Tom Russo
August 16, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Sorry, double-clutchers. The truth is, much of F&F’s nighttime street-racing scene was done digitally. Director Rob Cohen wanted to shoot the two-minute sequence with free-range camera moves — a physical impossibility since ”four cars are coming down the road at over 100 miles per hour, and the camera has to pass right next to and between them,” says Bill Taylor, coowner of Illusion Arts, which did this effect. ”There’s just no way you could do a shot like that safely.” before IA computer-scanned real cars to create skeletal models. But before these ”wire frames” were ready to roll, they needed virtual makeovers. after The models were digitally ”painted,” that is, the entire outer surface was added by CG artists. Once that surface detailing was complete, authentic reflections were layered on by using a separate, live-action film element collected from the surfaces of the real cars on which the models are based. Thanks to a bit of preferential treatment, Vin Diesel’s wheels (left) handle better than the rest of the field. ”We put a hell of a lot of shake into the [digital] composites,” says Taylor. ”But because Diesel’s character has this Zen experience at high speed, everything around him is smooth.” Then came the hard part: creating a 270-degree backdrop for the action, so the perspective could fluidly swing around to almost any given angle at any given moment. This panorama was achieved by shooting street footage with a six-camera rig normally used in creating theme-park attractions, then ”seaming” it all together. ”It was a great pleasure to read a review saying how refreshing it was to see a movie that wasn’t loaded with visual effects,” Taylor says, laughing. ”Of course, that just means we’ve done our job.”

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