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HomeAwardsContender – Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Barba, Tron

Contender – Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Barba, Tron


Eric Barba

When you ask other visual FX supervisors what they think their field’s likely heavyweights will be at nomination time, the only answer you hear slightly more often than Inception is Tron.

And overseeing the FX side, (which is quite a large side), to Disney’s not-quite-a-sequel to its videogaming original is Digital Domain’s Eric Barba, who of course already grabbed Oscar gold – along with his team – for work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That film was famous for its digital makeup work, both aging and, well, “youthifying,” to coin (or mangle) a word, its leads, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, as they crossed each other in their lifelines, with Pitt growing steadily younger, aging backwards, as the story progressed.

That’s worth noting here because, while Tron is mentioned as an obvious contender for its fully rendered world, à la Avatar, Barba actually returns to the reverse-aging trajectory in the character of Flynn, (trapped in Tron-land since the early ‘80s, presumably), and now, with his son, facing a younger version of himself as a nemesis, named simply “Clu.” (Or for astute fans of the original, actually “Clu #2.”)

Touching on this during the Tron press junket, Barba noted the de-aging was different than in Button, as this film captured all of Bridges’ two different performances on set, with the digital fountains of youth – “a younger version of Jeff in the computer” – animated after. For Pitt, the performances themselves – especially those used to just capture his “head” and put it on different bodies – often came after the bulk of the scene was done.

But of course the reversal of time’s toll are but a small part of this film, taking place in a virtual land which Barba wanted to make both massive and immersive, “like nothing seen before,” yet still paying homage to the original.

Or as Christine Bieslin Clark, the associate costume designer noted, (at the same press event), we are, in part, from “Flynn’s world from 1979.” He’s been stuck inside a computer program, after all, and things have grown from there.

The cycles have gotten slicker, too: Barba & co. worked with Daniel Simon, a car designer from Bugatti, brought in by director Joseph Kosinski to “match the simplicity of the original design,” and, of course, to supersede it. In the new film, riders morph into and out of, their cycles, though the dismounting proved logistically challenging in some scenes.

Given that the junket was some weeks before the film’s release, Barba was keen to know how all these elements in the new and expanded world of Tron struck viewers – in this case, the audience of journalists who had seen the film the night before.

“Did you like it?” he asked, really wanting to know. None of the group wanted to give an out-loud review, (wasn’t there an embargo?), but they nodded their assent – they’d all been success- fully drawn in.

At which point, he gave a big non-Hollywood genuine grin.

How can you not nominate a guy like that?

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