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My professional life has taken an exotic turn that has removed me from the friendly glow of a screen to the heat of the Brazilian sun in Rio de Janeiro. Due to a particular sporting event taking place in Brazil this summer I was given the opportunity to go on a series of live action shoots in the capacity of animation technical director to capture lighting information and make sure the team back at Aardman where getting the stuff they needed to do their job.
Fortunately I was given a trial run (in the sense that it wasn't a trial it was the real thing, it just wasn't Brazil) to accompany Nick and Danny to Manchester. Here I starred as an extra in a shot with Rio Ferdinand and Gabby Logan, shot some HDRs and flagged reflection passes. It went well enough that I felt confident I could handle whatever Brazil was going to be like.
Basically my role on the shoot is to, once a shot is completed by the crew and the director is happy, go in before the lighting gets changed and capture it with a camera and tripod. The idea being I can then recreate it with a spherical panorama, an image that completely surrounds you, using multiple exposures from the camera capturing the light at all levels gives the images high dynamic range or "HDR". Once returning from the shoot I stitch together the photographs from each angle of the panorama to create the continuous spherical panorama. It looks something like this when laid out flat:
Now imagine that image is like a map of the world, and if you were to wrap it around a globe, and step inside the globe, you'd get something like this:
(click top right of the image to go fullscreen and look around)
So that is what we use to light the CG elements in the scene, its important for lighting, and its important for reflections on those CG elements, and that's why I was being sent to Brazil.
I'm lucky enough to not have had to wake up this early a long time, still dark outside.
I arrive at the airport and meet cameraman Chris, we're the last two crew to fly out. I press him for his life story while we kill the time 'til our 12:20 flight. 11 hours on the aeroplane of consuming both good and bad films follow, interspersed with consuming mostly bad food, and snoozing. Staying still for that long causes your body to feel like its shutting down, bad circulation makes my arms fizz and I slip in and out of sleep. I can still feel the faint ache in my shoulders of the two jabs I had yesterday, one on each side.
Leaving the airport that blast of hot humid air greets us and we suffer instant air con withdrawal, definitely feels abroad now. A taxi is here to greet us too, it takes us through the dark, dense areas of housing and half built motorways line our route. The terrain lends a roller coaster like undulation to our journey, Rio de Janeiro is rarely flat once you get out of the centre of the city it seems. The raised road is just level with the treetops and roofs and is an excellent introduction to the landscape. A sulphurous city smell fills the taxi, unnaturally chilled by the air conditioning. We drop the bags in our rooms (I have two beds for some reason) and eat sushi and sake at the hotel with the rest of the crew who have just returned from a reconnaissance day.