This month’s blockbusting hit Tron: Legacy is something of a cult phenomenon – a phenomenon that glows in the dark. Special effects supervisor Eric Barba was kind enough to talk us through the mind-bending, CGI world of Tron, spilling the secrets behind the magic of our favorite scenes.
“It all starts with some of the knowledge we garnered from working with Brad Pitt on the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, although that was kind of the reverse approach in that we made Brad Pitt into an 85-year-old man. Here we had to take Jeff Bridges and make him 35.
We created a life cast of Jeff back in July 2008. They put a big plaster mold over him and from that mold they created a clay sculpture, then began to take the years off of that clay sculpture. In this case, we decided to go with an even younger age than we estimated, and then the computer made him younger still, until he was the version of Jeff that ultimately became the Clu character.
We animated with a rig – think of it as a marionette system where you’re able to pull and move that model around. Jeff go in to the studio and we were able to determine how his face moves and applied those back to the younger version. We created a head mounted camera that allowed him to act right there with the other actors with cameras pointed at his face. These would track his facial movements, so we knew what Clu’s face needed to look like using software that reads those live moments that we created earlier and drives the rig.”