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Hugo

Martin Scorsese's film about an orphan who meets Georges Melies takes place in 1930's Paris. Matte World was asked to assist with art direction on the environments, and our artists completed a number of finished shots.

The movie was produced start-to-finish in 3D, unlike some 3D films that shoot 2D and convert to 3D as a post-process. All the footage was shot with a two-camera (stereo) rig, providing tremendous detail in the elaborate sets. From a matte-painting perspective, this creates new demands on the technology. Most definitions of "matte painting" declare that the camera flattens the perspective allowing the artist to create flat artwork that merges seamlessly with photography. We have been evolving away from this definition for some time with moving cameras that requires "2-and-a-half-D" or "3D matte paintings." Stereo photography is the latest development. It's an interesting challenge and at the same time an opportunity to create more realism in our shots.

The movie looks amazing in 3D! If you get a chance to see it in that format, don't pass it up. This is not a movie that you would rather see in 2D. Robert Richardson's Oscar for Best Cinematography is well deserved. Hugo won a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects.

Place your mouse over the images to see "before and after" versions of each shot.

Much of the action in the film takes place in the Montparnasse Train Station, site of a famous 1895 train wreck. The locomotive crashed out of the building from an upper floor onto the street below. A large-scale miniature by New Deal Studios provided the foreground action and Matte World Digital completed the exterior train station and surrounding street. Our staff also posed as pedestrians in 1930s costumes, reacting to the wreck. A miniature cafe was added in the foreground with a CGI awning blowing in the wind. In composite, we augmented the dust and tweaked aspects of the miniature to complete the shot.

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Early in the film, Hugo follows a man through the streets of Paris. It is a bleak moment for Hugo and the cold, empty exteriors contrast with the warm homes that Hugo cannot enter. The plate was shot on a green-screen stage and Pixomondo provided geometry of Paris rooftops. Matte World Digital painted building textures for stereo projection, and composited smoke elements and 3D falling snow.

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Later in the film, Hugo leads his friend Isabel around the same corner. A deliberate echo with a completely different tone—the scene was relit and repainted for late afternoon.


Hugo's Uncle Claude is discovered drowned in the Seine. Matte World Digital designed and created the shot establishing the setting for two French officers. We converted photographs of the Pont Neuf bridge into 3D and projected an element of the river onto geometry to create stereo depth. The ground containing the foreground column and crates are all miniatures shot in our parking lot for the matte painter's use, and projected on simple geometry for stereo renders.




Hugo and Isabel discover that a mysterious old man is actually film pioneer Georges Melies. In a flashback, a historian describes visiting Melies' glass studio when his crews were excitedly creating the first film fantasies. The production built a replica studio in London, but the English weather did not cooperate with appropriate storybook weather. Matte World Digital replaced the sky and extensively color-corrected specific objects in 3D, compositing to amplify the lighting of the studio.

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We revisit the studio again for a photo opportunity, with Martin Scorsese making a cameo as the photographer. An alternate sky is used to replace the gray English overcast.


Film Credits

Film Credits