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A Before And After Look At Cloud Atlas's Visual Effects
VFX Supervisor Dan Glass on bringing the unfilmable novel to the screen

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Cinema’s first ever sci-fi-romance-thriller-historical-drama-with-a-bit-of-Ealing-comedy-in-it, it’s fair to say that Cloud Atlas is among the more daring movies of the year. Combining the Wachowskis’ vision and ambition with Tom Tykwer’s command of tone, texture and music, it is, as Empire’s four-star review puts it, “as magical, enthralling and thrilling as it is bewildering, pompous and potty”. Its interwoven structure of interlocking story threads skips vibrantly from the 19th century Pacific to future Neo-Seoul and beyond. These CG-enhanced worlds were created under the eye of VFX Supervisor Dan Glass, veteran of Tree Of Life, The Matrix and Batman Begins. With Cloud Atlas’s release on DVD and Blu-ray, the Method Studios man took us behind the curtain to explain how it was created.

WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN
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1. Planning

A novel that, by even its writer’s admission, was “unfilmable”, Cloud Atlas is David Mitchell’s 554 page Booker-shortlisted tale of interconnected lives spanning time and geography. Before the adaptation was formally announced, Glass was one of the Wachowskis’ regular collaborators to be handed a copy.

Long in the planning, the movie began with a get-together in Berlin a year and a half before financing was locked in. Under the generalship of Lana and Andrew Wachowski and co-director Tom Tykwer, Team Cloud Atlas reunited long-term collaborators like Glass, VFXer on all Wachowski films since Matrix Reloaded, fellow visual effects supervisor Stephane Ceretti and storyboard artist Steve Skroce.

“I read the book before I realised that Lana and Andy Wachowski were adapting it. Sometimes they’ll just say, ‘Hey, you should probably read this’, and then you learn later, ‘Ah! It’s a script!’. There was a reading list for The Matrix movies with books that didn’t correspond directly to the films but that had the same philosophical undertones, like Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra And Simulation. On Cloud Atlas, there was also [Paolo Bacigalupi’s biopunk science-fiction novel] The Windup Girl. We were well into making the film when I read that, but it described this rich world and had some beautiful ideas.

“We met for two weeks to just discuss ideas for how we could pull it off. It was pretty much decided as soon as we arrived that they wanted to do the film with two directorial teams handling three stories each, but that editorial and visual effects wouldn’t be split because our role would be to bring the movie together."

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Your Comments

1 Fear
The film was criminally under-supported by the multiplexes who were terrified of such an unclassifiable film. it was given a very short release on the minimum number of screens and tended to be on their smaller ones too. It deserves to fly on disc, hopefully word of mouth will have time to take it to true cult status. A double bill with Code 46 at the PCC perhaps? More

Posted by kevtiggersmith on Saturday July 6, 2013, 11:14

2 Amazing
I adored this movie, such an ambitious project to under-take. Each story in the movie had me hooked and I couldn't take my eyes off it. I'm a little sad that this movie flopped so badly but if ever the words 'cult classic' were used to describe a movie, surely this will be the ultimate example in a few years to come. p.s. the above piece is very good More

Posted by Hugh_Fran on Friday July 5, 2013, 18:57

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