A VISUAL LEGACY
Considering that Tron: Legacy had a $170 million budget, a hip cast, and the pressure of re-igniting a franchise, it was perhaps surprising that Disney went with first-time director Joseph Kosinski. But having helmed the teaser, Kosinski clearly knew what was involved in updating the look of Tron.
From the start, the sequel was intended to be a 3D project. This was partly because Kosinski wanted the film to be technologically ambitious, just as the original was. “Filming” would commence using Sony F35 CineAlta digital cameras equipped with Master Prime lenses so that the lighted costumes would really pop. Several monitors were on set to allow Kosinski to see how each shot would work in 3D.
In a phone interview, visual effects supervisor Eric Barba (who won an Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) shared with me some behind-the-FX info. It was the filmmakers’ goal, based on Kosinski’s vision, to revamp but stay true to the first movie’s designs by Syd Mead and Jean “Moebius” Giraud. Take the Light Cycles. As originally conceived for that film, they were open — but the computers of the late 1970s and early ’80s couldn’t handle the polygons. That’s how we got the closed bikes of Tron. For Legacy, Daniel Simon devised open Light Cycles that were intended to be closer to Mead’s initial vision. (You’ll see what I’m talking about in this gallery of concept images.)
In Legacy, the character conflict of Old Jeff Bridges vs. Young Jeff Bridges is the first time that an actor has played against an “earlier version” of himself. Bridges wore four cameras on a helmet to help motion-capture his Young performance. The data culled from this was compared with a database of his facial expressions, so that the youthful nuances would appear as natural and accurate as possible.
Barba said his favorite part of the film is the Disc War, because it was one of the most challenging sequences to create. Not only the “glass” helmets but all of the reflections had to be rendered. Add in the complexity and depth of 3D, and the whole scene could have become an FX nightmare. But thanks to Barba and his team, nothing got in the way of the breathtaking action.
I got to meet with director Kosinski for an interview in his Santa Monica offce. We went right into the topic of 3D, which he felt was best used to create a portal into another universe. It may be okay for horror movies to have something jump out at you, but when you’re showing the audience a new world, it makes more sense to simply provide a vivid window.
How does this translate to an S+V viewing experience? “What you can get at home, off a nice plasma TV, is insane,” Kosinski said. “The frustrating thing about going out to the movies now is that very few theaters can actually exceed what you can get from a decent home system. Tron: Legacy just explodes off the screen at home. That’s what’s exciting to me about the Blu-ray experience. It really looks like how I wanted the movie to look.”
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