American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 18

Top: An alien spacecraft attacks Fort MacArthur. Bottom: Shot at magic hour, the WAC officers (Murty
and Rachel Newell) uncover the otherworldly mystery at the fort.

bunker to threaten the WACs - was a
whopping 45 seconds long, with the
camera in constant motion. Plus, we hadn't
used physical markers while shooting.
The problem was solved in two
ways. Using no tracking data whatsoever, a
young effects prodigy named Antony
Vannapho - whose credits include The
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I -
hand-animated the saucer in 20 of our 33
visual-effects shots while also handling
lighting, rotoscoping, pyrotechnics, particle
effects and compositing. Although many
shots were brief, it was a bravura effort that
inspired the whole team. "I knew from the
start that we wouldn't be able to track the
night sky, so I was already minded to
animate everything manually, frame by
18

January 2016

frame, to match the live footage," says
Vannapho, who used Maya and After
Effects to complete the shots. "I love the
style of found-footage and the challenge of
visual-effects integration attached to it."
The remaining longer shots -
including the hero shot - were tracked
using SynthEyes software by former Weta
Digital match-mover Sean Dollins, who'd
once tracked shots down to the sub-pixel
level for Ridley Scott's Prometheus. A task
that Dollins attests was "just as difficult, but
in a different way" from those he'd taken
on at Weta, UFO Diary's hero shot pressed
him to the limit. He explains, "When you're
match-moving, there are things that are
always going to make shots hard to do:
long [takes], being handheld, having a lot of
American Cinematographer

fast motion, being in particularly low light,
or not having a lot of features to track or
lock onto." He adds drily, "This shot
happened to have the perfect combination
of all of those things."
Once match-moving was complete,
our animators could finally bring the
saucer's menacing personality to life. "The
animators, Bren and Delano, are both very
talented and capable artists who brought
their own flare to the character," notes
Figgins. "What I'm most pleased with is
that they used all the controls available to
make the ship feel alive, from the tiny flaps,
air vents, swinging hoses, eye rings and so
on. These smaller details make the ship feel
that much bigger. The design of the saucer
allowed a lot of personality to come
through."
One final visual challenge remained:
creating UFO Diary's distressed 16mm
Kodachrome look. Color documentaries
from World War II have a very particular
color profile, with saturated primary colors
but an otherwise limited spectrum. They
also tend to fade to blue as they deteriorate.
With Sarah French I crafted a custom look
for UFO Diary using Avid's color-grading
tools in 2K, real film grain scanned at 4K,
and a host of third-party plug-ins and
elements (dirt, scratches, light leaks, film
leader). Keeping a modern 1.78:1 aspect
ratio and Rec 709 color space, we boosted
the primary colors, especially blue in the
shadows, outputting the result to a 1080p
QuickTime file. It's a unique look intended
to evoke an era rather than imitate it.
Ultimately, everything about UFO
Diary - from its story to its technology -
was a mixture of old and new. "It's a historic
mystery brought to life with cutting-edge
visual effects," affirms Murty. Danton adds,
"It's a fantastical tale, but we wanted to
present it in a way that felt believable. I
think we walked that tightrope really well."
For UFO Diary details and updates,
‚óŹ
follow @UFODiary on Twitter.



American Cinematographer - January 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 5
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American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64a
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64b
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64c
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64d
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64e
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64f
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64g
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64h
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