Merie W. Wallace / Columbia Pictures
By Ron Magid, Special to The Times In "Spider-Man 3," recently released on DVD, a close encounter with a particle accelerator supercharges the molecules of Flint Marko, transforming him into a demented dune called Sandman. Sony Pictures Imageworks put actor Thomas Haden Church through a similar process, combining his powerful performance with flowing sand via an unprecedented combination of hands-on character animation and particle simulation. Imageworks' crew, under visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, saved the toughest sequence for last: Sandman's birth, when Marko's disintegrated particles pull themselves into human form. To achieve that Oscar-worthy effect, the crew learned how to make virtual sand flow uphill.
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