame, which involved tasks such as camera match move, geometry generation and a total rotoscopy of the musicians and the objects. Plate one consisted of Jack Black, playing Gulliver; shot on a green screen background giving out his expressions for part of the sequence. Plate two is of the 'Kiss Band' the rock stars to be composited at the scale of Lilliputians and there was a wide shot where another Lilliputian character Horatio requires blending in.
The technical expertise of GEON in using Nuke, made it the right choice. All the plates were undistorted with the help of lens distortion grids and with match move team the camera and geometry were generated. Based on the generated 3D camera the 3D environment was built in Nuke. Roto shapes of all the characters and object were made for the 'Kiss Band' plate, which were then projected on a separate card in Nuke. The characters were then scaled down to 3” tall giving the right parallax. The work involved creating CG lights for compositing and base model of the stage, for camera projection.
The shot also includes projecting these characters with the right depth, along with tracking of the matte paint of curtains in the background, compositing the CG lights and then blending Gulliver with the right eye line and scale. Although it was challenging, the end result made it enjoyable for the GEON team.