On April 20th, Pathfinder, directed by Marcus Nispel for 20th Century Fox, and Phoenix Pictures opens nationwide. The film features extensive visual effects by Zoic Studios BC. Zoic has collaborated with Nispel on numerous projects and jumped at the opportunity to help bring the director’s vision to the big screen.
“Zoic was asked to do what I consider the toughest of any special effects assignment — to not draw attention to their work in order to transport viewers to another time,” says Director Marcus Nispel. “I have collaborated with the Zoic team many times and, as such, we have a shorthand that is invaluable in any production, and was a huge asset to the scope of Pathfinder.”
An action-adventure set in the time when Vikings tried to conquer North America, PATHFINDER tells the heroic story of a young Norse boy left behind after his clan shipwrecks on the Eastern shores. Despite his lineage, the boy is raised by the very Indians his kinsmen set out to destroy. Now, as the Vikings return to stage another barbaric raid on his village, the 25 year-old Norse warrior (Karl Urban) wages a personal war to stop the Vikings’ trail of death and destruction. Forging his own path, his destiny is revealed and his identity re-claimed.
Under the direction of VFX Supervisors Randy Goux and Patti Gannon, Zoic Studios BC completed close to 300 VFX shots for Pathfinder. The types of effects varied greatly in complexity, from simple rig removal to a harrowing cliff traverse and avalanche that happens 1500 feet above a valley floor.
“This is the second feature film on which Zoic Studios has been the primary VFX house (Serenity being the first), and is a benchmark project for Zoic’s BC office,” says Zoic BC VFX Supervisor Patti Gannon.
“Working with Marcus is always exciting and he understands how visual effects can be central to conveying narrative, especially in historic or fantastic contexts,” adds Zoic BC VFX Supervisor Randi Goux.
The most complex scene — a dramatic avalanche — was shot at a quarry outside of Vancouver with a granite wall approximately 30 feet high. It was Zoic’s task to extend this cliff face both above and below the rocky trail, as well as to add the river valley, and mountain vistas to complete the illusion of a very dangerous mountain pass crossing, ultimately leading to the deaths of those falling from the cliff, and to an avalanche that courses down the mountainside. There are hundreds of elements included in the final realization of this sequence, most notably CG cliff extensions, river valley and mountain vista matte paintings, CG falling bodies, CG blizzard snow, and CG avalanche snow.
For the characters who had the misfortune of slipping from the cliff to their death, Zoic BC used filmed plates of stunt people executing high falls and transitioned their performances to CG digital doubles to increase the height and length of the fall. For all down angle shots looking into the virtual valley far below, it was impossible — due to the size and geography of the set, and also the sweeping camera angles and movements — to have a bluescreen stretched below them, so many hours of roto were needed to isolate the practical cliff and talent from the existing unwanted set. The avalanche itself is a combination of avalanche stock footage shots, and CG generated avalanche elements incorporated into practical BG plates. The force of the avalanche is felt by the CG elements overtaking and enveloping its victims. Each avalanche shot had many individual CG elements including large and small ice chunks, small debris, blowing snow, and smoke.
About Zoic Studios
Zoic Studios is a leader in visual effects and CG animation in the commercials, feature film and episodic television arenas. The company features studios in Los Angeles and Vancouver, as well as an LA-based stage for green screen and other specialty shooting.
TV episodic programs “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami,” and “Battlestar Galactica,” numerous commercials including spots for HP, Mini, PSP, Lexus, Cadillac, as well as feature films such as “Serenity” and “Pathfinder” showcase the talent of the Zoic team. Built on a foundation that allows maximum flexibility and creative product for its clients, Zoic is the Digital Evolution. www.zoicstudios.com
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