How Tron Legacy was Made
The SIGGRAPH conference is always a time where big movie houses put on a “behind-the-scenes” looks at recent and upcoming big-budget films, and 2010 was no exception. I got a look as the people behind the movie talk about the challenges they faced while producing the sequel to the 1982 classic CG milestone, Disney’s TRON.
After showing a new TRON: LEGACY trailer to the audience in full Real3D, four of the top people behind the movie held a discussion about the behind-the-scenes stuff. The team consisted of director Joseph Kosinski, producer Jeff Silver, visual effects supervisor Eric Barba, and animation supervisor Steve Preeg. Concept art and early footage were also showed.
The way they are designing and shooting the movie took me by surprise. In an age where “live-action” movies can be made 99% on the computer, the makers of TRON: LEGACY have decided to attempt to film as much as possible using real-life cameras, sets, and props. For example, the glowing suits the characters wear could easily had been added in post production. Instead, the actors each wore a suit that actually glowed, and each had a hidden power pack.
Because of the use of real sets and glowing suits, they had to film in low-light settings. In each shot, the suits were to be the brightest source of light, causing much of the backgrounds to be a bit muted in turn. In order to capture footage in such low light while still maintaining good quality, they used Sony’s latest f35 cameras, used in sets to capture 3D stereoscopy, with each fitted with prime lenses. The result was a beautiful depth-of-field that blurred backgrounds well.
Camera work was done using both real-world and virtual cameras. The physical cameras mentioned above were a challenge to use. In order to take in as much light as possible, the prime lenses were enormous, making the dual-camera setups difficult to move. The virtual cameras were also tricky, but they had an ace up their sleeve: they used the game Gears of War in order to practice shooting in a virtual world.
Besides all the technical aspects, the story of TRON: LEGACY was just as important to develop properly. They focused on using the art direction along with the visual technology—as one of the challenges of being cutting edge is to have a world that is photo-realistic enough to be believable. The characters that inhabit this world also have to be fleshed-out, compelling characters—something that is vital for a movie like TRON. Similar to James Cameron’s AVATAR, the audience learns about the strange and dangerous world of the computer along with the main character—or, at least since it’s a sequel, what has changed since 1982.
Overall, it appears that those in charge of TRON: LEGACY are respecting the original milestone CG movie for what it was, and are committed to giving it an updated look. Fans should be happy that Lightcycles are still a major part of the movie, and the computer world looks better than ever with modern advancements in computer graphics visuals. Having seen the original TRON before, I am excited to see what the final product will look like this December when TRON: LEGACY hits the silver screen.