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April 2014
Issue: March 1, 2012

VFX 'Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance'

By: Randi Altman
CULVER CITY — The Creative-Cartel (www.thecreative-cartel.com), founded by visual effects producer Jenny Fulle, recently completed work on Sony Pictures’ follow-up to 2007’s Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance, co-directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.

The Creative-Cartel oversaw all of the visual effects shots — there were 800 of them — as well as the stereo conversion,  mostly via Vancouver’s Gener8 3D. The movie, which hit theaters last month, once again features tons of fire and smoke effects, this time created by Australia’s Iloura, the main VFX house on the film. Glen Melenhorst, Iloura’s VFX supervisor, reports that of the 450 shots they worked on about 30 percent of those were fire related. 

Iloura used Autodesk’s Maya for modeling and animation, then moved into Autodesk 3DS Max where they used the Max plug-in FumeFX from Sitni Sati to create the fire, which was meant to convey emotion in the film. Compositing was via The Foundry’s Nuke. Other software used was Cebas’s ThinkingParticles (for writing simulations) and Thinkbox Software’s Krakatoa (for help with particles).

Gener8, which also uses mostly off-the-shelf software, called on Maya, Imagineer’s Mocha Pro, SilhouetteFX’s Silhouette, Nuke and proprietary tools. Creative Cartel’s CTO Craig Mumma was the stereographer. The production VFX supervisor was Eric Durst.
Fulle’s next film is Universal’s Ted, which comes out this summer. We caught up to Fulle just as she was leaving for Costa Rica to work on AE.

POST: Who were the main visual effects and conversion companies used?
FULLE: “We oversaw different visual effects houses and two conversion houses. The main visual effects house was Iloura and the main conversion house was Gener8. [Legend 3D worked on the film as well.].

POST: What was your plan in terms of pipeline for dealing with 2D and 3D? 
FULLE: “For Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance we knew early on that a ‘straight’ conversion would not give us the best look for Ghost Rider’s flaming character [once again played by Nicolas Cage]. So The Creative-Cartel created and oversaw a groundbreaking pipeline that allowed the main visual effects house and the main 3D conversion company to move WIP shots between the facilities. This sharing of elements eliminated the need for duplicate work and allowed the VFX to be rendered in native stereo. 

POST: Are there effects that would have not been possible if you had not created this pipeline?
FULLE: “When dealing with conversion, there are a few things that don’t translate well, fire being at the top of the list. Anything with transparency is very difficult to extract from one eye and place on another. Since a majority of our VFX included a flaming Ghost Rider character, we knew we had to come up with a way to be able to render him natively. This innovative approach resulted in Ghost Rider having the same richness and dimensionality as he would have if the film had be shot using 3D cameras.”

POST: Who can benefit from this pipeline?
FULLE: “I believe that this pipeline should be implemented whenever possible. How much and how effectively is very dependent on the filmmakers’ style. Filmmakers who have a sense of the cut early on and are comfortable turning material over early benefit the most from this hybrid pipeline.”

POST: How was working in stereo more challenging than working in 2D?
FULLE: “Working on a film with conversion and VFX is more challenging in that it requires more tracking, coordination and management.”

For more on the pipeline, visit our sister publication’s Website, www.cgw.com, and read Karen Moltenbrey’s detailed feature.