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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Director Wolfgang Petersen on tech and `Poseidon'

I had a chance to chat for a few minutes with Wolfgang Petersen last month at ShoWest in Las Vegas, just before Warner Bros. showed theater owners a trailer for `Poseidon,' which opens tomorrow.

I'd been meaning to post the audio of our conversation -- but I think the background noise is too distracting. (I was standing in a press line with six or seven other journos even more loud-mouthed than me.) Petersen hasn't yet shot a movie digitally, but he says he's open to the possibility.

Scott Kirsner: What was new for you in making this movie, in terms of visual effects?

Wolfgang Petersen: You know how quick it all goes nowadays. [Industrial Light & Magic] did all the major visual effects work that had to do with ships and water, because we did `Perfect Storm' together. But it's a world apart, since `Perfect Storm' [was made] five or six years ago. It's unbelievable what ILM can do now with the credibility of water and ships.

We have one shot in the film that's two-and-a-half minutes long. It is the boldest, most challenging shot ever done in motion picture history by ILM. It starts underwater, goes out of the water, around the entire ship -- with all the details of the ship -- and ends on a close-up of Josh Lucas. That shot is two-and-a-half minutes long, without any cut. The computer, to render that shot, needed 18 days and 18 nights. It had never been done in the history of motion pictures.

SK: What are your feelings about shooting digitally, and seeing your movies projected digitally? Have you considered shooting your next movie with a digital camera?

WP: I'm very open there. I like very much working with all kinds of digital formats. I'd say we're probably not completely there yet, but we're going fast. I will definitely be the first guy to say, `Let's do it now digitally.' I like that a lot. So many things are so much easier: how you can manipulate images, how you do color timing, making something a little darker or lighter. It's so, so easy a process.

SK: What about projection? At this convention, the exhibitors are still in wait-and-see mode about digital projection, and whether the audiences feel that it's better quality.

WP: It takes some time. It will get better and better, and the exhibitors will [eventually] buy these projectors. [The projectors themselves] will get less and less expensive. In a few years, it will be absolutely perfect quality, and you wouldn't want [to see a movie] any other way.

SK: But you don't think digital projection has surpassed film yet?

WP: Not yet -- but it will come. Also, the beauty of digital is you can play a film for three months, and it has the same exact quality as Day One. That's not bad.


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