A Beautiful Mind (Take 2)
Afflicted with schizophrenia, mathematician Nash (Crowe) puts his infant son in a bathtub, turns on the water, and almost lets him drown.
Before ”You can’t just put a baby in a bathtub full of water for a movie,” says Digital Domain’s Henke, a compositing supervisor. Well, you can if you have someone propping up the baby’s head, which is what was done when director Howard shot close-ups of the infant. (The hands were later digitally erased.) But Howard also wanted his camera to race into the bathroom and zoom down on the boy, simulating the perspective of Nash’s wife (Jennifer Connelly) rushing to save the child. Unlike the close-ups, this shot would have required scrubbing out the entire body of the Professional Baby Head Holder — too difficult. So Howard shot the baby in an empty tub and commanded Digital Domain thusly: Make me water.
After ”It’s always hard to create interaction with water,” says Henke. Luckily, he didn’t have to: Howard had a separate shot of the tub full of water — sans kid. Henke meshed the two shots and animated the waterline so only the knees, hands, and nose were exposed. Additional 3-D animation created the proper lighting, underwater distortion, and ”meniscus effect” — shadows on the flesh where the body breaks the surface. And in case you were wondering, Henke and colleagues were concerned about the boy’s immodesty. ”We kept wondering, Do they want us to cover that up?” says Henke, laughing. ”Nope. It’s supposed to look real.”