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POPULAR HERO HAS ANIMAL LOGIC STAMP

Hero, the martial arts epic from Zhang Yimou, opened at No 1 in Australia last weekend – a shining achievement for a subtitled film. And at least some of the shine comes from Australia’s Animal Logic, whose team travelled to remote regions of China to collaborate with Zhang Yimou on his visual extravaganza.

The spectacular visual effects in Hero were made at Sydney based Animal Logic, which sent a crew of visual effects specialists to work on the set with Zhang Yimou in remote regions of China in order to collaborate with the production team shooting the live action. This team included Visual Effects Supervisors Chris Godfrey, Andy Brown and David Dulac.

The primary role of the VFX Supervisor team on location was to collaborate with the director and come up with concepts and solutions that enhanced the storyline. "With little more than ten minutes notice we might be summoned to the set to deal with a spontaneous creative idea had by the director," says Brown. "Often this was outside the existing storyboards. We had to respond on the spot with workable solutions as to how an effect could be achieved."

"the complex effects sequences" 

After shooting had wrapped, a team of animators and visual effects artists set to work on completing the complex effects sequences at Animal Logic’s facility in Sydney. This rich tale of colour unfolds in a series of flashbacks, each detailing the same event from a different perspective. Animal Logic’s work can be seen in four key sequences of the film – the Forest Fight (colour: red), the Library Brush (colour: white), the Lake Sequence (colour: blue) and the Palace Exterior (the final sequence of the film), as well as in many backgrounds where Animal Logic’s matte painters created visually stunning, realistic environments, based on still photographs taken by Senior VFX Supervisor Chris Godfrey when he was on location in China.

Achieving the fine balance between natural and magical in the animation was a technical challenge for the company's in-house Research & Development team who wrote proprietary software programmes to achieve the complex effects such as those in the forest fight sequence.

Hero was Yimou’s first foray into visual effects, so handing over responsibility for the effects elements to Animal Logic's onset VFX Supervisors was a big step. "Zhang Yimou grew to trust our team more as the production progressed," says Andy Brown. "He likes to remain very much in control but as we worked and collaborated more he became increasingly receptive to ideas and contributions from the Animal Logic team".

Since directing Hero, Yimou has chosen to work with Animal Logic again on his follow-up martial arts film House Of Flying Daggers, which had its world premiere at Cannes 2004 (Out of Competition), releasing in Australia on January 20, 2005.

Published November 11, 2004

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