While at the Silicon Studio facility Ron met Rolf Schneider and Uwe Sassenberg of Science D Visions. Their product, the 3D Equalizer, reconstructs camera motion from film or video shots. Points in the shot are tracked in 2D and then complex math calculates the camera's real path in 3D space.
The camera information can drive a "virtual camera" looking at a computer model. With the real and virtual cameras locked together, the computer models can be laid atop the real scene, appearing to be locked onto the background image.
Mr. Costner's film was in production when Ron's experiments with 3DEqualizer came to the attention of the Visual Effects Supervisor. After a visit to the set Ron and his two student interns at Silicon Studio (Brad Falk and Eric Bermender) were provided digital footage shot with an early Sony High Definition camera. Along with the footage came measurements between markers in the scene (these are pretty much invisible in images below).
Start and end frames of the match motion test.
There was not much camera motion (essentially a boom up). Ron reconstructed the motion using 3D Equalizer while the interns built CG elements to match the storyboard frame.
Storyboard panel for the match motion test.
The CG elements were rendered at full HD resolution, composited with the original shot and transferred to video. When the Visual Effects Supervisor saw the result she said she wished we were given the scanned film footage from the real shot, because then it would have been done.
Start and end frames of the final test shot.
The entire opening sequence, of which this shot was a part, was cut from the film before release.
CG modelling, animation and compositing were done using Alias Wavefront Poweranimator and Composer.
Ron's interns on the project were Brad Falk and Eric Bermender. Both now work at Lucas Digital (ILM).