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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creating the Monster

A sneak peak at the Monster's frightening choppers!

This fantastic render was sent to us from Monster's Texture/Material Artist, Peter Hogan after he had completed the mouth and eyes. Peter digitally painted and sculpted the outer layer of the model. This is going to help make the Monster look as life like as possible.

The coolest and most challenging aspect of this film is making the CGI monster come to life. It's an incredibly huge amount of work and we are very lucky to have the team that we have working on it. I work  in the animation industry so I was lucky that I could approach these talented folks and ask for their help.

The look of the Monster was thought and dreamt up by Deborah and Rodrigo Segovia . They then took their ideas to Andy Poon, the Monster designer. Andy spent about an hour doodling at the table and before we knew it the monster was born into the 2d world.

We needed to figure out how to execute all of this in the actual shoot. I needed some guidance so I asked local filmmaker, Zach Lipovsky  for help. Zach was also one of the judges for the Hot Shots contest. Zach jumped on board and helped us create a plan of attack so things would run smoothly on set and in post.  On set, Zach came on as our Visual Effects supervisor and captured our HDRI's that we needed. He took pictures  of a mirrored ball on set to record the light of the real world. This makes it easier for our lighting artist to match the cgi light with the real world light. Zach also created the necessary practical effects such as the Monster's footsteps.

After the shoot we quickly passed the torch over to the animators and the rest of the visual effects team. At that stage the model was completed by our modeler Colin Robinson. I love how Colin made those teeth look imperfect. So cool.

The rig ( the monster's skeleton)  is what the animator's use to animate the Monster. It is a very complicated process and requires sharp problem solving skills. The perfect person for this was animator and  FX artist Melt van der Spuy  Melt jumped on board early in the game and created the rig for the Monster's body. During that time Melt had a baby girl! At that time Melt had to step down but left us with a really good rig and got the ball rolling for the animation.

Monster's animators are  Nathan Thomas, Jackie Koehler, Melanie Vachon and Sanghoon wes lee. All very strong and talented animators. Deb worked closely with them as they blocked out their shots and  pretty soon they were ready for a facial rig.

We had to find another rigger...quickly.

Lucky for us Monster's FX/Rendering artist David Poirier was working with FX artist Brendon Marklinger at rainmaker. Brendon jumped on right away and completed the facial rig,weights and worked out some of the bugs. This was a huge help for all of us and it kept the momentum going. To our delight, Brendon also agreed to help David out with the lighting and rendering.

After the animators blocked out what Deb wanted they polished their shots into priceless little gems. After months of hard work, the animator's gave the monster  a soul! A very special thing indeed.

Now we face another mountain to climb. David and Brendon grab the torch and head into the next challenging phase.

They will be creating simulated FUR, lighting and rendering the Monster at 2k resolution. Right now we are looking at about 10 to 16 minutes per frame for rendering time and we have about 1500 frames in total to render.

As each shot is rendered we pass them over to our  lead compositor, Keath Ling. Keath will be making sure the Monster fits into the live action plates so it looks as if the monster belongs in that world. Keath is gathering up a crew of compositors in the next week or so to help out. If we get accepted to Cannes we will need a strong team of compositors to finish by May.

This has been like film school. A film school with a Visual Effects class lead by some of the industries brightest.


UPDATE: The summer after this blog post, Jon Joffin ( the dop) helped me cold call pretty much every major VFX studio in the freakin planet. We pitched many many studios. All wanted to be involved but had no time, or man power to offer ( freeee) Ya it was a nightmare. But.......out of the mysty cloud of despair.... The amazing people at Think Tank helped us find the VFX wizards  Bradey Strong and Adrian Rivera Lozano who saved our asses and created the fur, final lighting and problem solved this monster problem ( with  Brendon Marklinger who was a major major help in fixing rig/tech issues)  After that we sent to these amazing people to render.... IMAGE ENGINE.   these beautiful people saved our bacons.        for real!!

Finaly we went to compositing. Just as David Poirier had to step down due to work/life stuf, Keath Ling our compositor at the time had to step down as well to be a new daddy. Luckily we found the right people mentioned above and compositor Geoffrey Harlos to hit the final stages of this film out of the park.