What is your background?
My CG & VFX work started in 1997 at Digital Frontier inc. As VFX supervisor, I started in 2004. I worked on some famous films such as DEATH NOTE, GANTZ, I AM A HERO, INUYASHIKI and the Full CG movie RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION and RESIDENT EVIL: DAMNATION as CG Director.
How did you get involved on this show?
Before this film, I worked on 4 films with director Shinsuke Sato: GANTZ, GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER, I AM A HERO and DEATH NOTE: LIGHT UP THE NEW WORLD. So he hoped me to join this film.
How was this new collaboration with director Shinsuke Sato?
As mentioned above, this film is not my first show with director Shinsuke Sato, so I can understand what he needs and what he is seeking for. Sometimes, he asks for something beyond imagination. However, it pulls in creativity.
What was his expectations and approach about the visual effects?
Director Shinsuke Sato always seek a reality and presence, even if it is a living thing that actually does not exist. And at the same time, moving and impression must be cool.
How did you organize the work with your VFX Producer?
First of all, from the scenario, we calculated the expected number of cuts and the volume of the VFX and thought about how to fit it into the schedule and budget. We decided to reconstruct the original vision of the Manga world and design for the movie. The Hollow that appeared expressed the fact that it is a creature of the same world as the dead gods, considering the design that incorporates Japanese influences based on the original design.
Can you tell us more about the previz and postviz work?
We made the previz for the Grand Fisher sequence. I decided the camera work and the Grand Fisher layout based on a storyboard as to how big it looks in the Open set. The Open set is LowPoly BG model is based on the CAD data made by the art department.
We scanned many buildings for Station Rotary for its CG model using Faro Laser Scanner. This equipment was very effective to make the building look realistic. The Station Rotary of this film was is a fictitious location with stores & stations.
After offline is over, we shooted Motion Capture for the digital doubles of Fishborn, Grand Fisher and Shibigami. Then we created animatics, final animation, cloth and hair simulation, smoke FX and etc…
Can you explain in detail about their creation and especially the Grand Fisher?
Fishborn incorporates more elements of fish rather than the original design. Fish scales, dorsal fin…, and adding straw skirt based on Japanese damon « Oni ».
The design for Hexapodas is based on poison spider. The poison spider is many kinds of red stomack and red spot. So add a red color to legs and stomach.
For the Grand Fisher, his design is based on « Namahage », and a big bear. « Namahage » is a Japanese traditional messenger of God that wear a mask like demon, and body is coverd with « Mino » straw rain?cape. « Mino » change to Hairs. Myriad of hair is growing in the whole body, and as its hair grows, a tentacle is formed.
Can you tell us more about their rigging and animation?
All the Hollows have a round cavity in the chest, so we add a rig not distort this cavity.
Fishborn rigging is close to a human rig. One feature is the neck stretching. I made a model of elongated neck and made it to be a bellows neck when shrinking.
Hexapodas rigging is using two IKs for multi-joint feet (5 joints).
Grand Fisher rigging is like an animal. Multiple thin tentacles are gathered on one base tentacle. The base tentacle is for animation, the multiple thin tentacles are following up to the base and sway individually simulating spline IK. In order to make aimed movements, I made a mechanism to diverge and gather.
How did you handle the specific shape of the Grand Fisher?
The Grand Fisher’s hair was made with Yeti in Maya. The controls of Yeti Hair is with many nurbs and it simulate the hair movements with body move and wind turbulence. Grand Fisher has many Tentacles (gathering many body hairs), their base motion is IK joint animation in Motion Builder and then we add the Yeti and Maya Hair simulations.
Can you elaborate on the animation work for the Hollows?
This hollow animation is based on Motion capture. Basic body animation is using Motion Builder, and final animation is using Maya. This hollow is 14.8 feet tall. Characeristic is Long Arms, Stoop, and Neck stretch very long. The basic movement is slow, but it moves quickly when you notice humans and Shinigami.
This hollow has six multi-joint feet that absorbing shock. We make animation by devising feet motion to make it look like a strong action scene in accordance with the movements of the actor, touching the sword and moving down the death god under the body. To put weight on the body, using the suspension of an articulated foot,
added body sink and motion swayed to the left and right.
This hollow animation is based on Motion capture. Animate a motion based on the movement of the bear. This hollow has 4 types.
- is only moving hair of mass. The mass deforming wavy, and hair is swinging like being in the water.
- is Tentacles are extending from the mass. We animated the Tentacles feeling eerily moving like having a will.
- is basic style,has big mask,and big Quadruped creature like a big bear,and many long tentacles.
- is standing with two legs and waving tentacles more freely to make a huge tornado.
Basic body animation is using Motion Builder, and final animation is using Maya.
All Hollow’s faces is a mask, like the Japanese traditional calture « Noh » mask.
These expressionless masks give more fear. So facial expressions has only moving eye and open mouth, the facial expression change was expressed by shadow. This method succeeded.
Can you tell us more about their shaders and textures?
Fishborn has 391 textures using udim. Albedo, NormalMap, ReflectionMask and Glossiness. Basic body shader is VraySkinMaterial. Adding iridescent reflection to parts of body, like fish scales.
Hexapodas has 298 textures using udim. Albedo, NormalMap, SpecularMap, SpecularMask, ReflectionMask and Glossiness. Using VrayMaterial and blending metaric Material to some areas.
Grand Fisher has 77 textures using udim. Albedo, NormalMap and SpecularMap.
Grand Fisher body is coverd Yeti hair using VrayHairMaterials. Other Parts is VrayMaterial.
How was simulated their presence on-set for the framing and the interactions?
In this film, we used Ncam (Live tracking camera system) for framing the big scale Hollows. This system use is link to Motion Builder. The CG character animation in Motion Builder then looks through all monitors, shooting camera and the check monitor. So this is best way to dicede framing.
How did you work with the SFX and stunt teams?
Director Shinsuke Sato and the stunt team filmed video storyboard of the Hollow & Shinigamis sequence. My VFX team make a low-res Hollow model from the Concept Art to share the Hollow size. Then we make a previs of the Hollow sequence, editing the video storyoard, then we discuss the shooting plan. Thanks to Ncam, the crew and the actors could check the Hollows size while shooting & action.
There are many FX when a Hollow expire. How did you create these various FX elements?
Using Houdini, we emit many smoke from section and Hollow body changing into small particles. To change particles using some masks in composite. Emitting smoke and particles gather towards the Light. The Light is done using Optical Flare in Nuke.
The hero meet a Quincy that is using an arc. Can you explain in detail about his creation and his arrows?
This FX is emitting a spiritual power in the body. The Power distort the air, so the visual is like visualizing fluid of wind tunnel experiment. Spiritual powers are gathered from the spirit bow to the tip of the arrow, and energy is provided. Arrow has energy flow from tip to hand. Under the effect,
distortion occurs due to pressure difference.
The movie ends with a big fight between Ichigo and the Shinigamis. How did you enhance this fight?
The sword « Zabimaru » motion is very important. The motion was changed as Ichigo becomes stronger. So we poured emotions into the movement of Zabimaru.
Two massive swords are used during this sequence. Can you tell us more about them?
The Shinigami Renji has a strange sword called « Zabimaru », that means Snake tail sword. So his sword move like a snake, and length is freedom stretching & shrinking and moves as if the sword had a will.
Zabimaru has many blade joint.
Which shot was the most complicated to create and why?
The shot in a forest, Grand Fisher puts two girls out of the body while extending the tentacles. I had to show the tentacles to extend from the body and that the tentacles grabbed the CG live-action girls. I wanted to show that the grasping tentacles were always staggering, so I got a model of a temporary CG girl, and matchmoving Live-action girls in Nuke. For interactions we are using Gridwarp to deform the Live-action girls plate.
Is there something specific that gives you some really short nights?
Took much times for thinking how the Grand Fisher Hair and tentacles simulations are working. That needed a freedom and control to make it look like intention and self collide.
What is your favorite shot or sequence?
My personal favorite sequence is the Grand Fisher sequence in Station Rotary. This sequence was not simple. Whether how to move the hair and tentacles, how to look beautifully and horribly at the same time, how to make it realisable was the most important point of the VFX work on this film. The final images looks way better than what I was thinking when we stated the work.
What is your best memory on this show?
The Grand Fisher stand up shot. This Grand Fisher size is biggest in this show and looks like a Kaijyu. I purposely changed the size. I think it was given an strong impression to the audience.
How long have you worked on this show?
Shooting start at July 2016, VFX finished at March 2018. Same time we created VFX for other film, INUYASHIKI. So November 2016 – January 2018, I spend half the time for 2 films VFX.
What’s the VFX shots count?
All VFX shots is 670 shots.
Hollow sequence shot count is 170 shots.
Shinigamis battle sequence shot count is 262 shots.
What was the size of your team?
My team, production Digital Frontier inc. sfuffs is 116.
All VFX stuffs count is 191.
What is your next project?
Just now game cinematic movie in progress.
A big thanks for your time.
BLEACH – TRAILER
We can watch the movie on Netflix now!
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Digital Frontier: Official website of Digital Frontier.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2018