Cinefex: Sea Quest

The Dawn Treader arrives at its first port of call, Lone Island, which consisted of Australian plate photography enhanced with digital matte paintings and environment work supplied by Cinesite and the production’s in-house visual effects team. The crew disembarks at the quayside, constructed as a partial set in Brisbane, which Cinesite matte painter Sevendalino Khay enhanced with CG set extensions.

Caspian and his crew discover Lone Island’s main town of Narrowhaven strangely deserted. Barry Robison designed the environment as a town square, which he built on the Village Roadshow backlot. Cinesite enhanced the set with digital top-ups and terrain extensions. The Senate also provided digital backdrops for a scene set in Narrowhaven bell tower, filmed on a partial soundstage set. High-definition production plates of the monochromatic structures presented a challenge in establishing realistic scale.

« We had to completely reinvent our approach to compositing, » said Cinesite 2D Supervisor Matt Kasmir. « The depth of field was so massive, there was hardly any aerial fogging or loss of focus further away from camera. That made it difficult to break out 3D layers, particularly in shots where there was very little parallax. »

The Dawn Treader crew discovers Narrowhaven citizenry enslaved to an evil green mist that threatens to engulf the city unless it is appeased by human sacrifice. For wide shots of the mist out to sea, the production shot ocean plates of a sailing vessel which Cinesite CG Supervisor Stephane Paris blended with matte-painted layers of greenish fog that engulfed the ship.

The mist was a narrative device conceived to unify the novel’s allegorical themes. « In the original Dawn Treader book, » explained Angus Bickerton, « the quest was to find the seven lost lords of Narnia, and along the way the characters ran into all sorts of temptations. In our film, we bound that together with a centre of evil, represented by green mist. Every time characters were tempted, the mist appeared as a signifier that temptation was coming. »

To create the probing tendrils of mist, Cinesite generated Houdini particle simulations using a cylinder-shaped emission object and generated flickers of internal lighting in the tendrils, indicating a sentient intelligence as the misty tentacles crept around the ship.