Having worked for many years at Pacific Data Images (PDI) on projects such as TOYS, TRUE LIES or NATURAL BORN KILLERS, Rebecca Marie founded Hammerhead in 1995 with Jamie Dixon, Thad Beier and Dan Chuba. She has participated in very many movies including TITANIC, DEEP BLUE SEA, X2, WANTED or THE BOOK OF ELI.
What is your background?
I have a degree in fine art and put myself through school working with computers which led me to a job doing computer graphics for commercials.
I worked at several CG companies as a senior compositor and began doing art direction and vfx supervising. In 1995 I was one of the 4 founding partners of Hammerhead where I have done matte painting, supervising, art direction and producing. I was the visual effects producer on this film.
How did Hammerhead get involved on this show?
Hammerhead was asked to bid on the show by Paramount and Jon Farhat.
How was the collaboration with director Tommy Wirkola?
Most of our interaction with Tommy was through Visual Effects Supervisor Jon Farhat.
We would get feedback from Tommy through him and address his notes.
What was his approach with the visual effects?
Tommy seemed to want to keep everything as physical as possible and to have the visual effects blend seamlessly with the practical effects.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Production VFX Supervisor Jon Farhat?
We have know Jon for quite awhile and worked with him in the past. I feel as though we had quite a good working relationship, with good communication and collaboration on this project. He is very passionate about the work and excited to see shots come together as envisioned.
What have you done on this show?
We did over 400 shots on HANSEL AND GRETEL. We were the primary effect house on the movie. We had two vfx supervisors.
We did a wide range of shots including wire removals, matte paintings, to blood, 3D Edward, CG weapons, CG fire, wand effects, morphs, CG trees and branches, and set extensions.
Can you tell us more about the shooting in Babelsberg?
We sent one of our supervisors, Michael Kennedy to assist Jon during part of shooting.
Many times there were 2 units going at once. We had another supervisor Justin Jones on the movie as well doing development while shooting was happening.
Have you created the set extensions for Augsburg?
We did not do the Augsburg set extension that you see from above. That work was done in Germany.
There are many environments in the movie. What indications and references did you received for these?
Jon provided us with a lot of photography, stills and quicktimes of locations in Germany that were going to be used in the movie.
For the Stone Circle set we also got Lidar of the set so we could use that for tracking and reference for set extensions.
Can you explain to us the environments creation?
Since Stone Circle was a set and we would mostly be doing extensions we were able to combine 2D and 3D techniques to achieve our goals.
Everything seen out in the distance from Stone Circle was layered matte paintings tracked in 3D. We also used matte paints for several wide establishing shots of Stone Circle and paintings projected on geometry for many of the set extensions.
For the witch traps sequence where the witches are flying way from Stone Circle and get cut by the wires, we took plates shot in Germany moving through forest and sped them up and stitched multiple takes together to get the speed and distance traveled correct. We also generated additional CG trees as foreground elements.
How did you created the various FX for the witches?
There were many different witch effects in this movie.
One of the first things we began work on were the wand effects. Each witch had a unique wand look when casting spells.
We went through an R& D phase to come up with the overall wand effect idea and then tailored it to each witch to represent her dark or light characteristics.
There are many shots in which the Witches are flying on their broomsticks. How did you approach and created these shots?
For most of the witches flying, the witches were shot against greenscreen on flying broomstick rigs. We then removed wires and rigs and composited them into the applicable setting with the effects needed. There were many flying with scenes in which the witches were shot in the location on flying rigs and the wires were removed later. We did create CG witches for a few scenes. We used CG witches for distant flying witches in Stone Circle and a CG Muriel on the establishing shot of Stone Circle at night. We also handed off from live action to CG witches and witch parts on the shot where the witches get cut by the wires.
How have you enhanced the Edward’s makeup?
For most of Edward’s shots he is exactly as shot. There were a handful of shots that we did some performance enhancement.
The filmmakers felt these shots needed a bit more emotional impact. For these shots we used both 2D and 3D solutions. The challenge was to add more expression to Edward without making him seem different than he did in all the other shots. We mainly used a 2D warping tool for changing dialogue or facial expression with 3D assist when necessary.
Can you tell us more about the creation of CG Edward?
There were a couple shots that we always knew we would need a 3D Edward for. Edward running out of the forest and killing the deputies was planned with a 3D Edward from the start. We began by scanning the practical Edward and taking photos for textures. We did the head first and scanned the full body later in Germany. Then we took this and began building and rigging a CG model to match. Of course in between this and the actual shooting of Edward went through some changes. For example he got dirtier and bloodier in some scenes. We created textures to match his look in the shots surrounding the CG ones. At the same time we began the animation of the scene. Again the challenge was to bring him to life while matching his movement and look to the practical Edward. We added cloth simulation for his clothes and lots of interactive debris and dust and leaves as he crashed out of the trees. We also did a lot of CG trees breaking and falling for those shots.
Edward kills violently a bunch of guys. How did you created these gore shots?
The gore in these shots was created with a combination of CG gore and blood and practical elements shot on set and here at Hammerhead.
We had a CG tree branch for the shots where Edward hits people with the branch and we used a 3D version of his hand for the shot where he squashes the guys head.
Muriel attacks Augsburg from the air. Can you explain in details the creation of the huge environment of the city?
While we did not create the city environment we did do the shot of her creating the fireball and getting ready to throw it.
Muriel was shot on greenscreen and we created the sky background and the fireball and comped it together. As well as a couple other shots of her and the other witch in the sky in that scene.
Can you tell us more about your work on the city destructions?
We did have a shot from the ground where a building explodes in which we added more debris and smoke and some debris with burning embers and trailing smoke to the practical explosion plate. The idea was to really get a big 3D stereo moment out of that explosion.
Muriel can changes her face from beautiful Famke Jansen to evil witch. How did you created these transformations?
We did 3 beautiful Muriel to witch Muriel transitions in the movie. We started with 2 plates for each shot. The first plate was beautiful Famke doing the action and the second was Muriel also doing the action. Then using morphing, warping and creative compositing we transitioned between the 2 versions. We also used some 3D Muriel face parts as well in the course of the transition on one of the shots.
Can you tell us more about the weapons that used Hansel & Gretel?
We created several 3D versions of the weapons used by Hansel and Gretel as well as wands used by the witches. We also added a bayonet to Hansel’s rifle when he used it to stab witches. We also did a lot of CG arrows.
How did you manage the stereo aspect on this show?
The stereo aspect on this show was challenging in that part of the movie was shot in stereo and part was not. So we had to create effects in two eyes in many shots which requires 3D tracking and checking each shot in stereo to make sure it worked both for the effect and the stereo. We also had many shot that were only shot in one eye. For these shots we provided layers and mattes for stereo conversion where applicable.
What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
I think the biggest challenge on this project was the 3D Edward. We began working on him while the movie was shooting.
We had some very talented artists working on each aspect of Edward and had Jon working very closely with us the whole time.
Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
What do you keep from this experience?
I think what I keep most from this experience is the hard work and effort everyone at Hammerhead put in on this job.
We have such a good team of talented people led by our two supervisors Justin Jones and Michael Kennedy.
Working with Stephanie Allen at Paramount is always a pleasure. And working with Jon Farhat and the vfx producer Erika McKee felt very collaborative.
How long have you worked on this film?
I worked on this filmed on and off for over a year. The bulk of the work was done over the course of about 6 months.
How many shots have you done?
We did over 400 shots on this movie.
What was the size of your team?
We had a team of about 40-50 people.
What is your next project?
We finished most of our work on this movie about a year before it came out so we have finished a few other projects since then. We worked on PROMETHEUS and GANGSTER SQUAD. And we are just finishing 42, THE HANGOVER PART III and THIS IS THE END.
What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
I have loved movies my whole life so I don’t know that I could pick just four. But I have listed a few early favorites below.
ROBIN HOOD with Errol Flynn
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
SINGING IN THE RAIN
WINGS OF DESIRE by Wim Wenders
A big thanks for your time.
// WANT TO KNOW MORE?
– Hammerhead: Dedicated page about HANSEL & GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS on Hammerhead website.
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2013