Directed by Stephen Sommers
Visual Effects Supervisor: Michael Shea

Visual Effects Produced by:

Digital FX Supervisor: Dan DeLeeuw
CG Creature Supervisor: Rob Dressel


Blur's Full Credits


Review by Todd Vaziri

Some of the industry's finest houses teamed up to create the effects for DEEP RISING, the new thriller from writer-director Stephen Sommers. The tongue-in-cheek creature flick is one of the few major films to boast an all-CG creature, with no animatronic counterpart appearing onscreen. The creature was designed by Rob Bottin and primarily executed by Dream Quest Images, with a handful of creature shots produced by Industrial Light & Magic. Other effects were produced by Blur Studio and Banned from the Ranch Entertainment.

Due to the nature of the film's pace, mood and editing, the creature is usually seen in brief shots, with the beast's tentacles swiftly moving down corridors. Many shots of the creature hold up well--its slick textures seem fairly realistic, and movement was smooth. Unfortunately, there are very few instances where the creature stays still, and in those sequences, where the creature's head appears, the animation seemed stiff and unnatural. Throughout the majority of the film, the creature could only be described as 'blurry,' due to its frenetic, quick movements. Even when it makes its grand appearance at the end of the film, grabbing Treat Williams in its tentacles and raising him up to its eye, the creature isn't particularly menacing. This is partially due to the fact that the filmmakers didn't assign the creature much of a character, but mainly because the creature was never onscreen for very long.

A breakdown of one of Dream Quest Images' shots from DEEP RISING. The first frame is from the original production photography, the background plate. The second is a crude wireframe of the monster, while the third is a soft-shaded representation. The actor was lifted to the foreground, while the rendered monster is composited behind him for the final image.

Two more of Dream Quest's monster shots from DEEP RISING. Images Copyright 1998 Hollywood Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

Consistent throughout the entire film was the matchmoving, where the creature's perspective remained consistent with the plate photography, even during shaky, hand-held camera moves. Some scenes required a great deal of accurate rotoscoping as well, where the creature moves behind foreground elements--all of which were clean and invisible.

The Argonautica, the luxurious cruise ship, doesn't exist in real-life--Dream Quest shot an enormously detailed 38 foot model, and composited it into shots featuring synthetic stormy skies and digital water, complete with terrific camera drift. The finest boat shot is a pan left to right from the mercenary ship to the Argonautica, with lightning flashes affecting the two ships, the night sky, and the water. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the ship is featured in only a handful of shots, it's quite noticeable, even to the average viewer, that the ship exists only in the world of effects. This fact is strengthened by the camera move that begins hundreds of feet away from the ship, travels across the sea to actually enter the ship's atrium to witness the party inside. The shot is quite memorable, and fits well into the context of the film. The ship's destruction was accomplished with an enormous 110 foot model.

Blur Studio executed the "half-digested Billy" sequence, one of the most stunning of the film. Image Copyright 1998 Hollywood Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

Other Dream Quest sequences include a short scene of an elevator dropping out of control down its shaft, as well as a terrific miniature of the cargo hold, filled with bloody, chewed up skeletons. Early moments of the shot featured some shoddy compositing of an overhead light, but the dolly/tilt-down was otherwise very successful. Also convincing was the huge rush of oncoming water, although later bluescreen composites of foreground people and miniature water in the background were painfully obvious.

Banned from the Ranch Entertainment also provided some key visual effects sequences to the film. For these frames, BFTR added a great deal of CG bubbles, and even a CG tentacle that drags away its helpless victim. Moments later, a grenade goes off creating a bright shockwave. The explosion element, actually an outtake from miniature underwater pyro from CRIMSON TIDE, was convincingly composited into the environment.

Banned from the Ranch also added a surfboard to this overhead shot of the mercenary ship exploding. Below are two frames from BFTR's ambitious POV shot of the monster swimming from the depths of the sea, right up to the Argonautica, through its props.

Worth a considerable amount of praise is a sequence in the middle of the film, as a person is dropped from inside the creature's guts. Half-digested, the poor fella stands up and staggers around the floor, very close to death. As his head turns, we see inside his head--a chunk of his head is missing, as well as various parts of his body. The shot goes on, and on, allowing the audience to fully examine this gruesome display, until the person finally drops to the ground. This exquisite, chilling sequence was executed by Blur Studio, and is probably the most memorable effects sequence in the film. Not only was it technically brilliant, with hardly noticeable cues of the massive amount of manipulation involved with the shots, but the filmmakers didn't cheat the audience out of a great visual feast by trimming the shots to shorter, more manageable lengths.

Banned from the Ranch not only provided computer graphics screen elements for the sequence where the Argonautica is disabled, but handled some effects duties, as well. Their work included some invisible prop and sign additions, the execution of an underwater attack shot (where they added a CG tentacle), and the creature's POV shot of it sailing through the water, through the ship's propellors, impacting the hull.

Banned from the Ranch Entertainment also provided the film this invisible visual effect. When the scene was photographed, fastened to the door was a sign--a sign the production eventually wished to have replaced.. BFTR meticulously tracked a "Systems Operations" sign into the shot. The camera is moving throughout the shot as the door swings open.

The film's final shot, executed by ILM, is a hilarious homage to a couple of recent effects films--it is a very cool shot, one whose nature I will not reveal here, and is worth seeing on the big screen.

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