Double Negative Breaks Down Batman Begins Pt 2

In the conclusion of our two part series on Double Negative’s work on Batman Begins, Mike Seymour continues his conversation with Paul Franklin. Franklin breaks down the shots, the new tools they developed and their OpenEXR pipeline that required over a million digital stills to photographed. We aim for the story and podcast to each provide something different, so if you haven’t listened to one of our fxpodcasts yet, now is the time…

In Part 2 of our conversation about the work Double Negative completed on Batman Begins, Paul Franklin covers the HDR-OpenEXR pipeline as well as their use of BRDF, cloth, and custom shaders. Double Negative worked on some 300 shots for the blockbuster Batman Begins, including the shots shown below.

Note: You can view 1200 pixel resolution images of the scenes on this page by clicking on the zoom icon in the lower right hand corner of the images below. As an exclusive fxguide bonus, we have also created a downloadable zip file which contains up to 7000x 3000 (7K) high resolution imagery. You can download the archive here.

Gotham Cityscape

Young Bruce’s first view of Wayne Tower as he travels into Gotham City with his parents. The cityscape is created from a combination of aerial footage, CGI and digital matte painting. Wayne Tower is entirely created in CGI.

Gotham Monorail
Gotham Monorail Closeup

The monorail train nears the end of its journey. Double Negative combined an aerial plate of downtown Chicago with CG monorail trains and tracks. The city skyline was built up and extended and Wayne Tower was inserted at the end of the street. As the street was empty when photographed all traffic had to be added in CG along with their reflections in the glass buildings.

batman/mc0583_0201Batman swings through the steam jets as he desperately tries to ascend to the monorail train. This shot is 100% digital. Double Negative developed DNB, a new rendering package to create steam plumes that matched perfectly with the practical effects on set.

batman/nf0010_0061Batman plunges into the fog-filled abyss. Much of the flying sequence was achieved practically on set, but the key takeoff and landing moments used Double Negative’s photoreal digital stunt double. The use of the CGI cape and figure allowed the character to go smoothly from freefall into controlled flight. Specialist BRDF shaders recreated the subtle play of light on the Batman costume.

batman/nf0210_0067Batman drops down out of the swirling fog to confront Ras. During the flying sequence the digital stunt double was used primarily for moments when the Batcape transformed from loose flowing cloth to the hang-glider-like flying rig. Cloth simulation was performed with a combination of Syflex and homegrown tools.

Gotham in the daytime
Approaching Wayne Station

Wayne Tower dominates the Gotham skyline on the final approach to Wayne Station. This scene was fully created in 3D CGI. Specialist environmental tools were developed to give architecturally correct lighting.

Sunrise over Gotham

As Bruce Wayne returns by plane from his sojourn in the far east he is greeted with the fabulous sight of sunrise over Gotham. This scene is fully digital and features over half a million detailed 3D buildings drawn from actual Chicago structures. The lighting design was inspired by a series of photographs taken by Paul Franklin from the edge of the roof of the Sears Tower as the sun rose over Chicago.

The Narrows island at night

The Narrrows is a festering slum at the heart of Gotham City. A miniature 60 feet across was used for the establishing views of the island, Double Negative VFX artists designed motion control camera moves and then added the CG city and river environment. Numerous enhancements were added to the miniature including smoke plumes, tiny light sources and shadow patterns. Finally a veil of digital rain and mist was layered over the whole scene.

Chicago River becomes Gotham

In an attempt to seal off the Narrows the Gotham PD raise the bridges. The production closed off downtown Chicago on a Saturday evening and flew a helicopter camera ship down the Chicago river as the bridges opened. Double Negative matchmoved the shot and then exported it to the motion control cameras for miniature photography of the Narrows island which was superimposed over the Chicago cityscape. The river was widened and extended with a CG cityscape added in the background. For safety reasons the streets were kept empty during the helicopter pass so all of the cars and pedestrians in the Police Cordon had to be created in 3D.

batman/pb0025_0132A stolen monorail train approaches the Narrows from the city. The foreground buildings were based on an actual location in Chicago. All buildings featured detailed rooms generated with Windowbox, a special shading tool that created 3D shapes entirely from wide angle textures of actual interiors.

View of Gotham from inside the monorail

Batman’s point of view as the train speeds through Gotham. Whilst the train, towers and tracks were conceived by the Batman Begins Art Department the buildings in Gotham were always based on actual structures in Chicago. Every building in this image has its counterpart in reality. Double Negative VFX artists took every opportunity to open up the city to give flashing glimpses of side streets populated with traffic and glowing signs.

Batman live action comp

Batman exits the doomed train leaving Ras Al Ghul to his fate. The train interior scenes were filmed on a greenscreen set at Shepperton. Double Negative created the exterior city and receding carriage digitally and added a digital Batman that blends seamlessly with the live action stunt that starts inside the carriage.

Wayne Tower

Wayne Tower at the centre of the Gotham Monorail system. Much of the street action in Batman Begins was filmed on a truly enormous set in a disused zeppelin hangar north of London. Double Negative created added digital extensions to the on set structures to create the view of the buildings towering above with Wayne Tower ruling over all.

batman/mf0293_0173The monorail train carries the Microwave Emitter to Wayne Tower leaving a boiling trail of drug-laden steam in its wake. Double Negative’s programmers developed a suite of new photogrammetry and texture projection tools to create the detailed photoreal cityscapes. New lighting shaders and compositing techniques were used to integrate the steam with the CG architecture.