Computer Graphics World

April-May-June 2021

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28 cgw a p r i l • m ay • j u n e 2 0 2 1 T he period film Mank shines a light on Herman J. Mankiewicz as he struggles to write the screenplay to Citizen Kane. Mankiewicz, a veteran industry screenwriter with many credits, including The Wizard of Oz, is a self-destructive genius with a tarnished reputation due to excessive drinking and gambling, and a careless attitude pertaining to his job. Even so, he is a decent person amid a sea of those with far lesser morals. In essence, Mank has been described as the filming of the filming of Citizen Kane. It cuts from present-day 1940 to earlier times, as a laid-up Mank pens what would become that famous script. He gets his inspiration while reminiscing about his friendship with actress Marion Davies, who introduced Mank to her powerful boyfriend, media bar- on William Randolph Hearst, and his cronies — oen visiting Davies at Hearst Castle near San Simeon. Hearst became the inspiration for the unflattering title character in the script for Citizen Kane. Mank, from Netflix International Pictures, has the look and feel of a film created in the 1930s and early 1940s, the time of Mank's flashbacks and Citizen Kane's screenwriting and production, respectively, in terms of its filmmaking methods and style. Director David Fincher, who is also the uncredited overall VFX supervisor, wanted to pay tribute to that groundbreaking film without copying it. He wanted to re-create the Golden Age of Hollywood, albeit using 2020 techniques. One particular aspect the filmmakers used from Citizen Kane: depth of field and deep focus, whereby everything in the frame (background and foreground) is in focus – a new technique at the time the classic movie was filmed. The live-action autobiographical drama, written by Fincher's late father, Jack, has its share of visual effects that help seat the film in the period. In fact, digital technology was used in two ways, according to Peter Mavromates, co-producer and overall VFX producer on Mank. One involved sort of a crossover between DI and VFX for the black-and-white look and lensing of the film, particularly black bloom- ing and lens flaring. "We also played with grain structure, to be consistent, so when you see opticals, the grain structure gets heavier," says Mavro- mates. "Aer photography, there were many instances where David [Fincher] very keenly put things like shas of light or something that sort of echoed a bit of stylistic choices that were oen made in the 1930s. Those shas of light were actually added in post, as opposed to photography. It's a way for David to paint with visual effects." The other big usage involved period set extensions and environments, such as the re-creation of Wilshire Boulevard with LEDs, the creation of a cloud sequence using Ep- ic's Unreal Engine, and the CG construction of the private zoo on the grounds of Hearst Castle, complete with a number of animals (see "Walk in the Park," page 30). Nevertheless, when possible, actual locations were used throughout filming. However, that was not always possible. And that is where CG came in. Artemple craed the majority of the key matte paintings, with an assist from Savage FX and Ollin VFX. The studios generated backgrounds and set pieces, as well, which were either too expensive or too difficult to build practically, such as Artemple's re-cre- ation of the Glendale train station. Savage built a textured sky for a lengthy scene when Hearst is shooting his home movie with Mar- ion. Territory, meanwhile, was responsible for re-creating a long stretch of Wilshire Boule- vard during a car ride. And Ollin created all the flames seen in the period fireplaces – nearly 100 such shots over three scenes. In addition, compositor Christopher Doulgeris provided the trippy montage sequence at the election eve party and the distortions when Mank is in a drunken haze. Furthermore, Outback Post was responsible Not Simply Black-and-White THE INVISIBLE VISUAL EFFECTS IN THE 1930S FILM MANK BY KAREN MOLTENBREY

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