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Weta evolves into global giant

November 13th, 2006 by Paul Martin

Now that Jackson seems to be taking a pause from tentpoles, can Weta survive competition with the rest of the world?

So far, it seems to be thriving. Weta was hired for Fox’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” and is working on the studio’s dragon epic “Eragon” and Disney’s “Bridge to Terabithia.” It’s also in active pre-production on James Cameron’s “Avatar” and is working on the “Fantastic Four” sequel that will feature the long-awaited film bow of the Silver Surfer.

Weta’s Wellington location isn’t a problem, say its toppers, thanks to videoconferencing. Directors and producers now easily collaborate from distant locales.

The Peter Jackson experience has given the company a leg up in the marketplace, too.

“You had a chance to grow with each film, so everyone got to build on what was done in each film,” says visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri. “It really got everyone to focus and refine the process.”

Also, says Letteri, “we had a unique opportunity because everyone in the facility was doing just one film. And (each) project was so big that people got to do lots of different things, from a single character with Gollum to massed armies.”

Studios, producers and directors have not only seen Weta’s work, they know that the company can deliver a big show on deadline, something that’s not true of every shop. It has a proven staff of artists, and perhaps most important, it has done two of the most notable motion-capture digital characters on film, Gollum and Kong.

Visual effects producer Eileen Moran, who handles the business side of the operation, says that the shop’s specific strengths include creature design and animation, the “CG water and destruction pipeline,” fur and “sub-surface scattering.”

[Variety.com for the rest]