Around Hollywood, the prevailing wisdom is that to ensure a contemporary perspective and, hence, appeal to a new generation of filmgoers, successful film franchises need a fresh start every few years. Having enjoyed a three-outing success from director Sam Raimi on Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007), with lead actors Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, Sony's Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment decided on a new direction under the able directing mantle of Marc Webb, whose previous projects include 2009's breakout rom-com hit (500) Days of Summer, the pilot for Fox Television's Lone Star series and HBO's The Office. This time out, Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) takes the lead as the eponymous webbed crusader, with romantic support from Emma Stone, plus Welsh actor Rhys Ifans as a new adversary. Aside from its new artistic directions, from the very first day of planning, The Amazing Spider-Man was conceived to take full advantage of native 3D; its release in 3D and IMAX 3D, the production team hopes, will dazzle audiences with its stereoscopic aerial journeys through metropolitan landscapes.
For this new retelling of the classic super-hero narrative, Spider-Man/Peter Parker discovers a clue to the disappearance of his parents, a journey that leads him to the laboratory of Dr. Curt Connors, his father's former partner. Soon Parker, an outcast high-schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, is set on a collision course with Connors' villainous alter ego, The Lizard, and flexes his newly discovered powers as he begins to unearth the mystery of his parents' disappearance. Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the screenplay was written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves.
Regarded as one of the industry's leading experts in stereoscopic production, Engle has worked on more than a dozen 3D features. He recently completed the Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation production of The Smurfs in 3D, for which Engle served as 3D visual-effects supervisor and led a team of CG artists to adapt the film for stereoscopic presentation. Other recent credits include stereoscopic supervisor on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Priest, The Green Hornet, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Beowulf and The Polar Express, a film that many would credit as ushering in the modern era of stereoscopic filmmaking.
The 3D visual-effects supervisor was brought in early during the conceptual VFX and preproduction stages, and was on set for six weeks of the production, assisted by first-unit stereographer Eric Deren and second-unit stereographer Jason Goodman. "We spent a lot of time with Marc Webb to determine exactly what he was looking for with the imagery and how to achieve that in 3D [on the set]," recalls Engle. "Our recipe was to hold back on a deep 3D experience until the larger action shots with Spider-Man, as well as those involving The Lizard character," which was developed in postproduction using extensive CGI. "The director wanted us to re-create the sense of Spider-Man swinging through the New York skyscrapers, with a stuntman performing a number of the shots through traffic and under bridges. Those real-action 3D shots, augmented by our effects, really sell the action to the film-going audience. Of course, there were a number of occasions when a human couldn't do what Spider-Man can achieve, but we still wanted to use the live action as a reference—or a launch point, if you will—for the synthetic character to enhance the overall sense of realism. That was our new aesthetic; in contrast to the first three productions, we wanted to make the action seem more real during the New York City scenes."
3ality Technica, a leader in 3D production technology for the motion-picture and broadcast industries, supplied a number of TS-5 stereoscopic rigs for the live-action sequences using RED Epic digital cameras. "Being light and portable," considers 3ality Technica CEO Steve Schklair, "the Epic offers a perfect form factor for 3D shoots. We consider that 3D always looks better—and more realistic—if it's shot stereoscopically rather than being converted [in postproduction]. On the set, the director can view 3D on a video monitor and plan the shots more accurately."