Orphaned robot David (Haley Joel Osment) meets up with a ”mecha” male gigolo (Jude Law), and off they skitter to the dazzling, Oz-like adult playground of Rouge City, which writer-director Steven Spielberg described as ”what happened when Las Vegas got so rich and powerful it bought Camden, N.J.” before Spielberg, like most directors, does storyboards of big effects scenes in advance. But what he likes best is the freedom to walk around the set and come up with camera angles and improvs. So ILM effects guru Dennis Muren and a technical team came up with a new way to get ”real-time” effects as the camera moved around during shooting. While the lens was aimed at empty blue backdrops, an infrared sensor on the camera picked up coordinate-defining markers on the ceiling (kind of like a grocery store scanner reading price codes), providing a continuous and shifting measure of their spatial relationship to the camera. A little number crunching, and presto — on another monitor, Spielberg could instantly see a rough version of the finished shots. after As Gigolo Joe describes Rouge City’s wonders, you can hardly tell they involve a deftly sandwiched mix of real actors and real extras on a full-size set piece (center), matched up with miniature sets of the honky-tonk emporiums (top left) plus garnishes of additional CG buildings and neon signs overhead (bottom left). Since even the actors know what they’ll be gesticulating at in the final shot, the pantomime improves with this method. ”You can now shoot in bluescreen and you don’t have to use your mind’s eye as strongly,” says Muren. ”You know what you’re going to get.”