Cinesite recreates Boston for 'Leap Year'


Last Updated: January 11, 2010 6:59 pm GMT
(January 11, 2010) Leading film visual effects company, Cinesite, has completed a series of complex and challenging visual effects on the new film from Spyglass Entertainment, 'Leap Year', which opened in theaters across the United States over the weekend.

Leap Year follows the story of Anna, played by Amy Adams, on her quest to propose to her boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) on Leap Day, an Irish tradition which occurs every four years when the date February 29 comes around. Anna faces major trials and setbacks due to unpredictable weather as she attempts to travel from Boston to Dublin to make her proposal. But with the help of a stranger, played by Matthew Goode, Anna’s wish just might come true.

Cinesite completed 61 shots on the film, which involved shooting and creating stunning scenery, producing realistic elements and creating a photorealistic boat and castle to ensure the film’s main look and feel represented a picturesque Irish countryside.

For one scene Cinesite had to recreate photorealistic backgrounds of Boston to complete green screen foreground elements which were shot in a studio. To achieve the scene, Cinesite flew to Boston and shot still panoramas of well-known sites. The shots were then extensively treated by Cinesite’s CGI and matte painting department, which involved color grading, adding snow elements and replacing undesired objects from the original photography. The final composite was completed using Nuke and Shake.

Another key scene Cinesite worked on was Anna’s journey across the sea in a small boat in an attempt to finally reach Ireland from Wales. As the scene was too ambitions to be shot as live action, Cinesite were tasked with creating a full CGI boat and ocean for the wide establishing shot. Close-up shots of principal actors and the boat were achieved by setting the boat on a gimble rig with a green screen background. The storm element was digitally created. The boat was graded and lightening and heavy rain particles were added to make the storm more intense.

In addition to the CGI ocean and particle elements, live action elements of rain and water splashes were shot by Cinesite Production Services at Shepperton Studios and seamlessly integrated to make the scene realistic and reflective of treacherous stormy conditions. The ocean and particle elements were created in Maya and rendered in RenderMan, and the whole scene was composited in Shake.

For another scene, Cinesite had to create and animate a 360-degree panoramic landscape of a breathtaking Irish castle. To create the scene, Cinesite went on location to the west coast of Ireland to shoot the ruins of an old castle and various panoramas to create a matte painting. The castle ruins were enhanced by adding a CGI tower and the sky was animated to create atmospherics. The animated panoramic landscape was then composited onto footage of the actors standing in front of a green screen. Further detail was added to the sky as well as rain as the scene turns from sunshine into heavy rain.

Antony Hunt, managing director at Cinesite, said, “Leap Year was a great project to work on because it really tested our element making skills. Creating our very first full CGI ocean and achieving director Anand Tucker’s creative vision is something we’re particularly proud of.”

About Cinesite

With one of the largest and most comprehensive facilities in Europe, Cinesite's visual effects team has the capacity and creativity to produce all manner of effects, both digital and physical, for feature films and broadcast projects of all scales. Their award-winning team of highly talented visual effects artists take filmmakers' ideas and turn them into spectacular cinematic reality.

Cinesite is currently working on Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Warner Bros.), Naked Beauty (Disney Nature), Clash of The Titans (Warner Bros.), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Disney), Leap Year (Spyglass), Marmaduke (Fox), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Fox/Walden), John Carter of Mars (Disney/Pixar) and Battle LA (Sony/Columbia).

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