'Wulf' in sheep's clothing


Will the Academy view the spectacular work in Beowulf as a feat of visual effects or animation?

Robert Zemeckis' performance-capture-based "Beowulf" has prompted a flurry of questions and discussion about the very definition of what is considered a visual effect, as opposed to what is considered an animated film.

"I don't know how to answer," admits visual effects supervisor Jerome Chen. "It's a blend of both worlds. ... I consider "Beowulf" a hybrid project between live action and CG. We did performance capture, and then we realized those characters using CG."

He relates: "It's an interesting blend of live action and CG because you have human characters that have to be created to a life-like level to make the performances engaging, then you have creatures that have to be blended in with them." In some instances, performance capture was accomplished using motion rigs in order to further simulate the required movement.

He adds: "There are no photographic elements in the movie. Everything is completed in the computer. In that sense, it is completely CG in the final rendering."

On his role as VFX supervisor, Chen explains: "What I did on this movie didn't feel any different than a live-action movie. That whole front end of the production process felt like a live-action shoot, the only difference was we weren't using film, we were using cameras that recorded motion."

In post, he says work included lighting and the integration of the characters into the environment, CG elements such as fire, and matte paintings.