Rainmaker Visual Effects Skates Rings around Digital Face Replacement!

Rainmaker Visual Effects, a division of Rainmaker Entertainment Inc., has completed 300 shots for the new DreamWorks comedy, Blades of Glory. The movie centers on the comic travails of two disgraced world champion skaters, played by Will Farrell and Jon Heder, who must overcome their considerable differences and get back in the game by becoming the first competitive male pairs figure skaters in history.

The Rainmaker team, lead by visual effects supervisor Mark Breakspear and visual effects executive producer Shauna Bryan, developed a new and cost-effective way to record the facial performance of actors allowing the visual effects team to recreate the exact performance on a 3D CG replica of the actors. This new Rainmaker approach utilizes new technology and custom proprietary software to allow an actor to give a performance which is faithfully recreated on a 3D digital double version of the performer, and integrated with the stunt double who has actually performed the stunts, jumps, slides, crashes or throws.

As Breakspear explains, ‘This new technique is very production-friendly and flexible. Creating a fully CG human face is hard enough, but doing one that has to perform and look like someone we all know is even harder.’

Prior to developing this breakthrough technique, previous methods involved shooting 2D plates of an actor from various angles to match a background plate, and then trying to match the actor’s face with that of the stunt double’s. The results for this 2D method were erratic and the method was not production friendly, requiring multiple takes to get the exact match in order to be sure it would be successful. The Rainmaker approach allowed the directors and actors to focus on performance, while the CG team recorded all the specific details in the performance at a resolution never before obtained.

Rainmaker calls the technology behind this “p-cap,” for performance capture. Three HD cameras and a film camera are used to record the way the actor’s face moves. To support this process the actor is put in a specific make up consisting of strategically placed dots that will show exactly how his core facial muscles move during a take. A library of facial moves is also captured, giving the visual effects team the full range of each actor’s various maximum face shapes. Once the “p-cap” is recorded, it is translated to the CG head.

Assisting Rainmaker on 38 shots was Vancouver-based Image Engine, which took on some compositing chores when the production schedule was accelerated to accommodate the release date.

‘Mark, Shauna and the entire crew did gold medal work on this project,’ says Warren Franklin, Rainmaker CEO. ‘Audiences will never know that Will Farrell and Jon Heder aren’st doing all the skating scenes themselves ?‚àö√ë‚àö¬® and that the highest compliment our work can get.’

DreamWorks Pictures Presents a Red Hour/Smart Entertainment Production, ‘Blades of Glory,’ starring Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, William Fichtner, Jenna Fischer, Romany Malco, Nick Swardson, Rob Corddry and Craig T. Nelson. The film is directed by Will Speck & Josh Gordon from a story by Craig Cox & Jeff Cox & Busy Philipps and a screenplay by Jeff Cox & Craig Cox and John Altschuler & Dave Krinsky. The film producers are Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld and John Jacobs. Executive producer is Marty Ewing.

About Rainmaker Entertainment Inc.
Rainmaker, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, is an award-winning visual effects, 3D animation and post-production company with a 28 year history of technical excellence and outstanding service in feature films, television, games and commercials. From its origins in the pioneering west coast post house Gastown Productions, Rainmaker has grown into one of North America’s pre-eminent post-production service providers. Rainmaker, the largest visual effects and animation company in Canada, has three divisions — Rainmaker Animation, Rainmaker Visual Effects and Rainmaker Post. Rainmaker also operates a facility in London — Rainmaker Animation & Visual Effects UK Ltd. (Rainmaker UK) — which offers cutting edge visual effects and 3D animation in that market.

Rainmaker Animation, with the inclusion of recently acquired Mainframe Entertainment, creates 3D animation for the feature film market and is the industry leader in CG animation for television and direct-to-DVD family entertainment. Rainmaker Visual Effects creates state-of-the-art CG effects for the high-end feature film, television, commercial and game markets. Rainmaker Post provides a wide array of post-production services ranging from traditional film lab processes to the very latest in digital image processing including HD. Rainmaker also maintains an office in Los Angeles. California. For more information, visit www.rainmaker.com

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