A Super Scrap
ILM tackles head on and expands the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with hordes of digital superheroes clashing like titans in Captain America: Civil War. By Bill Desowitz.
ter Soldier Ant-Man.
“If he’s swinging, how does he get from point A to point B? Physically, we pumped the legs and evaluated shots for believability,” Earl says. “We calibrated from too over the top or too perfect and added imperfections.”
At first, they alternated between shooting a stunt performer and Holland in the suits. They used witness cameras for Holland and studied parkour reference. But halfway through production, they decided that it made more sense to go full digital for the Spidey suit. This required a muscle rig and muscle simulation as well as a cloth suit and cloth simulation. They started with blue spandex and red satin fabric and added carbon fiber texture and a raised printed pattern on top. They also played with the slide-to-stretch ratio for the fabric so that it looked like a real person talking under the mask.
Meanwhile, they shot Holland with two head-mounted cameras for facial performance to drive the movement under the mask. Animation was added to the eyes and jaw moving underneath the suit for greater expression and augmented with key-frame to make it read better.
For Black Panther, they also went from a practical suit (this time with vibranium thread woven into it) to full CG to make him more heroic looking. They also steered clear of any Batman likeness.
“Proportionally, it was difficult,” Earl says. “So we made the helmet smaller, the chest bigger, the shoulders broader and the waist narrower. Animation-wise, we gave him catlike agility and keyed off of stunt performances. Even in close-up fighting, he’s been fully replaced by a CG version. But it’s seamless. He’s a bad-ass character.”
For Iron Man, they introduced the more streamlined Mark 46 suit. They improved the tech so it could be smaller and fit tighter. “We’re getting closer to the bleeding edge suit of the comics,” Earl says. “We got to go inside the suit as well and have the suit up in his helicopter.” Connecting the
Real World But for the Russos, it’s all about Cap and how his character arc has become the perfect metaphor for our times.
“He starts off as a patriot with a very clear villain in World War II, and then when he works for S.H.I.E.L.D. in this clandestine organization, he has to rebel against the structure and convention because he finds out it’s corrupt,” says Joe Russo.
“Cap is no longer the traditionalist and Tony Stark is no longer the free-spirit,” says Anthony Russo. “And Cap becomes an insurgent by the end of this film.”
In other words, in a clever reversal, the hero becomes the anti-hero and the anti-hero becomes the hero.
“We’re on a metaphorical journey with both the genre and the characters,” says Joe Russo. “So there will be finality with Infinity War. Can these characters repair their relationships? Should they repair their relationships? It’s a big act.” Bill Desowitz is Crafts Editor of Indiewire (www.indiewire.com) and the author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com).
Interestingly, Autodesk has split its releases for the 2017 round of entertainment and media software. 3D Studio Max has already come out of the gate, with Maya holding back a bit. Let’s take a quick look at the new goodies that Max has to offer.
With a new clear coat of design branding, Max has the same look and feel of Maya 2016. A more flat graphic approach gives a cleanliness to the interface that kind of drums up memories of Softimage, or maybe it migrated from Flame/ Inferno. The interface is also HDPI aware, so those of you with 4K monitors will be happy to know you won’t wrestle with super-tiny icons.
In the laundry list of new tools, my favorite is the Boolean tool with double precision. (Yup. Total nerd.) Max already had a decent Boolean function to jam objects together into new objects; they even updated it into “ProBoolean.” But now, “Boolean” has outrun the “Pro” version. It’s faster and more accurate. But the fun part is the workflow, which comes with a Boolean Explorer that lets you control all of the operands in the solution. Yup, the Boolean is live and dynamic.
Another handy modeling tool is the Bevel Profile. This is similar to lofting a shape along a spline, but with improved functionality and more controls. You can get complex and refined 3D text or other splines, using either closed or open splines as the profile. I can’t tell you how often I’ve run into broken meshes or pinchy corners trying to get a proper loft.
And then, of course, there is the MCG — the Max Creation Graph editor. I mentioned it for 2016, but Autodesk just keeps on packing in the functionality. New controllers like “Look At,” “Ray to Surface” and “Rotation Spring,” along with ties into the Bullet Solver, just give you more ways to dynamically control the events in your scene. And they’ve added shapes and splines to the objects you can access. Remember, the tools you build with MCG can be bundled up and shared with others.
There is a ton of direct game engine support now that Autodesk’s Stingray is in the loop. FBX is enhanced to include game-centric parameters. Better integration between shaders and ShaderFX into Stingray. And, there is a new Scene Convertor, made to convert Max scenes to gameready scenes, or customized into batch files for other renderers. You can even set up a live link between Max and Stingray, allowing you to use the game engine as a realtime render engine for prototyping your models and textures.
Lots of tools and treats for the Max users out there! And they can be had for $185 per month or by one-, two- or three-year subscription.
The latest release of The Foundry’s flagship, Nuke 10, is almost all about stability and bug fixes. The list of fixes they’ve attended to is a gajillion miles long, and the result is a platform that runs faster, runs smoother, and lets you spend more time making magic than waiting for the software to reboot. That alone should be worth the upgrade. But, just to make things fancy, there are a few key new tools that’ll make life easier.
If you are a Nuke user, you already know about the 3D features and the benefit of having a scanline renderer built into your comp. Because, you know, who knows when you need to do a quicky projection that tracks properly with a camera? Well, now you have a raytracing engine.
What does this get you? Ambient Occlusion, Reflections; cool things like that! Those things that normally make you go ask your fellow CG person for extra passes and deal with eye rolling. Now you can just bring in your model as an Alembic and do it yourself. Windows in a city matte painting would be a perfect example — one of those things that add that bit of realism to shots. It’s not supposed to replace the CG side of things, or even supplant a more robust renderer available for Nuke such as V-Ray from Chaos Group, but rather provide those nice bits to make your comp sing with less fuss.
The other change is in a little tool called RotoPaint. It’s a tool that gets a bad rap because it’s viewed as the tool of those lowest on the compositing totem pole. However, without it, where would we be?
The RotoPaint tool in earlier versions of Nuke had some limitations, mainly because it was doing so much labor. At about 200 paint strokes, things would bog down, corrupt or crash. And why wouldn’t it? It’s storing up all that data and recalculating every time you switch frames. In Nuke 10, RotoPaint is more stable and robust, and it’s faster. No longer do you have to break up your paint into multiple nodes or precomp (although, that’s still not a bad idea).
All of this is good, right? Well, take that and combine RotoPaint with a new VectorBlur 2 node, and you are on your way to creating miracles. VectorBlur 2 uses a movement analysis to calculate pixel-based transformations on an irregular surface. Think a talking face, or a shirt blowing in the wind. What if the client wants to put a swab of paint on the face (yes, I’ve done this) or a logo on the shirt? Tracking the element would be either extremely difficult, or impossible. VectorBlur 2 will track the irregular
Sony Imageworks goes with 4K resolution for the time-traveling tale of Disney’s sequel By Bill Desowitz.
t’s been six years since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and director James Bobin ( The Muppets Most Wanted, The Muppets) wanted a more satirical tone for the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
“The great joy of this film is time travel and exploring Underworld more fully,” he says. “There’s a certain Gothic tinge to Tim Burton that has already been established. And I like the idea of the world being period in a magical way. There are more humans and it’s more real-world than the first movie.”
A lot of new tech also has transpired in the past six years, including blue-screen superseding green-screen and the ascendance of the Sony F65 and ARRI Alexa cameras. Once again, Sony Pictures Imageworks was at the helm on the movie, with Ken Ralston and Jay Redd handling production VFX supervision.
“We were wilder with cameras, wilder with lighting changes, and we had less on set than with the first film,” says Redd. “We thought it would be interesting to shoot 4K for almost everything. And it was really driven by the need to enlarge the Red Queen’s head (Helena Bonham Carter) by more than 50 percent to ensure enough fidelity in our images. So we went with the F65 for the majority of the blue-screen work and the Alexa for night shoots for Underland.”
Digital Close Ups In terms of character animation, the Tweedles (played by Matt Lucas) also were approached differently to achieve greater fidelity of the face. “Working with a couple of our TDs, and Craig Wentworth, our digital effects supervisor, we were able to shoot normally on set and then map that onto a more detailed version of his face that we built in the computer.”
So as a result of this new mapping technique, they’ve retained more of Lucas’ performance as the twins. “The animators used the real footage along with rotoscoping, and the compositing methods also became tighter and more robust so you don’t see regions where you’re blending the face into the model,” says Redd.
The newest character, Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), is a hybrid clock machine/person with a lot of CG enhancement. Imageworks filled his chest with a fully dimensional clock that looks Victorian steampunk. And every time he turns around, you see CG brass and gold gear works along with steam and sparks pouring out. They also made his eyes glow and applied digital makeup when his skin breaks down late in the movie. Back in Time With Alice (Mia Wasikowska) traveling back in time to save her old friend, Hatter (Johnny Depp), from the depths of despair, she encounters younger versions of many familiar characters.
“We had to build new versions of those characters (including the Tweedles, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit and March Hare),” Redd says. “What would be a 12-year-old version? What changes over time would occur from child or teenager into an adult? The Tweedles, for example, were rounder but with softer features and less wrinkles. Cheshire was smaller but fuzzier with larger eyes and shorter paws.”
Meanwhile, for the “Oceans of Time” time traveling effect, Imageworks spent a year of R&D pertaining to art-directed water simulation. “What if the ocean contained all of the moments of memories that have ever happened? And instead of going through a portal, what if you broke through surfaces and were part of a vast, endless ocean?” Redd says. “These visual moments appear inside the wave rather than being projected on top. Imagine a 180-foot wave towering over you with an animated Cheshire Cat talking to you from inside it. There’s an ocean surface on top as well — you’re surrounded by waves and lightning and stormy seas and spray.”
Time’s Castle was even more of a massive undertaking, with everything inside built digitally: a combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau flourishes. “It’s the biggest, darkest cathedral you could imagine, made up of obsidian and shiny, glossy surfaces. But it even has its own atmosphere of clouds and smoke and steam. And the building is also a clock made up of hundreds of thousands of gears, pistons, cables and chains. It’s endless and almost Escher-esque in its immensity,” Redd says. Bill Desowitz is Crafts Editor of Indiewire (www.indiewire.com) and the author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com).
WILM goes for more nuance and subtlety in the acting to take the comedy and action to a new level for By Karen Idelson.
ith generations of moviegoers in love with all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, filmmakers on the latest – and most advanced – foray into this universe set out to make this one special by focusing on one thing: actors.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, this summer’s sequel to the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, pushed Not Your Father’s
Cowabunga Since the TMNT movies are dynamic action-comedies, it was crucial that their system be more animator-friendly so artists working on the films would be able to pluck moments from multiple takes and stay true to the comedic timing of the film.
There also were four teams at four Industrial Light & Magic locations working on the film at once. This meant coordinating between London, San Francisco, Vancouver and Singapore during the course of the movie.
“I think we had close to 900 character shots and about an hour and seven minutes out of the movie,” says Helman. “So that’s almost three quarters of the movie.” Turtle Spoiler Alert Filmmakers also aimed for the most subtle facial expressions possible because the turtles don’t just stick to comedy. They face a dilemma, a choice — as you do when you’re a super hero type. The turtles have a chance to become human, and must weigh whether to continue as they are or be something or someone else.
For the Love of Michelangelo Since this film is part of a multigenerational tradition, it should come as no surprise that TMNT animation supervisor Kevin Martel felt a special connection to the project, as someone who’d been thinking about the TMNT universe for a long time.
“I was a big fan of the comic book and an even bigger fan of the original animated series back in 1988, and a big fan of the original movies as well,” says Martel. “I definitely have my own fan needs and wants for this movie.”
Martel believes they hit their stride with this film since the actors were more familiar with the characters and the performance capture process and the tech itself was so improved. The idea is to really put audiences in touch with the turtles’ personalities.
“As far as the turtles, they stay true to their types and characteristics,” says Martel. “Everything from their body posture to their more subtle expressions is in there because we wanted to get inside each character’s head and make their feelings come out for the audience.”
The team continued to rely on Maya for this production as well as some scripted in-house Maya add-ons, but largely the work of making the turtles so real came down to Martel’s animation team, which he says had to summon “every animator ability” to make the film what it is.
“The most challenging part of this film is the third act,” says Martel. “It’s a fully CG sequence at that point, so there’s no break in there anywhere and you’re trying to do all this visual storytelling as well as keeping the heart of the turtles in there for the audience.”
Martel, a Michelangelo fan for pizza reasons, feels this project charts important new territory for the film and the characters. They’re more real and more is possible because of the merger between the actors’ performances and the animators’ artistry.
“The enormity of this project had to do with the detail and the subtlety of the work,” says Martel. “But the turtles are stronger because they each have different perspectives on how to solve problems and our team – which was located in four different cities – had those different perspectives on solving problems, and I think everyone can relate to that.” [
With hundreds of episodes and 18 features — and counting — under its belt, the quintessential collectible card game-based franchise shows no signs of wearing out its welcome. By Charles Solomon.
Critics and audiences were blown away by this mature, emotionally deep feature from Being John Malkovich scribe Charlie Kaufman and co-directed by Duke Johnson ( Moral Orel) — and the groundbreaking stop-motion animation from Starburns Industries didn’t hurt. In addition to an Oscar and Annie nomina- The latest feature from director Mamoru Hosoda ( The Wolf Children, Summer Wars), which took the 2016 Japan Academy Prize for Animation, is a fresh tribute to the anime maestro’s feel for imbuing fantastical stories with relatable emotion and characters. The 2D feature introduces the