ILM's Hidden Arsenal for Iron Man
The subtle but powerful role GenArts Sapphire Sparks played in the film's Oscar-nominated effects
Casey pointed to the flying sequences as some of the most heavily dazzled by his suite of Sapphire Sparks. “In those sequences, what we got from Sapphire were the little details that make it look photo-realistic: the glints, the glares, the glows. One, in particular, that we used extensively was Heat Ripple and Distortion. When you see Tony Stark flying in his suit, the heat is coming out of his Repulsors on his hands and feet. We needed to distort the background in a way that implies it was extremely hot.”
ILM uses Sapphire plug-ins for both Saber, its customized version of Inferno that the facility originally developed with Discreet, and Apple Shake.
The large full-sized Arc Reactor in the lobby of Stark Industries that explodes in the final battle sequence, sending its atom-bursting beam into the sky, was also covered in Sapphire touches. “We had to create all of the elements of this plasma-filled glass Arc reactor,” said Casey, “which was in reality just a big, blue painted set piece. We used 3D models, geometry and a whole host of Sapphire-enhanced treatments inside there.”
Added Greg Grusby, “Our artists get very creative with the plug-ins in general, and they tend to use them for not necessarily the purpose they were originally designed. Those kind of clever mash-ups happen all the time around here. When you’re an artist, you run into those kind of happy accidents that may not work for what you’re trying to do at first, but are perfect in another situation entirely.”
Kind of like Tony Stark himself.
For more details about ILM’s comprehensive VFX work on Iron Man, read about it here.