When it was first released twenty-six years ago, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ instantly became one of Disney’s most beloved movies – a film that generations of children have grown up with - and the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Now Disney has re-imagined the ‘tale as old as time’ for a new generation of fans, and the 2017 live-action re-telling, with director Bill Condon at the helm, is simply stunning.
Starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, supported by a stellar cast including Ewan MacGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad and many others, the new film is an all-out musical extravaganza with lots of humour, sumptuous sets and a stunning stereo conversion for the theatrical 3D version courtesy of Prime Focus World.
Prime Focus stereo supervisors James Rees, Ben Murray, Marc Brzezicki, Jimmy Philip and Barry O’Brien supported senior stereo supervisor Richard Baker to deliver the full stereo conversion of the movie for Disney.
“Working on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was a fantastic experience,” said stereo supervisor James Rees. “Director Bill Condon’s shooting style and lens choices worked so well for the conversion, and he provided some great direction in terms of what he wanted to achieve in the 3D version of the movie.”
One of the ideas that the director brought to the Prime Focus team was to keep the depth quite shallow in the initial scenes of Belle in the village, and then really open up the depth when the action moves to the magical environment of the castle.
“There is a great moment where we open up the depth and hit the audience with the full effect of the 3D,” continued James. “During the scene with Maurice riding through the forest we unnaturally compressed the depth, so that when the lightning strikes and the wolves attack we could expand it really quickly and throw the audience into the action, with wolves jumping out of the screen.”
The team spent a great deal of time on creating high detail in all of the environments. Inside the castle, the architecture was extremely important, from the angles on ceiling buttresses to the embellishments on the fireplace mantles. In the forest scenes there is fine sculpting in the many bare branches, snowbanks and roots, and the rest of the 3D space is filled with falling snow. This immersion makes the Maurice wolf chase one of the stand out scenes in the movie.
Another particularly effective scene was the ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number – one of the most iconic songs in the film - as James explained: “There is so much going on in the ‘Be Our Guest’ scene. The castle characters are all involved, singing to Belle in the dining room of the castle, and there are elements flying around the room, really filling the 3D space. It is crazy and fast-cut, and it could have been a difficult scene for 3D, but it works really well – which is mainly down to the way in which the director shot it.”
There were a number of CG animated characters in the movie, including one of the two leads – the Beast himself. Elements and z-depths from the VFX vendors allowed the Prime Focus team to create some very fine and consistent detail in the CG characters like Cogsworth and Lumiere, and cyber scans of the lead human characters’ heads allowed Prime Focus to use its ‘Head Geo’ technique to perfectly represent the lead actors in stereo. The team also extensively used environment geo to maintain consistency in the castle architecture.
Talking about some of the other challenges the conversion team faced, James continued: “There was a fair amount of snow throughout the movie. We received some elements from VFX for the CG snow, but much of the volume of snow was practical snow effects on-set. This was challenging for the conversion – especially in the wolf attack and snow chase sequences. Our first task was to strip out all the snow from the shots, then restore the snow in depth, running sims to generate our own CG snow to augment what we had extracted from the original image. This technique allowed us to improve the snow’s continuity across scenes and the final results are really effective, with snow seeming to fall all around the characters in 3D.”
‘Beauty and the Beast’ opened to rave reviews and record breaking box office receipts on March 17, 2017, becoming the seventh largest domestic opener of all time and going straight to number #1 in all but three of the film markets in which it opened.
RELEASE: March 17, 2017 (US & UK)
Director: Bill Condon
Studios / Distributors: Walt Disney Pictures
Senior Stereo Supervisor: Richard W. Baker
Producer: Paul Patrick Quinn
Stereo Supervision: James Rees, Ben Murray, Jimmy Philip, Marc Brzezicki, Barry O'Brien
Stereo Production: Bakshad Amrolia, Annsh Patel, Reshma Jhangimal, Gufran Khan, Nishita Shetty, Abhishek Pathak, Savio Cruz, Gauree Patil, Rameez Mukaddam, Akash Mangavkar, Ravi Kumar Singh, Nicole Karlson, Nitin Bahl, Dan Hogg, Wilfred Sequeira, Carolina Karlson, Kevin Maliakal, Parminder Goyel, Bhavani Shankar, Ashish Kukian
Department Supervisors: Kat Kelly, Varion Pereria, Puneet Samra, Peter Pelisek, Dixa Desai, Shreeraj Gopi, Vinay Das, Jason Bowers, Athmi Rai, Deepali Katekar, Salil Devji, Sherin Varghese, Rakhee Gosh, Abhishek Warang, Mahesh Patil, Sandeep Gamre, Dhiraj Sukheja, Vishal Patel, Rio Harrington, Gaurav Gupta
Stereo Pipeline: Isaac Guenard, Robin Emerson, Eoin Greenham, Piyush Jain, Luke Gray
Stereo Editorial: Richard Pring, Lewis 'Sonny' Menga, James Noorani