Animation Magazine - - Op­por­tu­ni­ties -

‘It’s not like work­ing with Cap­tain Amer­ica and Spidey where there are cer­tain num­ber of rules be­cause Cap and Peter Parker are flesh and blood. You don’t have any of that in the Thor uni­verse be­cause your main char­ac­ter is a god!’ — Jake Mor­ri­son, vfx su­per­vi­sor

ital ver­sion of Char­lie’s face.

Shoot­ing Dry for Wet Ber­ardi soon un­der­stood af­ter ex­ten­sive talks about how Char­lie would ap­pear on screen that there was a lot of wa­ter work in the story, and that the wa­ter would have to act as a player in the film, too.

“The open­ing shot of the film, which was two min­utes long, is en­tirely in a wa­ter environmen­t,” says Ber­ardi. “We had shot ref­er­ence in Ge­or­gian Bay, north of Toronto, be­cause I’m a big be­liever in ref­er­ence. We got an un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher and we had him swim through var­i­ous rocky un­der­wa­ter ar­eas and got beau­ti­ful work.”

The ref­er­ence work helped them get a sense of what they wanted but ul­ti­mately, del Toro wanted greater con­trol over the look and sur­rounds him is dig­i­tal.

Put­ting to­gether such ex­ten­sive wa­ter work wasn’t new for Mr. X, since they’d al­ready done lots of it on shows like Vik­ings, but the de­tail of it was unique. Ber­ardi soon pulled to­gether his Hou­dini ef­fects team and reached out to the team at SideFX (makers of Hou­dini) to cre­ate some­thing new for the film. Mr. X also had pro­pri­etary in-house tools. A Lengthy Post for Char­lie Af­ter fill­ing their tool­box with the most pow­er­ful things they could find, the team inched through the scenes and made choices on a shotby-shot ba­sis about what to use. The di­rec­tor was in­ter­ested in the en­tire process and joined the crew in cast­ing which an­i­ma­tors would work on spe­cific scenes. Many of the most com­plex wa­ter scenes took eight to 15 hours to ren­der just one frame.

“Nor­mally on a fea­ture you have 20 to 26 weeks to do all the post-pro­duc­tion work, but we couldn’t have made this film on that sched­ule,” says Ber­ardi. “Luck­ily we had longer. We had 45 weeks in post, and we had a crew of over 200 peo­ple work­ing on the film at Mr. X for the en­tire du­ra­tion of the show, and we just barely made it. I think we de­liv­ered our fi­nal shot on the day be­fore Guillermo jumped on a plane to screen the film at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val.”

Now that it’s done, Ber­ardi is happy to look back on his time with Char­lie sub­merged in dig­i­tal wa­ter. “Dur­ing shoot­ing you’re al­ways ex­hausted or bor­der­line ex­hausted, and then in post-pro­duc­tion you get re­demp­tion, be­cause you see the fruits of your la­bor,” he says. Fox Search­light re­leases The Shape of Wa­ter in the­aters on De­cem­ber 8.

we work, from gath­er­ing ref­er­ence dur­ing the shoot all the way through to fi­nal de­liv­ery.”

“Not that it is a new for­mat, but the num­ber of IMAX movies is in­creas­ing, and they cer­tainly need to be shot in a cer­tain way, and then re-framed for more stan­dard cin­ema screens due to as­pect ra­tios be­ing so dif­fer­ent from each other, and also how an au­di­ence phys­i­cally views an im­age as large as IMAX,” Lock­ley says. “We most re­cently com­pleted Dunkirk for IMAX and 70mm 5-perf at a res­o­lu­tion of 6.1K. Most movies we work on are still ren­dered be­tween 2K and 3K, so 6.1K is a big jump, and re­quires a com­plete re-think on how to build and tex­ture as­sets for the movie.”

Lock­ley adds that “tex­tur­ing needs a lot of work, and gath­er­ing tex­ture pho­tog­ra­phy at the high­est res­o­lu­tion and de­tail is crit­i­cal to avoid­ing CG as­sets look­ing mushy in high-res­o­lu­tion frames. Our tex­ture artists re­ally have to keep an eye on whether the de­tail­ing is go­ing to hold up on such a huge pro­jec­tion screen.”

Such is­sues “come up all through our vfx pipe­line,” he adds. “Com­posit­ing has to be im­mac­u­late — ev­ery hair on an ac­tor’s head is enor­mous. Edge work comes un­der a lot of scru­tiny, and roto and paint de­part­ments are pushed to a break­ing point to keep ev­ery bit of de­tail. From a tech­ni­cal point of view, the pro­cess­ing power needed to ren­der and view these large im­ages is colos­sal, not to men­tion the disc space re­quired to store it. Just get­ting 24FPS play­back on 6K EXR frames was quite a chal­lenge.”

Vir­tual Pro­duc­tion In terms of vir­tual re­al­ity, it’s not yet clear what the size, scope and na­ture of the mar­ket for ac­tual VR con­tent might even­tu­ally be, or how that might im­pact the vis­ual ef­fects in­dus­try. But what is clear is that tools for pre­vi­su­al­iza­tion, pro­duc­tion and post-pro­duc­tion of ma-

jor movies have flowed out of that sec­tor and are now cen­tral to the vis­ual-ef­fects in­dus­try. Var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of vir­tual cin­e­matog­ra­phy sys­tems, high-end ren­der­ing en­gines, live-ac­tion cam­era track­ing tools, real-time com­posit­ing meth­ods on set, and much more are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing part of the reg­u­lar tool­kit of vis­ual ef­fects pro­fes­sion­als.

Fur­ther, in some cases, such tech­niques are the foun­da­tion of cer­tain pro­duc­tions in which live-ac­tion peo­ple and el­e­ments are del­i­cately sewn into pho­to­real CG en­vi­ron­ments, as the orig­i­nal Avatar (2009) and its up­com­ing se­quels, 2016’s Jun­gle Book, the up­com­ing Lion King (2019) and oth­ers are now il­lus­trat­ing.

Such tech­nol­ogy and meth­ods are an­other of those game-chang­ers to help film­mak­ers bet­ter re­al­ize their ul­ti­mate vi­sion, when used cor­rectly. Le­gato, who has been a pioneer on the fore­front of such tech­niques and who is now us­ing them as vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor on the up­com­ing The Lion King, says the whole point is to root such an­i­mated movies in re­al­ity. As such, vir­tual pro­duc­tion tech­niques are evolv­ing even as we speak into “a new way of mak­ing a film al­to­gether — live-ac­tion ver­sions of movies that do not look at all com­puter gen­er­ated.”

“You can now make a movie — a to­tal movie, not just a se­quence, but a movie — rooted in re­al­ity, even though it was ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ated,” he says. “You go to great pains to make sure the ar­ti­fi­cial part is re­moved from the au­di­ence’s purview. Any­one can now walk onto elab­o­rate sets and learn how to light and shoot them, what the best way of telling their story is, with­out be­ing lim­ited by bud­get and time in the same way they would be lim­ited by [scout­ing or shoot­ing at a real location].”

Scott Mead­ows, vi­su­al­iza­tion depart­ment su­per­vi­sor at Dig­i­tal Do­main, agrees, adding that the pre­vi­su­al­iza­tion side of the in­dus­try has been greatly aided by the ar­rival of VR-re­lated tools.

“Ob­vi­ously, uti­liz­ing game en­gines, just be­ing able to pipe this stuff in real time, be­ing able to work with the cin­e­matog­ra­pher and di­rec­tor in real time to vi­su­al­ize scenes ahead of time, and to pro­vide lots of in­for­ma­tion to ac­tors who are work­ing on a blue-screen or mo­cap stage, is in­cred­i­bly help­ful,” Mead­ows says. “We now have the tools to al­low [film­mak­ers] and ac­tors to see what [per­for­mances] would re­ally be like in the dig­i­tal world.”

Hendler adds that so­phis­ti­cated GPU ren­der­ing/game en­gines are al­low­ing “pre­view ren­ders for our an­i­ma­tors” to now in­clude “full global il­lu­mi­na­tion, phys­i­cally cor­rect light­ing and de­tailed fa­cial per­for­mances just to pre-

Blade Run­ner 2049 bench­mark ev­ery time a new project ar­rives. “Newer mo­tion-cap­ture suits, like the Xsens sys­tem that we use, al­low the ac­tor to put the suit on and go any­where,” Mead­ows says. “I was re­cently on a project work­ing with a stunt team, and ba­si­cally, on their off hours, we had them throw on the suits and act out some fight chore­og­ra­phy and then quickly, within a day or two, we were able to move in and put cam­eras on it. The mo­tion [on location] may not be as high fi­delity as on a tra­di­tional mo-cap stage, but the flex­i­bil­ity that you get by sim­ply be­ing able to throw the suit on, wire­less, run­ning it off a lap­top, or even con­trol­ling it with an iPad or iPhone to record, is tremen­dous.

“Mix that with the way they are us­ing scan­ning de­vices to­day to scan sets dur­ing shoot-

(20th Cen­tury Fox) (Warner Bros./ New Line Cin­e­mas)

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