Meet Dave

ROLE: Flame Artist | VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Hydraulx
CLIENT: 20th Century Fox
DIRECTOR: Brian Robbins

Without a doubt, Eddie Murphy’s sci-fi comedy “Meet Dave” was a far more challenging production than anyone could have realized. The concept was silly. Eddie Murphy plays the captain of a team of very tiny aliens, who travel in a very human-sized robotic spaceship named Dave, which, not-coincidentally, looks exactly like Eddie Murphy.

Essentially, this involved miniaturizing Eddie, and co-star Gabrielle Union, for many, many shots. Straightforward enough, with the exception that all the greenscreen photography was evenly lit, almost 70s sitcom-style, not acknowledging any given shot’s lighting conditions. Add to that Eddie wearing a pristine white suit, which notoriously captures green spill, and you have a recipe for a lot of challenging and time-consuming hard work.

I touched a number of shots from the New York sidewalk sequence, where a recently marooned miniature Eddie and Gabrielle attempt to return to starship Dave, who’s walking through the busiest part of downtown. This involved greenscreen comps of Gabrielle getting blown through the air and landing in a wad of gum, a CG Eddie and Gabrielle landing on Dave’s shoe, and a greenscreen shot of a dog relieving himself on a fire hydrant, with Eddie and Gabrielle narrowly escaping.

I also worked on the finale’s Liberty Island escape, where Dave attempts to elude capture by blasting off. This consisted of compositing smoke and fire exhaust from Dave’s feet, adding a CG net to ensnare him, and removing rigs to simulate take-off.

Lastly, I contributed work to the final views of Eddie and Gabrielle successfully leaving Earth, viewing the planet through the shoe’s window as they depart in celebration.

The Invasion

ROLE: Flame Artist | VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Hydraulx
CLIENT: Warner Bros.
DIRECTOR: Oliver Hirschbiegel

The work I did on “The Invasion” represented a late-breaking challenge that arrived somewhat unexpectedly, all due to eleventh hour studio notes. Towards the end of the schedule, the decision was made to forgo the practical makeup that had been approved and shot during production. This involved all the facial and hand appliances for the film’s signature snatcher skin, necessitating a complete removal and subsequent replacement, with newly designed CG elements.

Fortunately, I wasn’t involved in the removal and clean-up of the practically shot appliances. However, I did have to track and comp a number of CG replacement snatcher elements onto Nicole Kidman’s perfectly smooth cheeks and hands – all without the aid of any tracking markers.

The CG elements that were ultimately provided did manage to get the matchmove in the general ballpark, which for wide-shots, wasn’t too problematic. But for the mid and close-ups, that was another story. Due to the scene’s dramatic requirements, Nicole was moving her head frantically, having just awoken from unconsciousness, panicked at the unknown state of her son.

Had this shot been done today, the matchmove probably would’ve been spot-on, thanks to a number of tracking software innovations. But when this film was made, it came down to brute force, as well as long hours, to get the tracks to stick, utilizing hand-animated countermoves and extensive bicubic warping.