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14/03/2011

Modus FX Integrates Seamless Effects For Jane Eyre

Montreal's Modus FX provided 47 visual effects shots for Cary Joji Fukunaga's retelling of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel Jane Eyre.
Set in the mid-19th century English countryside, the CG for this visually rich adaption had to be invisible and blend seamlessly. Along with removing the trappings of modern life from a number of shots, such as overhead wires or telephone poles, the team at Modus changed the season in which several sequences are set. The most complex part of the project called for a digitally altered environment to create the burned-out ruins of Thornfield Castle.
Jane Eyre is the story of an orphaned girl whose strength of character has inspired readers since its publication in 1847. There have been numerous film and tv versions of the novel, but the new film, written by Moira Buffini, emphasises the gothic aspects of the book and re-orders the narrative sequence, creating greater dramatic immediacy for modern audiences.
Yanick Willisky, VP of Production and VFX Supervisor at Modus, said: "Atmosphere is everything for a film like this, so our work had to support the mood of the story and the scenic locations. The film uses a soft palette and natural light to capture the feeling of a world before the age of electricity, so our visual effects had to be entirely invisible."
Initially, Modus was hired on this project to alter the appearance of a run-down country manor so that it would show the aftermath of the fire at Thornfield Castle, a pivotal moment in the story. Wilisky explained: "Focus Features came to us shortly after we had completed work on The American last summer. Everyone understood that transforming the castle was going to present challenges. They had a tight timeline, but they knew we could do it."
Shooting on Jane Eyre had already wrapped up when Modus came on to the project. Wilisky said: "There was no CG model of the castle. We just had the footage to work with, and because the camera was moving in every shot, we had to use motion-tracking techniques to build our own environment."
Modus used Science D. Visions' 3D Equaliser to generate a point cloud based on the footage. Wilisky said: "From that data we were able to remodel the surface of the castle so that we could re-texture the walls."
The most difficult shots in the castle sequence were those which included the lace hat worn by actress Mia Waslkowska. The blackened walls of the castle had to show through countless perforations in the hat as the actress moves through the shots. Jacinthe Cote explained: "The castle model had to track exactly on the plate, or the audience would have been able to see the textures moving on the wall. These shots required a lot of rotoscoping, and then frame-by-frame work with a mix of keying and painting to make everything fit perfectly."
As the postproduction progressed, Modus' work on the project expanded. In one sequence, shot in late autumn, the season was changed to look like early summer. Cote said: "The trees were bare, so we had to add CG leaves and a gently breeze. The challenge was to match the colours so that everything looked real and fit in imperceptibly with the live action."
Cote explained that the team collaborated with director Cary Fukunaga from his production offices in London via cineSync - a review and approval system. Cote said: "We're used to working with clients who are based elsewhere and we always work with cineSync. It really is an excellent communication tool for long-distance collaboration."
Wilisky said: "Cary has a great eye and he is one of these directors who really understands visual effects in a way that he can talk to us in very theatrical terms. That was a real asset on this project. It was like working with a visual effects artist."
A Focus Features release, Jane Eyre stars Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) star in the iconic lead roles of the romantic drama.
(KMcA)
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