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Luma Pictures' Prometheus Holograph

COW Library : Art of the Edit : Debra Kaufman : Luma Pictures' Prometheus Holograph
CreativeCOW presents Luma Pictures' Prometheus Holograph -- Art of the Edit Feature


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Charlie Holloway surprises his love interest Elizabeth Shaw on the spaceship Prometheus by walking through a hologram to present her with a single rose. The effect - along with the graphics on Elizabeth's handheld computer - only take a few seconds of screen time, but add to the film's futuristic feel and emotional core.

Luma Pictures Digital Production Manager Michael Perdew
Luma Pictures Digital Production Manager Michael Perdew
These effects, which were done by Luma Pictures, shine a light on how VFX supervisors divvy up the massive number of effects, often assigning discrete sequences to a single visual effects facility. "They split the work off because it was its own unique effect," says Luma Pictures Digital Production Manager Michael Perdew. "It wasn't our largest project but it had its challenges."

How to distort a hologram was the subject of look-dev discussions between the Luma Pictures team and Prometheus Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Stammers. "It was the only scene where someone distorts a hologram, so it was a stand-alone look in the movie," says Perdew. "They wanted it to look fluid."

The team, headed by Luma Pictures VFX Supervisor Vincent Cirelli, first created detailed holdout geometry and matchmoves of the actors, so they would integrate properly within the CG fluid. To create a fluid look for the distortion as Charlie walks through the hologram, they used FumeFX for Maya, which, reports CG Supervisor Richard Sutherland, they had recently worked with developer Sitni Sati to implement. Nuke was the final compositing tool.

Luma Pictures also added the graphics that showed a DNA breakdown on Shaw's handheld computer. "We had the graphics provided to us," says Perdew, who reports that, "everyone here is a huge fan of Ridley Scott and Alien. The filmmakers had put so much love and care into the 3D aspect of the film that we wanted to give this graphics information some depth."



The effect only takes a few seconds of screen time, but adds to the film's futuristic feel and emotional core.


Sutherland notes that on set, the filmmakers used transparent plastic blocks that "looked cool but were difficult to track, especially in stereo." He adds, "We developed tools for our trackers, compositors and paint team to help them judge stereo quality at their desks before reviewing on our 2K stereo projector."



Elizabeth's handheld computer is only a centimeter thick, but needed depth created and the effect of a hologram floating inside.


The team object-tracked the graphics using SynthEyes and brought the geometry into Nuke for compositing. "The computer is only a centimeter thick, so it wasn't much," Perdew says. "But if you look, you can see there's a bit of depth, like a hologram floating inside."

Although Luma Pictures' footprint on Prometheus is limited, the company was tapped to provide a singular poetic effect. It's an insight into how these huge VFX movies are handled, with VFX supervisors choreographing a division of labor that makes sense and results in the best work possible.



In this completed scene, Charlie Holloway steps through a hologram to hand a rose to Elizabeth Shaw









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