Portland’s Hinge Digital Creates VFX for Brightwood


For Hinge Digital, creating the visual effects for Brightwood was a chance to bring Hollywood-caliber visual effects to an independent locally produced short film. Combining themes of childhood innocence and the search for home and family, the film juxtaposes a young girl’s real and imaginary lives. The film veterans at Hinge Digital helped bridge the gap between reality and fantasy.

Director L. Gabriel Gonda brought the film’s rough cut to Hinge Digital Executive Producer Roland Gauthier in November 2011 and presented the challenge: to bring to life a believable, feature-film quality digital mouse in eight live-action shots on a short-film budget. Playing a key role throughout the story, the diminutive digital character needed to perfectly match its live-action counterpart shown in the final sequence of the film. Gauthier saw this as a unique collaborative opportunity—one that would give a short film access to high-end vfx and allow Hinge to showcase its work in the independent film venues.

Alex Tysowsky, Hinge Digital’s Animation Director, was intent on creating a believable digital version to perfectly match the film’s live-action mouse. To do so, he took on a new team member, Hazel the Mouse, and filmed her exhaustively to help the rigging and animation teams accurately recreate the mouse’s physicality and movements in its digital twin.

Michael Kuehn, Hinge Digital’s Visual Effects Supervisor, guided the crew through asset creation, look development and integration of the digital mouse from initial model to final compositing. Using still images and footage of the real mouse as reference, Hinge’s asset development team modeled and shaded the digital mouse using Autodesk Maya, and groomed the fur with Shave and a Haircut.

Using NukeX’s 3D tracking and rig removal tools on the EPIC-M footage, the compositing team prepared the plates for integration with the 3D character. Bringing that camera tracking data into Maya, the modelers built proxy objects allowing the mouse to interact seamlessly with live-action elements—like the piano keys, the box of crackers and the boy’s pocket—casting shadows and reflections on them. The mouse was rendered with Mental Ray using Hinge’s in-house renderfarm and composited in NukeX.

Write this Way Productions will enter Brightwood
into film festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival and Santa Fe Film Festival. Visit brightwoodmovie.com to learn more about the film. For more of Hinge Digital’s work for film, TV, broadcast, digital and print, visit hingedigital.com or call Roland Gauthier to discuss new business inquiries.

VFX Credits:

Roland Gauthier, Visual Effects Executive Producer
Michael Kuehn, Visual Effects Supervisor
Alex Tysowsky, Animation Director
Tiffany Navarro, Associate Production Manager
Josh Lafayette, Modeler/Character Rigging Artist
Tyler Kenworthy, Texture Paint Artist
Justin Mai, Character Animator/Matchmove Artist
Jonathan Beals, Look Development/Lighting Artist
Ramiro Gomez, Business Development

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