The Shadow—the smoke and ash monster featured in the finale of the new adventure film Inkheart—has Robert Bridson to thank for its frighteningly realistic 'good' looks.
Algorithms created by the assistant professor with Computer Science's Imager and Scientific Computing labs played a key part in bringing the monster to life, and Bridson served as a simulation consultant for the film's visual effects team, London-based Double Negative.
"One of the biggest challenges in creating realistic visual effects and animation is that people have an inherent sense of what looks right and what doesn't," says Bridson. "We're so used to seeing the 'correct version' that reality provides every day."
Creating photorealistic animations of fire and smoke with traditional frame by frame approaches is difficult and time consuming—Bridson's algorithms simulate the underlying physics of the phenomena that animation artists are trying to reproduce.
By incorporating the laws of physics into computer modules, Bridson's research has helped everything from the mundane (Harry Potter’s cape flowing in the wind) to the fantastic (explosions and smoke in Hellboy II) follow the rules of nature and look normal.
Most recently, his smoke and fire simulation was used to generate effects during a plane chase sequence in Quantum of Solace, the latest instalment of the James Bond franchise. The use of physics-based effects not only made the smoke and fire billowing from the plane look realistic, but saved time and money compared to staging an actual stunt.
Bridson's work also focuses on enabling complex simulations without requiring excessive amounts of CPU time—which has potential applications outside of filmmaking.
For more details, visit: www.cs.ubc.ca/~rbridson