Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Gaspar Noé's List of 10 Favorite Films Makes Perfect, Terrifying Sense Gaspar Noé's List of 10 Favorite Films Makes Perfect, Terrifying Sense Jon Hamm Wants You to Know There's Hope for Don Draper After 'Mad Men' Jon Hamm Wants You to Know There's Hope for Don Draper After 'Mad Men' Women Fight Back at Cannes, From Megan Ellison to Emily Blunt Women Fight Back at Cannes, From Megan Ellison to Emily Blunt Of Time & Life: How 'Mad Men' Remade Television Of Time & Life: How 'Mad Men' Remade Television Nikki Finke Returns Nikki Finke Returns Cannes Goes Crazy for Jeremy Saulnier's Gruesome Neo-Nazis vs. Punks Horror 'Green Room' Cannes Goes Crazy for Jeremy Saulnier's Gruesome Neo-Nazis vs. Punks Horror 'Green Room' Cannes Festival Is Dominated by Two Hollywood Masters Cannes Festival Is Dominated by Two Hollywood Masters Top Ten Takeaways: Sequels Rule as Women Boost 'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Also Strong Top Ten Takeaways: Sequels Rule as Women Boost 'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Also Strong Cannes: Directors from Fincher to Scorsese Revisit Truffaut's Famous Interview with Hitchcock Cannes: Directors from Fincher to Scorsese Revisit Truffaut's Famous Interview with Hitchcock 'Pitch Perfect 2' Outperforms 'Mad Max: Fury Road'; 'Ultron' Is Now Top 2015 Release 'Pitch Perfect 2' Outperforms 'Mad Max: Fury Road'; 'Ultron' Is Now Top 2015 Release Kristen Stewart Re-Teams with Her 'Sils Maria' Director for Ghost Story Set in Fashion World Kristen Stewart Re-Teams with Her 'Sils Maria' Director for Ghost Story Set in Fashion World Watch: Netflix's Ted Sarandos Heckled at Cannes, Gets Weinstein on His Feet During Heated Debate (VIDEO) Watch: Netflix's Ted Sarandos Heckled at Cannes, Gets Weinstein on His Feet During Heated Debate (VIDEO) George Miller and DP John Seale Go Inside 'Mad Max: Fury Road': "It Was Like Being in a Video Game" George Miller and DP John Seale Go Inside 'Mad Max: Fury Road': "It Was Like Being in a Video Game" Natalie Portman's Passion Project 'Tale of Love and Darkness' Splits Cannes Critics Natalie Portman's Passion Project 'Tale of Love and Darkness' Splits Cannes Critics Cannes: 'Dogtooth' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Scores with Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' (Review and Roundup) Cannes: 'Dogtooth' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Scores with Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' (Review and Roundup) Weinstein Co. Offers Strong Slate at Cannes Weinstein Co. Offers Strong Slate at Cannes 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Auteur George Miller Does It His Way, No Matter How Long It Takes 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Auteur George Miller Does It His Way, No Matter How Long It Takes The Top 20 Episodes of 'Mad Men' The Top 20 Episodes of 'Mad Men' How the 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Score Paid Homage to Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' How the 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Score Paid Homage to Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A)

Behind the Visual Effects on Black Swan

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 19, 2011 at 9:05AM

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is one of those movies that is creepy, scary, believable and psychologically taut partly because he deploys 250 visual effects shots to such good effect. They aren't obvious, or on a big-budget scale. While we probably figured out that Nina morphing into a Black Swan at the film's finale is a visual effect (the most complex in the film), most of the film's effects are far more subtle.
0
Thompson on Hollywood

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is one of those movies that is creepy, scary, believable and psychologically taut partly because he deploys 250 visual effects shots to such good effect. They aren't obvious, or on a big-budget scale. While we probably figured out that Nina morphing into a Black Swan at the film's finale is a visual effect (the most complex in the film), most of the film's effects are far more subtle.

For example, you don't think about how cinematographer Matty Libatique's cameras got so close to all the actors while they were dancing in those mirrored rehearsal rooms. (This required elaborate "clean up.") Or how those images in the mirror got turned around. Or how those crazy pictures in Nina's mother's room came alive--without making us laugh. Faces, mouths and eyes are animated, as are the tattoos on Mila Kunis's rippling back.

The feathers poking out of Nina's back were prosthetic, but the mesh of bumps was digital. Nina sticks a retractable prop into Beth's spongey prosthetic face, which spurts fake blood: the VFX folks turned it into an emory board. And that nasty hang nail is a "digitally enhanced" hand prosthetic with "added blood." While Portman deserves kudos for her extreme training and on-point ballet dancing, some of her more complex steps were handled by another dancer repeating the same moves, whose head had to be seamlessly replaced by Portman's (see photo gallery below). "We'll never know how much," admits Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Schrecker.

Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood

Schrecker, who went to film school at the AFI with Aronofsky, has commandeered the VFX on all his films. Black Swan, his best work yet with LOOK Effects, has been nominated for a special visual effects BAFTA award and is the only movie that is also nominated for a Visual Effects Society Award in the best supporting category, for the sort of effects rarely noted by the Academy or BAFTA. "There's a lot of subliminal stuff going on," says Schrecker. "Mirrors were a theme throughout the film."

When Portman is fitting her costume in the dressing room, two back-to-back mirrors create infinite reflections. One of them--the third--is out of sync. They used two one-way mirrors so the camera is not seen, but you still see the mirrored reflections. It was a simple camera move right to left, one master take. The VFX people took out one mirror and did the same shot against a green screen. They isolated the element, removed the real reflection, and put in the green-screen element. Some of the mirror reflections were also thrown out of sync when she was dancing alone in the rehearsal hall. At one point she moves her arm and the reflection does not. At the end you see the evil Nina double in the mirror.

The sequence when Nina's bird legs snap backwards was done with puppet legs against a green screen combined with Portman's body.

The Black Swan finale took a long time to finalize with Aronofsky. "To what extent would she become a swan?" says Schrecker. "Neck, wings, head, neck? Human or swan head? At one point she had a facial bill. We tried all the permutations. It's a beautiful moment for Nina. So we keep that image, just wings and Natalie herself. We kept the veracity of the ballet and used motion capture tracking the dancer. We had the data. The artist took control and built wings and feathers arranged in layers as the swan anatomy stretched and grew."

Here's a trailer.

This article is related to: Awards, Box Office, Directors, Genres, Headliners, Production , Winter, Darren Aronofsky, Thriller, Natalie Portman, VFX, Costume Design


E-Mail Updates






Festivals on TOH