FX Review

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The Mir subs approach the camera within the darkness of the ocean. Miniatures were shot dry-for-wet by Digital Domain, composited by Banned from the Ranch.
Under The Sea
The film opens with the Mir submersibles descending upon the camera. As the camera tilts down, the subs fade into the darkness of the sea, eerily reminiscent of shots from Cameron's earlier work, THE ABYSS. The exploration sequences of the sunken Titanic contain a collage of miniature photography, and actual Titanic footage photographed by Cameron himself during a series of deep sea dives. The big challenge for this sequence, was to cut between real-life Titanic shots and miniature shots without the audience ever realizing it, and the filmmakers succeeded. While the miniature shots shot by Digital Domain have slightly smoother camera moves than the real footage, the two sets are nearly indistinguishable. Careful additions of particles visible in the subs lights add to the realistic look of the shots. Even through significant camera moves, the particles appear to have depth, giving the dry-for-wet miniature footage a deep, documentary look.

To further add realistic cues of scale to the sub footage, CG fish were animated and composited into a couple shots. For one, Banned from the Ranch added a CG fish that swims behind the tub in Rose's stateroom. The lighting on that fish was particulary

Banned from the Ranch added CG fish to some underwater wreck shots.
interesting, since in uncharacteristic restraint, the fish wasn't the focus of the shot, and was actually hidden in shadow for most of the shot. This kind of subtlety and lack of 'look at me!' effects appear throughout the film.

Above the water, a computer simulation of the ship's demise is displayed for Rose, documenting Titanic's last hours. The Digital Domain CG animation of the ship sinking was composited into the television by Banned From the Ranch, as the animation was not available for live, on-set playback. The burn-in effect is transparent to the viewer. The demonstration, utilizing the complex Lightwave CG model created by DD's NT group, is quite a show within itself. Its purposefully low resolution model still moved with grace; particularly interesting was the depiction of panels being ripped off the ship as the bow descended to the bottom of the ocean.

As Rose begins her story, the camera moves behind her to a video screen, depicting the sunken ship, with the video camera moving left to right across her bow. In one of the magnificent Digital Domain transitions, the bow magically transforms into the Titanic bow of 1912, while docked at Southampton. The shot continues across the bow to reveal waving passengers on board, and hundreds of extras scattered around the dock. The transformation is stunning, providing a majestic entrance for one of the film's main characters, the ship itself.

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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