Double Negative Breaks Down Batman Begins

Double Negative was lucky enough to have a good amount of time for pre-production on Batman Begins, as this allowed the team to develop some new innovative, inventive and robust workflow and pipeline tools. Paul Franklin from Double Negative breaks down the shots, the new tools they developed and their OpenEXR pipeline that required over a million digital stills to photographed.

This week’s podcast is split into 2 pieces. Part 1 Paul Franklin talks about pre-production, art direction and the minitures shoot (and some of the custom shake and shader work to combine the minitures). In part 2 we go much further indepth into a discussion of the visual effects pipeline, covering the HDR-OpenEXR pipeline, BRDF shaders, cloth and custom shaders all in unusual detail. Paul explains exactly how shots work from HDR on set capture to Shake final comp.

Double Negative worked on some 300 shots for the blockbuster Batman Begins, including : Monastery sequence CGI Gotham Gotham set extensions and enhancements including the Narrows CGI Monorail Final crash sequence Digital stunt double work Batmobile car chase rooftops sequence

Not only do we breakdown some of these shots, but Double Negative has provided some Vistavision 7000x 3000 res plates and comps that you can download to examine the fine detail work done by the team at Double Negative.

Low res of an OpenEXR Panorama

Research and HDR imagery

These two images are part of a single STIG panorama shot from the roof of City Hall in Chicago using a Canon EOS D60 digital SLR with a 50mm lens. Each tile in the image is made up from six 3K Canon RAW exposures at 2 stop intervals across a total 10 Stop Range. The images were then undistorted, stabilised and compounded into a single 32 bit float openEXR file using Double Negatives proprietary Superbrowser tool before being imported into STIG (another in-house tool at Double Negative) where they were combined into the panorama seen here.

Over one million digital stills were taken

The resultant panorama was then processed through Double Negatives proprietary dnPhotofit toolset which extracted the architectural details to create a detailed 3D model of the cityscape. The image and model were combined with the Imeryvision pipeline to create a 3D scene complete with reflections and 3D room interiors for all the buildings.

Hi-res thumbnail of a panoramic image

This was photographed from the top of 321 North Clark Street in Chicago using a Canon EOS 10D digital SLR with a 50mm lens. Each tile in the image is made up from six 3K Canon RAW exposures at 2 stop intervals across a total 10 stop range. The images were then compounded into a single 32 bit float openEXR file For Batman Begins Double Negative produced over 200 panoramas of this level of detail. These panoramas were used in a wide variety of applications from digital matte painting to detailed surface textures created with Double Negatives in-house Pertex toolset.


Bruce Waynes first view of the remote Himalayan Monastery. Double Negative extracted the terrain from the craggy landscape and tracked in a 1/48 scale Monastery miniature that was designed to blend with the location. Snow and fog was created in CG and added in the composite to enhance the icy scene.

The background plate

Raw scan of mountainside and glacier location in Iceland. Tracking markers were placed by the crew with a partial full scale set build of the Monastery at the base of the slope. Art department has dressed the location with a small amount of snow to increase the sense of cold.

One of a number of miniatures of the monastery

Green screen pass of 1/24 scale miniature monastery. Miniature components and landscape model were laid out as per the digital design. Landscape detail was enhanced from the basic 3D mesh by the model builders.

Monastry Isolated

Miniature beauty lit and isolated from BG.

Very little previz was used except to solve shot issues

Simple digital maquette of the monastery components dressed onto the terrain mesh. The terrain mesh was re-sculpted for added drama whilst preserving continuity with the actual surrounding landscape.

Shot was tracked

track points from landscape generated by 3D matchmove process. These points were then read into a custom plugin to generate a 3D surface mesh giving the basic topology of the mountainside

First pass of the comp

First basic integration of miniature into the Iceland plate. The two elements have been stabilised against each other with the Plane-it process. Digital matte painting work has been employed to integrate the real and miniature landscapes, enhancing the snow details and then reprojected into 3D space.

Digital Snow was added

Digital snow passes were created with a combination of Maya dynamics, fluid systems and custom rendering using Double Negatives proprietary DNA particle renderer.

The final shot

All of the layers put together.



The Batmobile starts its run towards the smoking hole at the edge of the parking garage roof with the Gotham PD in hot pursuit. The production unit spent several nights filming on the roof of a multi story car park in downtown Chicago for this scene. In the raw plate the stunt wall and watching film crew are clearly visible.


Rather than just simply erase the unwanted items Double Negative went a stage further and completely rebuilt the end of the Garage in 3D so that it would make for a better cut with the surrounding footage. Double Negative’s CGI architecture toolset was used to create the city in the area revealed by the shortened building.


The Batmobile leaps from the parking garage rooftop as Batman strives to evade the pursuing Gotham PD. Double Negative combined an over cranked plate of a 1/3 scale Batmobile miniature with a CG background that matches the actual view from this location in Chicago.


Numerous enhancements were added to the miniature including a full replacement of the lower floors of the garage and scientifically accurate lens effects such as flare and chromatic aberration. Double Negative created a detailed CG match for the helicopter that featured on location, adding it to the rooftop chase for heightened drama and action.


The Batmobile slides towards the camera with the police helicopter close behind. Double Negative added pyrotechnic elements and drifting air conditioner vapour plumes to the 1/3 scale miniature.


All elements were integrated through the use of Plane-it, an in-house tool that allows compositors to work in a 3D environment inside Shake. The background was created with Double Negative’s proprietary STIG panoramic environment tool from detailed digital photographs taken on location in Chicago.


The Batmobile screams through a 90 degree handbrake turn, sliding its back wheels out over the edge as Gotham PD cruisers pass by on the road below. Double Negative removed the special effects rig that held the Batmobile on its course and added rooftop items including air conditioners, vents and TV aerials.


Street level was created entirely with CGI with textures derived from location photographs. CG street furniture and CG cop cars with spinning lights were added and the building was given a virtual facade when the camera craned over far enough to reveal the rostrum inside.


Double Negative added particle VFX debris enhancements and shattering CG tiles to the 1/3 scale miniature as the Batmobile smashes down on the rooftop.


A fully 3D CG Gotham City environment was added to the shot complete with moving reflections as the camera pushes forwards. In the distance a CG multi-deck freeway can be seen with cars speeding to and fro.

CG background

As the Batmobile hurtles across the rooftop Batman sees the oncoming freeway traffic. Double Negative added headlight effects to the 1/3 scale miniature.


A fully 3D CGI environment was added with animating traffic streaming along the road deck. Double Negative’s custom lens flare pipeline created accurate anamorphic haloes and jags from the CG car lights.


The Batmobile leaps from the pitched roof, heading for the freeway. Double Negative’s compositors added a number of lighting and shadow enhancements to the 1/3 scale miniature building and integrated debris enhancements to increase the perceived scale of the Batmobile.


A fully CG freeway flyover was added with details being based scrupulously on an original Chicago freeway section. Distant buildings were created in 3D from detailed digital location surveys and photographs.

Narrows Island

The original plate

Raw ungraded plate of the Narrows miniature. Shot layout was previsualised by sequence supervisor Peter Bebb and then the camera move was exported to a Mark Roberts Milo motion control system. The 1/12 scale miniature was 40×80 feet and detailed with wires, pipes and numerous practical lights. Multiple passes of beauty lighting and practical lights were shot as well as atmosphere passes which were averaged to reduce jitter created by the long exposure times and low frame rate.

Lights added

Work in progress showing multiple miniature passes combined to add practical lights

Windows added

Work in progress showing build up of miniature layers. Additional detail has been added to the windows through the use of Double Negatives proprietary Plane-it tool which allows items to be composited in 3D space.

The background cityscape is created entirely in CG

All buildings are accurate recreations of Chicago originals, built using custom photogrammetry tools developed by the Double Negative R&D team. Each building is dressed with illuminated windows created with the proprietary Windowbox pipeline and all feature detailed 3D interiors. The buildings were built to this level of detail so that they could be used in a variety of scenarios ranging from wide shots such as this to extreme close-ups

Windows added

The foreground architecture is created in the same way as the background cityscape. All windows have detailed distortion and reflection passes with fully detailed 3D interiors derived from actual office spaces in London and Chicago. Surface textures for the buildings were generated using the STIG panoramic photography process and projected onto the architecture using Pertex

The train is added

With the exception of the final crash scenes, the train was created entirely in 3D by Double Negative VFX artists. The surface shaders featured specialist anisotropy routines and detailed displacement maps and surface textures. The train had a fully detailed 3D interior complete with peeling advertising posters, graffiti and flickering lights. The model was built with a fully articulated suspension system and procedurally animated carriages that automatically leant into corners at speed. In most cases the train exterior was rendered as a single beauty pass, the interior and lighting fixtures were rendered separately. Additional passes included a Z depth buffer and ID passes for the trains components

Final Comp

The final composite was combined using specially written lens tools that captured the detailed distortion patterns of the main units lenses. The flare patterns of the vintage 1950s C series lenses chosen by the production were analysed and recreated with a custom plugin that produced the appropriate haloes and chromatic fringes

Other Key shots

Plate Photography

The Wayne Enterprises private jet waits on the Himalayan airstrip.

Matte painting added

Double Negatives digital matte painters turned a wet an windy morning on an English runway into an exotic mountainous location.

A digital batsuit was required

Hear details about the R&D to make a digital stunt double on this week’s podcast.

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