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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

The Mask
Tom Bertino, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) , Scott Squires , Steve Williams

Thanks to the animation skills of ILM, in the film "The Mask" a shy bank clerk is transformed into a cartoon character by putting on a mask.

"The Mask" is a zany comedy about a mild mannered bank teller who finds a magical mask that transforms him into a real "cartoon character". Subsequently the "bad guy" and the bank teller's dog have their turn with the mask. Director Chuck Russell wanted to create the Mask character based upon old cartoons, especially the Tex Avery cartoons. Our task was to create this style and action, but to keep it as real as possible. Designing and creating this mix of character animation was the most challenging aspect of the film visual effects both creatively and technically. The team at the start of project (Steve Williams, Animation Supervisor; Benton Jew, Art Director) worked with the director to define what the character would look like and how to best use his "talents".

Since the actor in this case was Jim Carrey, we could take full advantage of the facial and body action that he does so well and push them even further. All the plate photography was done without motion control. All moving camera shots would be matched later in computer graphics based on measurements taken during photography. At the end of the live action photography, we shot some elements of Jim Carrey rotating in front of a blue screen to provide images to be used in the tornadoes and zipping shots. We used the same rig with Peter Green (Dorian) for the end whirlpool sequence.

The 92 shots that ILM contributed were initially scanned into the computer using ILMs input scanner. Each of these shots involved some form of digital compositing and the majority utilized 3-D computer animation. Final images were output back to film using a high resolution CRT based recorder.

An important sequence in the film was the first time the mask was put on by the Stanley Ipkiss character. This was filmed once with the real mask in hand to use in the early cuts as well as help the actor and director develop the performance. Jim Carrey then mimed the action without the mask. Our computer graphics team (headed by CG Supervisor, Ellen Poon, for this sequence) then match moved the computer mask in his hand. Custom software was written to distort the mask and form tendrils that engulf his head. As Jim Carrey twirls around and tries to rip off the mask, his head motion is tracked frame by frame and the animation continues. His fingers are tracked with special software that then "digs" into the mask to reveal the green energy underneath.


When the mask is finally on, he starts to spin and changes into a Tasmanian tornado which wreaks havoc on his apartment. All the animation was coordinated with the physical effects of the papers blowing and furniture moving. Jim Mitchell, the CG supervisor for this sequence, worked out a modeling and animation approach to achieve an ever-changing, semi-transparent tornado. The style of animation was changed a bit for each of the other tornado sequences in the film. In some cases we enhanced the physical effects by adding interactive items with CG (leaves being blown around by the tornado in the park shot, moneyfluttering in the air in the bank sequence).

Character Animation

Using the Tex Avery cartoons as a starting point, we would put the Mask through an animation "take" whenever he was suprised. The first of these was in the hallway when he sees his landlady with a mudpack. His eyes and tongue pop out and gyrate. The computer animator would use the initial action of Jim Carrey and go from there. Translating the same type of action from a hand drawn cartoon to aphotorealistic 3D version required experimentation to find the correct balance. If the tongue were too wet or the eyes changed too much it would become too "cartoony" or too gross. We decided early on that the each major Mask change would be different, and it would become more "pushed" as the film progressed. The scene in the nightclub has his tongue come out and roll across the table. This follows with him becoming a whistling wolf and culminates in his skull coming completely out of his head when he spots the police.

Mask Removal

The director felt that the mask should be on very tight, and the process oftaking it off would be difficult and probably a little painful (for thecharacter, not us!). A full 3D mask was matched to Jim Carrey who mimed the action of pulling it off. The animators would follow the action of his hands and fingers and stretch sections of the mask. The technical director for these shots would need to keep part of it still attached to his face and actually start pulling the flesh to match the mask using distortion tools.