Parzival and Halliday in Ready Player One.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Whether you loved or hated Ready Player One, odds are you were still amazed by the second challengeā€”yes, that sceneā€”even if itā€™s just wondering how the hell director Steven Spielberg pulled off something so impossible. Now we know.

The upcoming Art of Ready Player One book by Gina McIntyre explains it in detail. Itā€™s out on April 17, and we highly recommend it if youā€™re a fan of the movie or if youā€™re just curious about how all its many, many, many disparate parts were put together, which is a fascinating process unto itselfā€”but none more fascinating than the second challenge.

Advertisement

Of course, the scene in question is when the High Five enter the Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubrickā€™s The Shining, where they hope to find the Jade Key to continue Hallidayā€™s game. It begins with their avatars walking into the Overlookā€™s Grand Hall, followed by several crucial locations from the original film: the iconic hallways, room 237, the hedge maze, the ballroom, and more. And it looks like the characters stepped directly onto the set of the 1980 film.

They didnā€™t, although there was talk of actually rebuilding the entire set of Kubrickā€™s film. But since itā€™s the characterā€™s CGI avatars who are in the scene, and not the real actors, the effects team eventually decided a digital recreation would work best.

Advertisement

But how do you turn the nearly 40-year-old footage into a perfect, indistinguishable-from-the-original 3D environment? Well, the team at ILM found a ā€œhigh-quality telecine transferā€ of The Shining, scanned it into their computers as a reference, and began to digitally recreate the locations needed for the film. ā€œThe bar that I wanted to reach was for anyone to watch it and go, ā€˜Thatā€™s a shot from The Shining,ā€™ā€ senior visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told McIntyre. ā€œIt just happens to have our characters in it. Of course, if youā€™re inventing new scenes within The Shining or new moments or new characters, then the camerawork has to [change]. We didnā€™t have enough coverage of the different scenes.ā€

Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Photo: Warner Bros.

When there was a shot they could use from the original movie, they did. So while most of The Shining sequence footage in Ready Player One is digital, itā€™s combined with some original footage from the film as well as a few new physical shots. Basically, anything that included a real actor, like the twins or the bathtub lady, was built and shot the old-fashioned way. Then those all of those elements were combined by ILM to create one, cohesive scene.

Advertisement

And yet, all of the footage had to trick the audience into thinking they were essentially watching The Shiningā€”and that meant more than just recreating the sets. It also meant the Frankenstein-esque collection of footage all had to be augmented to look like it was from that eraā€”duplicating Kubrickā€™s exact lighting, creating all the props to ensure they looked like they were made in the eraā€”even the grain of the 1980s film stock had to be recreated. The attention to detail even included the avatars themselves; though all the actors were filmed using performance capture, just like the rest of the movie, for The Shining scenes, the final renders were sent through a ā€œgrainer lens.ā€ The lens made them look less than perfect and fit better into the scene.

Stories like that fill McIntyreā€™s book, which also has dozens and dozens of concept images from The Shining sequence, as well as every else in the movie. The Art of Ready Play One arrives April 17 and Ready Player One is in theaters now.

Advertisement