Sep 6, 2016
Took a small break from being a Compositing Supervisor on Fantastic Beasts (my first time in the role at Framestore), to do some work Denis Villeneuve’s new film ‘Story of Your Life’. The title of the film was later changed to Arrival. It was a strange little gig. Denis seemed really keen to work with Framestore, and the head of our studio was just as excited to make that connection.
The story was something like this. Denis had recently screened his nearly complete film to the studio, who rejected the ending. The alien ships disappeared in a single editorial cut frame. Pop. Gone. Denis loved this effect, but the studio said it was not grand enough for the film. So that’s where we came in. Framestore’s Ivan Moran worked with Denis and his team to develop a new ‘dancing stones’ scene where the ships disappeared, then re-appeared in a skyscape…..and more or less spun in a circle creating a wormhole type thing and vanish.
If it sounds strange, it was. Placing the stone ships in a cloudscape proved complicated to get a sense of scale, because there was nothing human relatable…..the speed and size always seemed off. The animation, camera angles, and timing were tricky to marry into the pacing of the film….etc.
But while that was being creatively solved, us worker bees settled into the other half of the gag, which was trying to make the ships disappear in some plausible and pleasing way. After a couple of weeks we showed Denis a motion test (not very unlike the final shot above). He really received it well. I think his words were: ‘If I had known the disappearing of the ships could have been this beautiful, I would not have written the dancing of the stones sequence.’ Directly after that, he commissioned us to make several more disappearing shots, and told the studio he was going to re-write the end of the film once more, back to what he had, but having the ships disappear using this new effect!
I was a little sad to loose the skyscape shot work though. The tests we were creating had just started to produce nice results. I love skyscapes, and have for a long time wanted to produce some professionally. But, the movie was much better without them. No doubt in my mind about that!
Super talented folks I had the opportunity to work with on this show:
Below are stills from the shots which I was responsible for as a comp sup. Mostly I just made sure the render farm was working and that the team was all using the same techniques and proceedures for similar shots. Ivan and Denis handled the heavy lifting when it came to the creative and I left the compositors to complete the magic of their craft!