May 25, 2005


Digital Dimension dressed up this building, adding a second floor and a tile roof.

BURBANK - Visual effects studio Digital Dimension (, here, recently completed work on several dozen shots for the New Line Cinema feature "Monster-in-Law," including the opening shot that introduces Jennifer Lopez's Charlie character.

The studio worked with director of photography Russell Carpenter to create seamless composites and digital effects. In the opening moments, the camera sweeps through sunny Venice Beach to an adjacent Spanish-style apartment where Charlie resides and is first seen. The sequence was created using a combination of complex shot extensions and visual effects transitions that marry live-action footage with objects created in 3D.

"The concept was to create a seamless crane shot that starts in the Venice Boardwalk and slowly moves left, getting into a nearby building where the Jennifer Lopez character is revealed," explains Digital Dimension compositing supervisor Leandro Visconti. "Of course, the apartment wasn't really located in Venice or anywhere even close, so fulfilling the filmmakers' vision required us to pull off the shot as a visual effect, using a quite sophisticated combination of 3D tracking with digital transitions and elements."

Digital Dimension worked backwards from the apartment building plates, tracking them in 3D to calculate how fast the crane- and dolly-and-roof-mounted camera was moving and how that movement could be extended to the Boardwalk shot, which had necessitated a higher, heavier crane with no access to a dolly or roof. James Coulter, senior technical director at Digital Dimension, determined what camera angles and speeds were required to make the shots match by building and animating the crane in 3D.

From there, Digital Dimension devised a transition between the plates, opting to use a palm tree at the head of the apartment plate as a wipe. It also dressed up a fast food restaurant visible in the Boardwalk plate with a top terrace, designed in 3D, so it would fit with the Spanish architecture. Finally, Digital Dimension blended the two different plates that form the push-in camera move on the apartment building and windows to look like one long shot.

"Tracking and extracting a matte from a palm tree that is rotating against a background of shingled roofs and shadow grid patterns that share chroma/luma values with the tree itself was incredibly difficult but produced better results than rotoscoping," says Visconti.

Digital Dimension worked directly with cinematographer Russell Carpenter on the color timing. The Boardwalk material was blended with the apartment frames. Color grading across the entire composite was tightly designed - from matching and blending from the sunset look at the beginning of the footage right down to having Lopez's skin tones correspond with the next shot of her in the edit.

Digital Dimension used Eyeon's Digital Fusion for rotoscoping, keying, compositing and morphing. Autodesk 3DS Max with Mental Ray and global illumination was used for creation and rendering elements in 3D. In addition to the opening sequence, the company also contributed 31 additional shots involving compositing and clean up.