August 14, 2006


The studio's work included 2D animation, CG race cars and greenscreen composites, CG crowd creation, shot tracking, image replacement, rotoscoping and digital reflections. Most of the racing shots were filmed at empty tracks, so populating the grandstand was one of the project's challenges.

According to Digital Dimension's visual effects producer Chris Del Conte, the infield views were accomplished by leveraging footage captured with a high-speed moving camera car where possible. Studio compositors tracked, re-timed and color corrected the production footage to create infield splits that matched the target plates.

The crowd effects represented approximately 60 shots. Crowd plates were used in some situations and Massive Software's 3D crowd animation system was used in others.

"Massive is one of the newest additions to our toolset and using the software gave us the ability to create a fully-digital crowd with precise control over the crowd's movement and range of emotional responses," notes Justin Mitchell, senior CG artist at Digital Dimension. "Working with 'typical' NASCAR fan models we constructed, we could place characters and give them different levels of behavior and excitement, from sitting attentively in their seats to jumping up and applauding."

Around 100 visual effects shots were completed at Digital Dimension to enhance the realism of scenes that were filmed with the movie's principal players in cars on greenscreen. The studio added a variety of subtle touches and details, including moving backgrounds, grime passes, visor reflections and artificial camera shake, to make it feel as if the actors were really in the race.

Certain shots and camera fly-throughs were done fully in CG, with 3D digital elements ranging from the stadium, track and infield to crowds, cars, and grass. Extensive post was performed to remove gear ranging from cameras to stunt props and pyrotechnics.

Eyeon's Digital Fusion was used for compositing and The Foundry's Kronos software was used for re-timing. Autodesk 3DS Max was used to create 3D elements, which were rendered with Mental Images' Mental Ray. Tracking solutions included Andersson Technologies' SynthEyes software.

IMAGE: © Columbia Pictures and courtesy of Digital Dimension.