Nordic nation’s animation blossoms on the international stage as the nation celebrates a hundred years since its first use of the art form. By Peter Schavemaker.
For The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which reunites director Marc Webb with stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and opened May 2, animation supervisor Dave Schaub says the real challenge with the character from an animation perspective was to make him move as real as possible by applying real-world physics to every shot.
Proper application of gravity is the best example, says Schaub, who works at Sony Pictures Imageworks. “We’ve been really hell-bent on making the physics right, so if he’s swinging on the web and he releases, he doesn’t have a Wile E. Coyote moment — he’s not flying — gravity needs to kick in and, when it does, it’s a really specific acceleration defined by physics.”
Schaub says the team on this movie would use simulations in a program they called “Doctor Gravity” to check the physics. But educating animators is the most effective way to get good results. As such, he runs a class called “Physics for Animators” that eschews a lot of math for a more visual approach.
But physics alone isn’t always enough for a superhero, who has to look good as he swings and fights his way through the city. “We want to make sure that every frame has an interesting-looking pose and that everything about it looks like Spider-Man and that any frame you grab could ideally be a movie poster,” he says.
Those poses can’t be hit gratuitously, though, and the animators referred frequently to extensive footage shot of stunt performer William Spencer doing Spider-Man moves on wires.
For Electro, whose body glows with a swarm of electric energy, all the close-up shots were based on actor Jamie Foxx’s performance. “We did a soft track on his face so that it’s really the Jamie Foxx photography for all the close up work and then animators literally tracked to a high level of finesse the movement of the face, so that when effects were applied downstream we’d get the skin and all the vein detail on the surface — and under the surface as well — so that stuff was sliding over the internal structure.” That took a team of animators working around the clock to get done accurately enough that the effects’ teams work on the glow and electricity would be properly registered.
The Green Goblin also had a CG double that turned out so well that director Webb was able to cut from footage of actor Dane DeHaan in costume to the digital version without it being in any way noticeable, says Schaub. The Rhino was a character whose design changed through the process of trying to animate it, Shaub says. “We realized we needed to make the legs more substantial and just kind of massaged the design into being through a process of animation and ended up with something Marc really liked.”
This article first appeared in longer form online at www.animationmagazine.net
Alice in Maleficent,
“It took six months to sculpt him and get the right proportions, and then making sure we had a muscle layer and on top of that a fat layer. We were simulating many different kinds of skin because if you look across Godzilla’s body, it’s covered with around 10 different types of skin thicknesses.”
MPC used Maya as the base software along with ZBrush for modeling, Mari for texturing and Kali (its proprietary destruction simulation tool) through the Katana lighting interface. In fact, Kali was upgraded and given a number of significant incremental improvements to make photo-real destruction.
In addition, all of the muscle and skin sliding tools were plug-ins done in-house to customize the work, “and making sure we could pipeline and streamline that. These are heavy assets to simulate and to render. It takes between eight and 12 hours just to compute all the dynamics of the muscles and the fat and the skin.”
As for the MUTOS, they were original monster designs. In sharp contrast to Godzilla, they are simple, slick and black. “They are almost like insects, which is what Gareth wanted to stay away from. We actually used bats as reference for the wings. They are made of sharp lines and angles, and skin that is whale-like. But as soon as they started integrating shots into the movie they started to lose some of the strong graphic quality through the blackness. So we had to do quite a bit of shot development to adjust features and length so they registered better.”