FX Review

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As night falls, the sky replacements take on different significance--clearly visible starfields and the ever present horizon line. Nearly every single evening sky in the film contains these elements. The stars become a distraction in many shots; their brightness is overwhelming at times. As the camera pans left or right or moves up and down, the tracking of the stars was consistent throughout the film, but the stars seem to gain intensity in order to visibly blur and streak across the frame as the camera moves. The starfields, themselves, are a bit weak, in that there only seemed to be two levels of intensity--bright and very bright. The distribution of stars was too uniform to be believed, as well.

Rose On The Edge
The long sequence of Rose attempting suicide contains dozens of greenscreen composites, many completed under difficult conditions. For one thing, Rose's dress was of a semi-transparent, flowing fabric, which can be hellish on greenscreen matte extractions. Also, it seemed clear that there was some excessive spill and exposure problems on a couple of shots, namely a few directly facing Rose, where black levels seemed off and the actress had a greenish tint. A nagging light above the actors heads appeared to be completely digitally reconstructed in wide shots, as well. These instances aside, there are some wonderful composites completed by CIS Hollywood in the sequence, including some invisible shots of Rose dangling off the edge of the ship. Completely invisible is CIS' work on the wake--actual wake elements were shot off a twin-propeller ship, and since Titanic was a three prop ship, various digital manipulations were made to give the impression of a three prop wake. The camera is

Jack teaches Rose how to fly. For wide shots, the actors were shot motion control against a greenscreen, composited against CG water and the 1/20 scale miniature. The top image is a simple greenscreen element, composited against digitally generated water. [Digital Domain, both shots]
seemingly always moving during this sequence, especially in the dramatic 'helicopter' shot that begins the sequence. Just one of many complicated shots appears as a crewmember comes across Jack and Rose, looks down then up, turns toward the camera and yells, "Fetch the master-at-arms!" The camera is flying all over the place, and the horizon line and stars always seemed naturally within the frame.

"I'm Flying!"
Jack returns to the very front of the ship, as Rose joins him, only to be taught how to fly in a gorgeous 'magic hour' sequence. With the setting sun in front of them, orange-red hues engulf the ship and the actors. The camera swirls around them from a hundred feet away, rotating almost 90 degrees behind them. Like the previous Digital Domain Jack/Fabrizio shots, the actors were shot motion control on a greenscreen stage, with the camera motion translated from the 1/20 scale miniature Titanic photography. As with the previous shots, they are locked into place at the tip of the ship, and rotoscoping of the railings was smooth and unnoticeable. As with the other bow-to-stern shots, Digital Domain's digital smoke elements eminating from the funnels seem very realistic. Unfortunately annoying is the near-exact same camera path traveled twice in the short sequence, with the camera moving up and to the left, rotating clockwise around the bow--as well as the lack of motion blur on the water in the background, especially near the end of the shot.

Probably the most dazzling of all the transitions of the film appears as the last sweeping shot slows its pace, while rust and debris magically appear along the railings. Slowly the warm orange colors are transformed into cold blues, the water disappears, and finally the couple disappear. The camera pulls back to reveal the true nature of the shot--a video screen depicting the sunken wreck, as viewed by Old Rose. This DD transition does exactly what visual effects should always do--play a part in telling the story. The purpose of the shot is to not only to transition from the past to the present, but to remind the audience of the impending danger, loss and horror that is to come--both temporal and emotional transitions. The design of the shot, as well as the execution, allow this sequence to shine as a classic, one that will be remembered for its technical brilliance and its emotional impact.

A quicker transition takes us back to the past, as the sunken mantlepiece and fireplace of Rose's sitting room smoothly transforms into the 1912 version, as Jack and Rose enter the room. Hammerhead took the miniature passes of the sunken mantlepiece, as well as the live-action footage, and massaged the elements until it created the smooth transition.

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. . VFX HQ Produced by Todd Vaziri . . http://www.vfxhq.com . . e-mail: tvaziri@gmail.com . .
All text Copyright © 1998 Todd Vaziri, unless otherwise noted