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The dwarves in the new fairytale action-adventure ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ were not the only characters upon which several department heads had to collaborate. While director Rupert Sanders likes to keep as much of his shooting in camera as possible, there are many things that need the helping hand of visual effects wizardry to enhance and elevate a character or scene. To create Sanders’ vision of the world we see in Snow White and the Huntsman, the director and executive producer Gloria Borders enlisted the help of eight accomplished vendors from across the globe.
Visual effects producer Thompson discusses what drew her to such a massive labor of love: “I remember my first meeting on this film was with Rupert and Cedric Nicolas-Troyan about the tone poem that Rupert wanted to put together. It was a sales tool in a sense, but it wowed the studio because it was a great tonal guide and an insight to what Rupert wanted to achieve. Honestly, it was amazing. It really excited me about the movie and whilst I had planned to just prep the movie, I found that I couldn’t stop working on it because it just blew me away.”
Given her time frame, it was important for visual effects producer Lynda Thompson’s team to have different vendors concentrate on each area. They were able to divide up the work fairly easily, as the film naturally splits by characters and areas of expertise from different houses—all picked because of their reputations for being top of their game. These included such work as the creation of the dwarves, the Enchanted Forest creatures, the good fairies, the dark fairies, set extensions, face replacements, character aging and transformations and, of course, the Mirror Man.
Under the supervision of VFX supervisors Nicolas-Troyan and Philip Brennan, the houses achieved the following: Rhythm & Hues accomplished work on the dwarves, Enchanted Forest creatures, CG good fairies, CG bridge troll, CG magpies and CG ravens; Double Negative Visual Effects helped to create Dark Forest creatures (including dark fairies) and the intricate shard visual effects when Ravenna’s Shadow Army splinters;
Pixomondo worked to create Ravenna’s Shadow Army, as well as assisted with crowd duplications and set extensions; The Mill developed the Mirror Man; BlueBolt crafted King Magnus’ castle (and the castle it becomes under Ravenna’s rule), as well as coordinated set extensions, digital matte paintings and CG fireballs during Ravenna’s attack on an advancing army; BaseBlack conducted digital matte paintings and set extensions; Lola VFX helped to imagine the dwarves, coordinated Ravenna’s face aging and face replacements and VFX of Snow White in her frozen state; and Hydraulx created CG swords and conducted work on Ravenna’s transformations.
Within Ravenna’s mirror chamber is the iconic magic mirror resting against the wall. This cherished-but-cursed relic has, over time, grown to become a physical entity. Ravenna is so obsessed with her own image that the mirror reflects a manifestation of her soul and her dark subconscious. Indeed, it allows the mirror to reveal what Ravenna truly has become. The mirror tells her what her subconscious knows and reveals a truth that she lets no other person witness.
The inspiration for Sanders’ Mirror Man was a sculpture called “Face-Off ” by the talented London-based Irish artist Kevin Francis Gray. “As we needed to capture Ravenna’s reflection in it on the camera, we had to create a fake standing Mirror Man so that she could see herself in it,” explains Nicolas-Troyan. “It’s entirely computer generated by a team at The Mill, and he’s never fully solid and never fully liquid. That was on purpose to reflect Ravenna’s character that is always changing…and not necessarily in a good way.”
For the Mirror Man scenes, Theron actually acted opposite a figure with a RED camera built into it so that it could record what her reflection would look like during the actual scene. At the same time the voice of the Mirror Man (Chris Obi) was just off set feeding lines to the actress.
So, does the Mirror Man actually exist? Is Ravenna the only person who sees him? Sanders and the producers would like for the audience to believe what they choose to believe.
The eight houses weren’t the only ones with tricks up their sleeves. Special effects are stamped all over the film, especially in the wintery world of Ravenna’s creation. For example, for the drops of blood spilled upon the snow by Snow White’s mother, Sanders thought the fake blood looked too fake. An easy solution? The director had the FX guys actually draw his own blood to use as the blood that appears on the snowy land.
Image Courtesy of http://www.snowwhiteandthehuntsman.com/