| 4th of July, 1969. A man shoots two people
in a car outside San Francisco, then calls the police to brag.
He is the Zodiac, in many ways the first modern serial killer.
David Fincher's uncomprimising look at the murders, and especially
the people who dedicate themselves to finding the killer, called
for realistic 1960's and 70's views of the San Francisco Bay
Area. Matte World Digital provided a wide variety of shots that
set the scene.
Today, San Francisco's historic ferry terminal is a thriving
marketplace, but as the film opens in 1969, it was in disrepair.
The neighborhood just beyond, though, was undergoing a rejuvination,
and many of the buildings that now dominate the skyline were
The neighborhood was modelled to be accurate
for that time, including the Embarcadero Freeway, which was
destroyed in 1989. Historical accuracy was important to the
production to reinforce the realistic tone of the film. Matte
World shot digital textures of the actual buildings, and repainted
The scene was rendered on a beautiful clear
morning, a stark contrast to the gritty night scene that preceded
it. Tweak Films provided wonderfully complex cgi water. A large
number of small moving elements add life to the scene, including
people on the docks, construction crews, cranes in operation,
birds, flags, steam from building tops, and traffic.
As the story unfolds, quick and easy answers
elude the investigators. As a device to show the passage of
time, the iconic Transamerica Tower appears in various stages
of construction. During one substantial gap in the progress
of the case, the tower grows from it's foundations to a complete
structure. The script called for an ambitious timelapse effect
to emphasize this period.
The only "real"
element in the shot is the sky -- actually a series of timelapse
skies photographed under varying conditions to portray the
fickle San Francisco weather. The tower itself was reconstructed
from architectural drawings and historical photographs. Procedural
animation sequenced the girders and facade panels into place.
CG lighting allowed us to show cycles of day and night with
The most spectacular viewpoint of the Golden
Gate Bridge is, of course, from the top of one of the towers.
David Fincher asked for a shot looking back towards San Francisco,
tilting down to find the hero's car driving out of the city.
Naturally, the shot should include that location's ubiquitous
The logistics of shooting the scene, or even a plate, from the
actual location proved insurmountable, so a 3d model of the
bridge was generated to provide the basis for a matte painting.
Existing photographs from the bridge tower provided reference
and some textures. Traffic on the bridge was modeled and lit
in 3d (with some hand-animated glints as a finishing touch).
The water, boats, and layers of fog are 2d "gag" animations
from still photos.