Avi Goodman began his career in visual effects as an animator at Weta Digital for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS. He then joined Iloura and worked on films such as AUSTRALIA, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK or TED.
How did Iloura get involved on this show?
The film was shooting in Melbourne and Lakeshore Entertainment were keen to form a relationship with a strong vfx facility who was local to the production. Hence our involvement in the film.
How was your collaboration with director Stuart Beattie?
We had meetings with Stuart in Pre production where we were able to go through the fx requirements and understand his vision for the film. Apart from these initial meetings our contact and feedback from Stuart was pretty much filtered through the VFX supervisor James McQuaide.
What was his approach about the visual effects?
We found Stuart to have a very practical approach to the vfx and was willing to look at ways to doing things as economically as possible. His vision for the Gargoyles was pretty clear and after consultations with him our designs for the characters were relatively quickly realized.
How did you work with Production VFX Supervisor James McQuaide?
James was an integral part of the production and post production process, whilst also being on set for the shoot he was leading up the Post Vis team also operating out of Melbourne. The script continued to evolve during and even beyond shooting through the Post Vis which allowed James to continue to refine the story points right up until turnover of shots. James was our main contact for all shot briefing and feedback and was our conduit to Stuart.
What was your role on this project?
Iloura was considered the lead vendor on the show. We were responsible for the creation of the majority of the hero assets and our shot production involved the epic battle sequences between Gargoyle and Demons.
What did Iloura have made on this show?
Iloura designed and generated the 3D Gargoyle characters, the cathedral and the surrounding gothic city environment. We were also required to develop a crowd solve for the demon armies.
Can you describe to us one of your typical day on-set and then during the post?
Iloura was not actually on set for this production.
How did you approach the design of the Gargoyles?
We were given some initial concept paintings and Zbrush sculptures for what the characters might look like. Using these initial concepts as a guide we went through a process in Zbrush of refining the proportions, anatomy and surface texture of the creatures in order to fulfill the brief that these had to be magnificent creatures, sculpted in stone and moving with believable weight and dynamics. We also sculpted the faces of the creatures to resemble their human counterparts.
A generic creature was signed off initially and then modified for the individual characters.
The high resolution Zbrush sculptures were exported and lower resolution topology was created for rigging. The rigging that was developed had to encapsulate the complexities of flight with the weight of stone. The final textures were done in Mari and had to find the right blend of malleability and that sculpted stone look.
Can you tell us more about their rigging and animation?
The rigging and animation were done in Maya. Animation for the Gargoyles were all done as key frame animation , but the demon crowds animation was mostly achieved utilizing mocap libraries.
How did you handle the lighting of the Gargoyles?
We rendered the maya scenes through Vray.
The Gargoyles transform in humans. Can you tell us more about these transitions?
These were designed to use the wings of the Gargoyles and the cloak of the humans actors as the transition device going from live action cloak to cg gargoyle pick up.
Can you explain in details about the creation of the Cathedral and the city?
Of our main assets, the city and cathedral was by far our biggest – it was briefed as a gothic city but set sometime in the future so primarily we focussed on referencing the architecture belonging to a city like Prague which was sited by production as the desired look. Art department furnished us with some imagery but primarily it was a lot of looking at architecture on the net, referencing high res detail from our own local buildings for textures etc. . Our other main asset was the gargoyle – the inspiration of these was simple – they had to look and behave like epic gargoyle statues as seen on classic gothic architecture but have noble and majestic characteristics, as they are, after all characters. We had some early concept art work from production and were searched practical statues of course, but the characteristics of the design is an interpretative and creative process.
Can you tell us more about the various destructions of the environments?
One of our biggest destruction scenes was where the gargoyle in pursuit of Adam flies into Adams apartment – the wings of the gargoyles cutting through the walls of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire roof structure. There was extensive R&D done for the scene with resulted in a number of different techniques to solve the action. Houdini was used to sort the wings slicing through the walls shot, while the roof collapsing was done in 3D studio Max and thinking Particles.
Have you created previz for the action sequences?
Previs/ Post vis was done by a team connected to production and organized by James McQuaide. The team though was housed in the same building as Iloura so the communication was pretty immediate. One of the Lead post vis artist came over to Iloura when shot production began in earnest and became our layout artist which proved valuable in terms of translating the 3 d post vis scenes into the Iloura pipeline.
Can you explain in details about the demons crowds creation?
One of our most complex challenges was how to deal with the Demon crowds who attack the Gargoyles in their hundreds in the cathedral environment – both on the roof tops and on the ground. We utilized a crowd tool called Miarmy to help us solve this particular requirement. The demons are humanoid and behave in the same way as humans but with super human ability. In order to build up libraries of believable motion and characteristics for the hyped up demon crowd we utilized Deakin Motion Lab in Melbourne for some motion capture. They were able to provide an acrobat talent who was amazingly energetic and agile. He performed lots of runs, runs with turns, runs with dodges, running and dying, jumping, fighting off attackers. We tried to keep the mocap fairly modular so that we could stitch passes together in order to give us sustained performances for the shots. The cycles were integrated into our crowd libraries and utilized by the animators as required depending on the individual demands of the shot.
What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
The film ultimate challenge for us was dealing with shots that were 90% to 100 % cg. Mostly our work has been about integrating cg elements in to live action plates. So much of the work in I FRANKENSTEIN was integrating some blue screen actors into massive environments and interacting with animated cg characters. Many of the shots were 100 % CG. This was the first time we had to consistently deal with shot after shot needing big elements to render through our pipeline. Managing the data and the artists that had to continuously supply a vast variety of elements for the shots proved to be a huge challenge for us and was a steep learning curve.
What do you keep from this experience?
We have most certainly been educated into the impactful nature that an asset heavy film will impose on a pipeline. We understood as we progressed into the production of the film how quickly and how dense the assets on a show like this can become and challenge the capacity of a facility.
How long have you worked on this film?
Iloura worked 10 months on this project.
How many shots have you done?
Iloura produced around 250 shots.
What was the size of your team?
In total we had around 140 people work on the film.
What is your next project?
Iloura is currently working on SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS 2 for Paramount Pictures due for release in Feb 2015.
A big thanks for your time.
// WANT TO KNOW MORE?
– Iloura: Dedicated page about I, FRANKENSTEIN on Iloura website.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2014