Hydraulx Visual Effects creates seamless 3D animation for Academy Award-Winning 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'.

CHALLENGE

Santa Monica-based VFX facility Hydraulx was tasked with creating the special effects for the blockbuster movie, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.' The film tells the tale of a man born in his eighties who has the unusual condition of aging backwards.

Hydraulx required a matchmoving application to solve camera tracks in three sequences of the film: the CG head replacement on the animatronic baby seen at the beginning of the film; CG snow and breath on the blizzardy streets of Murmansk, Russia; and CG enhancement of select dance performance shots.

SOLUTION

Hydraulx chose boujou, the professional matchmoving software from Vicon for its 3D camera tracking. boujou is the industry's first fully automated camera calibration and tracking system.

It removes previous limitations on what is achievable in effects production by allowing 3D professionals to derive complex camera tracks and calibration data from film and video material automatically without the need for manual tracking input.

"The project started with boujou in our tracking department. Once shots were tracked, we exported the cameras into Maya and used those 3D cameras as if we were on set with the director," said Dan Kruse, Lead Camera Tracker, Hydraulx.


"We also really like that boujou accepts lens information from any camera manufacturer—other solutions won't allow us to use precise camera settings which is often essential for getting a shot right."

"Another feature that was very helpful was the ability to solve cameras in sections. boujou gave us the flexibility to export the sections to Maya where they can be joined and manipulated. There was rarely a shot boujou couldn't handle," explained Andrew Collins, Camera Tracker, Hydraulx.

RESULTS

Hydraulx provided 81 shots for the film, including matte paintings, set extensions and extensive CG shot enhancements. boujou was an integral part of the 3D animation pipeline at Hydraulx, which employs seven seats throughout the facility.

"We use boujou because it's really fast," said Kruse. "It was a part of our pipeline from the beginning—so we know it's been battle tested. When a project comes in that requires quick turnaround, we can slam shots through with the control we need to get them in and out of the door in as little time as possible."

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button won a total of 3 Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects.

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