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Passion for Hugo


Passion Pictures delivered a key piece of stop motion for Martin Scorsese’s new feature film HUGO. The Dragonframe team was contacted early on in the production to supply an anamorphic conversion preview within our software. They also used our IOTA 3D Slider because the movie was shot in 3D.

The film is based on Brian Selznick’s historical fiction novel ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret.’ It is inspired by the true story of turn-of-the-century pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. The movie celebrates mechanical ingenuity and touchingly portrays the passion and adventure of early filmmaking.

In a pivotal scene, cranky toy store owner (Ben Kingsley) challenges Hugo (Asa Butterfield) to fix a broken toy mouse. The boy deftly completes the task and the toy mouse runs around on the table and magically appears to look up at Hugo.

We spoke with Neil Riley from Passion Pictures about the production:

    We (Passion Pictures) were brought in by Rob Legato to provide the mechanical mouse as a stop frame element. The idea was to jump straight onto the main unit set and shoot the mouse stop frame before the set was deconstructed, therefore the lighting would be completely consistent with the main plates. We also planned to produce off line composited shots on set for editing.

    Once the live plates were shot, we set up our cameras, a Canon 7D with PL mount on a Dragonframe IOTA Slider, and a Nikon D300 as a stop frame witness camera (this was set up with a longer lens to give Darren (animator) a better view of the mouse. Both cameras were driven with Dragonframe software. Then we settled down for an evening of animation.

     The original plates were shot on a converged stereo rig from Pace, with Arri Alexa cameras. So although we could use the same lens we had to line up our stop frame parallel system with converged plates, which was a challenge. We composited the stop frame in AFX to check alignment and convergence and displayed the result, on 40″ JVC stereo monitors for approval by Rob before animating.

    The shots were captured with 3 stop bracketing for each eye, with the Dragonframe IOTA slider automatically moving between the two eye positions. This was all automated within Dragonframe.

    A couple of weeks later there was a request for additional animation, but the set had long gone, so we reconstructed the desk and mat in a small corner of one of the Hugo sets, matched up the camera angle and lighting and shot some alternative actions.

Passion Crew:

Animation Director/Stop frame Animator: Darren Walsh

VFX Supervisor/Cameraman/Camera Assist/Compositor: Neil Riley

Producer: Russell Mclean

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