IMMORTALS: Matt Jacobs – VFX Supervisor – Tippett Studio

Matt Jacobs arrived at Tippett Studio in 1997. As a compositor, he has worked on films such as MISSION TO MARS, HOLLOW MAN or BLADE II. And then as Lead compositor, he takes care of the films MEN IN BLACK II, MATRIX REVOLUTIONS or CONSTANTINE. In 2007, he will oversee the effects of THE GOLDEN COMPASS then TWILIGHT SAGA HESITATION and TEMPTATION and not forgetting HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2.

What is your background?
I’ve been with Tippett Studio since 1997 and supervising projects here since 2006. Before that I was a compositing supervisor at the studio. I was brought to visual effects and film by my initial interest in photography. I’ve been photographing and printing pictures since I was a kid.

How did Tippett Studio got involved on this show?
IMMORTALS was brought to Tippett Studio in large part by Craig Hayes a former VFX Supervisor at the studio. He had been hired on by production to help design the God/Titan battle sequence. Subsequently he brought us on to do a test for the Titans.

How was the collaboration with director Tarsem Singh?
Fantastic. Tarsem was extremely collaborative throughout the production. He knows what he is looking for and at the same time is very open to others ideas.

What was his approach about VFX?
Not to put words in his mouth but I don’t think he cares much for visual effects as a whole. I think he would get everything in camera if possible. So we knew the Titans would be a challenge. They had to look photo real and they had to be seamless across the cut so that the effect wasn’t given away before we started dismembering the Titans.

How was the collaboration with Production VFX Supervisor Raymond Gieringer?
Working with Raymond was as well a very collaborative experience. Raymond had a great insight
into what Tarsem was looking for from the picture and helped guide us to that end.

What sequences have you made on this show?
First and foremost the Gods battling the Titans in the tomb. We also created a hyena type creature dubbed “the Mongrel” as well as working on the final shot of the picture that was referred to as the Sistine Chapel shot.

How did you create and animate the Hyena?
The Mongrel was essentially a bastardized canine we had as a pre-existing asset. We re-groomed the fur and markings on the beast as well as tweaked the ears, head and body proportions to take our canine in a more hyena-like direction.

How was filmed the Titans fight?
The Titan fight was a complicated choreography created by Jean Frenette in Montreal. He had worked out this elaborate fight where the five gods were simultaneously dispatching of the Titans. We had to work hard to break down the choreography ourselves so that once principle photography was done we could recreate the pieces we needed on the motion capture stage

Can you tell us more about the use of the motion capture for the fight?
Motion capture became the basis for our animation. We were able to use the same stunt men that played the Titans and their God counterparts for the mocap session. That made a huge difference. When we had the processed mocap peformances lined up to the production plates it was amazing how well the stunt men had done in recreating the exact performances they did in front of the camera.

Have you created digi-doubles for the Titans and the Gods?
There was basically one Titan we used throughout the sequence. We made alterations to the paint when needed to better match a particular actor when needed. For the Gods we did have scans of all of them but for those characters we were really only creating wounds.

How did you created the Titans cuts in many parts?
Basically we would split the model where we needed, cap it if say it was a leg or head being chopped off then use Z-Brush and vector displacement to add the gory details inside.

Can you tell us how you created the blood?
All of the blood was made in Houdini. We chose to go with Houdini because of it’s ability to create highly stylized fluids.

How did you manage the slow-motion aspect of the fight?
We created the slow motion effects by stretching out the animation. From the basic mocap data our animators would take over to drive and finesse the performance, ramping into the slow motion death was just a matter of taste. Sometimes we did it faster, other times slower. The blood was the more difficult thing to work out in slow motion. To get an interesting look from the dynamics the blood had to be emitted at a normal rate and the drag fields applied to get it to linger in space.

How did you created the beautiful shot of Sistine Chapel showing the Gods and Titans fighting in the sky?
Our work on the Sistine Chapel shot was to replace some of the practical Titans with our CGI ones so that the shot could have some more of the character of the rest of the film. Initially there wasn’t any blood but in keeping with the intensity of the other battle scenes we were asked to gore things up a bit. That meant killing a few Titans an eviscerating a horse.

Have you developed specific tools for this show?
We made some great improvements to our toolset on this show. Obviously the introduction of Houdini and motion capture into our pipe was a big deal. This was also the first show we used Nuke. For me that was really neat since I came from a comping background. There were things we did in Nuke that made life much easier. Our compositors added a lot of dripping blood and splatter to the shots inside Nukes 3D space.

What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
There were challenges on multiple fronts. I’m not sure any one trumped the other. I guess if I have to choose one it would be slow motion blood.

What is your next project?
I’m working with Tarsem again on MIRROR, MIRROR.

What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
JAWS, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, APOCALYPSE NOW and AIRPLANE!

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Tippett Studio: Dedicated page about IMMORTALS on Tippett Studio website.

// IMMORTALS – VFX BREAKDOWN – TIPPETT STUDIO

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2012

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Vincent Frei

Founder & Editor-in-Chief // VES Member // Former comp artist

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