The Spiderwick Chronicles    

"I talked to everyone I could think of at ILM, and all recommended Vue!"
Yusei Uesugi, Digital Matte Artist, Industrial Light & Magic.

The Matte department at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) used Vue again for several shots of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies blockbuster, The Spiderwick Chronicles.

We had the great privilege to interview Yusei Uesugi, digital matte artist for one of the Vue shots in The Spiderwick Chronicles:

About Yusei

E-on: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your background experience in the movie industry?

Yusei Uesugi: I’m a Digital Matte Artist working at ILM. I’m responsible for the creation of digital environments for the movie industry. I started to work for ILM in 1989, as a traditional Matte Painter, on Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, and some of my work can be seen in Die Hard 2, Ghostbusters 2, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Star Wars episodes I, II and III, The Day After Tomorrow, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, and many others. I also won an Emmy for my work on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, back in 1990.

I just completed working on The Spiderwick Chronicles and I am currently part of the Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull Digital Matte Artist team.

Is this the first time you used Vue on a project yourself?

YU: Yes it’s the first time I used Vue for real shots. In Spiderwick, I did the shot just before the time warp sequence, where you see the landing zone from above.

Can you tell us exactly what you were using Vue for?

YU: My job was to get some trees to populate a specific area. Vue has a great interface to interactively edit predefined tree subsets and leaves. It allowed me to mix all variables to create ideal looking trees really quick. So I created probably over a dozen new tree species and exported them.

The only thing moving in this scene was the camera, the trees did not have to react to wind or breeze. If this had been required, I would have used Vue more intensively in the process. But as it was not, it was easier for me to export the trees from Vue and to render them in our standard renderer.

The scene layout was already done by someone else, which included the camera moves and the scale of important elements in the scene (the icicle for instance). Starting from this, I had to create the complete environment myself, and make it look believable.

There are other shots that use Vue in Spiderwick, particularly spectral atmospheres. I can’t tell you more about these shots, as they are not mine.

Time warp image sequence showing Vue trees and a Vue atmosphere.
© Copyright 2007 By Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Image courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic.

Technical Aspects

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What problem were you facing for Spiderwick that Vue solved?

YU: It was going to take me weeks to create high quality trees with 3ds Max, until I heard of Vue.

I talked pretty much to everyone I could think of at ILM, and all recommended Vue. So it was pretty clear that Vue was the best solution to create good looking trees without spending an enormous amount of time.

I did not have the chance to work on other ILM projects that use Vue, but I was amazed by what I saw done with it. I was looking for any opportunity to use Vue myself at some point. Among all solutions available, Vue was the best choice!

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Can you give us more technical details on how you setup the Vue scene for this Spiderwick shot?

YU: Well, if I had to render the complete shot frame-by-frame and to keep everything in 3D, I would have needed to compromise on a lot of things. So I used a trick we use a lot, as 3ds Max has a way to render in slices by limiting the camera clipping planes. Each plane is a render of 3D stuff used as a textured 2D plane, with an alpha map applied.

The whole shot is more 2.5D than true 3D. So all I needed was a set of high quality still images and thanks to this technique I did not have to compromise on any of the important subtlety.

How long did the whole process last?

YU: Vue is really easy to use, so it allowed me to do everything I needed within a day or so. It would have taken me weeks with any other solution!

About Vue

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What was your overall impression of Vue?

YU: From the small Vue experience I have, it's a really powerful tool.

I hope to use it more and more in the future.

What do you think could be improved?

YU: The only thing I’d like in a future release would be to have more choice in the libraries, and more control over the editing of tree subsets.

Official Movie Trailer and Synopsis

Movie Trailer (can you spot Vue?)


From the beloved best-selling series of books comes "The Spiderwick Chronicles", a fantasy adventure for the child in all of us. Peculiar things start to happen the moment the Grace family (Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mom) leave New York and move into the secluded old house owned by their great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. Unable to explain the strange disappearances and accidents that seem to be happening on a daily basis, the family blames Jared. When he, Simon and Mallory investigate what's really going on, they uncover the fantastic truth of the Spiderwick estate and of the creatures that inhabit it.

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