Over the past decade Chris Watts has become one of the leading visual effects supervisors in Hollywood, especially for movies that combine live action with computer generated CGI content. Chris's past credits include French Kiss, Gattaca, Pleasantville, The Insider, Looney Tunes, The Day After Tommorow, Corpse Bride, and The Fog. In 2004 Chris won a Visual Effects Society Award for his work on the music video for Britney Spears’ hit song “Toxic.” He was also nominated in 2001 for an MTV Music Video Award for U2’s “Elevation.”

In 2005 Chris began work on "300", a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Although the film is set in ancient Greece it was entirely shot using bluescreen in an old locomotive repair shop in Montreal, Canada. In post production the raw footage was transformed into a mythical vision of Greek legend. Virtually every frame of the film combines blue-screen live action with computer generated effects - over 1500 scenes with over 1300 visual effect shots.

Managing Visual Effects with Panorama

The visual effects team assembled for this mammoth project ultimately consisted of ten vendors and over 250 artists, compositors, editors, animators, technicians and other specialists. According to Chris "A movie this complex has literally tens of thousands of visual effects details to manage. For example we created over 30,000 quicktime clips during the course of the 300 production. Everything is on a tight deadline, and we can't afford to drop the ball on even a single detail. To make that happen I have built custom Panorama databases to manage the visual effects and the digital intermediates on dozens of feature films. On "300" we used the multi-user Panorama Enterprise Server for the first time, allowing us to co-ordinate the work across the entire team. Panorama's RAM based speed made it easy to manage our primary database with 19,750 records and 181 fields (each record managed 1, 2, or 3 QuickTime movies), saving thousands of hours during the post-production process. The complete custom database application includes 5 databases with over 5 million data cells, all in RAM. In addition to co-ordinating between team members I even programmed Panorama to generate scripts for Apple's Shake, Final Cut Pro, and other packages that enable these programs to communicate and interact with closed systems such as Avid, Inferno, Lightworks, and Quantel."

"Panorama sacrifices a little simplicity at the start of the learning curve, but this pays huge dividends for those who spend a little time to learn more. Panorama's programming language is far deeper and more flexible than FileMaker Pro's. I can say without reservation that the speed with which Panorama has allowed me to create and implement applications has been a major factor in the success I've had in my profession."

blocks_image
blocks_image
blocks_image
blocks_image
blocks_image
Chris Watts, VFX Supervisor for "300" (Panorama in background
on 30" screen)
Chris Watts on the set of "300" (click to enlarge)
Screenshot of Panorama databases for "300" (click to enlarge)
Bluescreen above, final scene below (click to enlarge)