Alita: Battle Angel DNEG Interviews News VFX Supervisor

ALITA – BATTLE ANGEL: Raymond Chen – VFX Supervisor – DNEG

ALITA - BATTLE ANGEL: Raymond Chen - VFX Supervisor - DNEG

In 2012, Raymond Chen defined the work of Rhythm & Hues on CHRONICLE. He then labored on WINTER’S TALE after which INTO THE STORM. In 2016, he joined DNEG and took care of the consequences of movies like STAR TREK BEYOND and THE MEG.

How was the collaboration with VFX Supervisor Eric Saindon and the Weta Digital group? 
DNEG had quite a lot of shared photographs with Weta Digital. We additionally have been tasked with finishing a variety of cyborg belongings that had been began by Weta, so there have been a number of conferences at first to make sure our pipelines would work nicely collectively. We needed to work out find out how to share cameras, rendered parts, lighting info, in addition to animated geometry, since a few of our shared work was extremely built-in.

Mike Perry, Weta’s CG supervisor, and Russell Bowen, DNEG’s CG supervisor, spent a good period of time ensuring the technical aspect was strong, so that when we received deeper into manufacturing we have been principally targeted on artistic points, and capable of work together extra with Richard Hollander and Jon Landau, relatively than the Weta workforce. 

How did you manage the work together with your VFX Producer? 
We had numerous work shared with different amenities, so we would have liked to work out concrete schedules for delivering and receiving belongings and parts in an effort to meet deadlines. Internally, we tried to arrange the work into shot teams of comparable varieties of VFX work, and to formalize a notion of shot levels for correct monitoring of progress of photographs. 

How was the work cut up amongst the DNEG amenities? 
Each our Mumbai and Vancouver studios labored on all levels, from construct via to animation, lighting and comp. We tried to maintain the work for particular sequences concentrated inside one location. For instance, Mumbai was the first facility for the road Motorball pickup recreation, whereas Vancouver dealt with the majority of the work within the Ido daughter flashback sequence. Each amenities had teams of photographs from the bar struggle sequence, which wanted nearer coordination to maintain the photographs constant. 

What are the sequences made by DNEG? 
DNEG labored on the bar battle sequence, pickup road Motorball sequence, a Motorball locker room sequence, the Amok cyborg / Ido daughter flashback sequence, and properly as smaller teams of photographs in a variety of different sequences. 

Are you able to clarify intimately the creation of the varied cyborgs? 
We got each idea artwork and a few preliminary fashions of the cyborgs from Weta, however we nonetheless needed to do a good quantity of design work and redo a number of of the fashions to extra intently match the sensation of the idea artwork. We additionally needed to make numerous design modifications, as soon as we began with movement exams, to permit the mechanical interiors of the cyborgs to maneuver realistically. Though we have been capable of assist with a number of the design, we needed to maintain inside the look already established inside the movie, to match the overall feeling of different hero cyborgs.

How did you deal with their rigging and animations? 
The strategy we took for the rigs and animation of the cyborgs was pushed by movement seize. We had three rigs per character: a mocap rig, a human digi-double rig after which a creature rig, to switch the varied physique elements. The mocap knowledge labored very nicely and enabled us to hurry up the animation time wanted by focusing primarily on contact between characters and the surroundings, together with the subtleties of palms and fingers. Occasionally, animation additionally needed to compensate for proportional modifications between the actors and their new cyborg limbs; Kumaza was a very good instance of this as a result of his cyborg arms turned a lot bulkier and muscled than the actor’s! 

How did you deal with the in depth Bodytrack work? 
We had motion-capture knowledge for a lot of the cyborg actors and extras, so we began from that. We then remapped the mocap rig onto our cyborg/digi-double rig, giving us a terrific start line in matchmove and animation. The added complexity with stereo cameras meant that the accuracy of the bodytrack needed to be watertight. 

The connection between the actual actor and his CG physique is actually difficult. How did you handle that?
This was undoubtedly a problem; we created each the apparent cyborg parts of the physique and in addition the CG double model of the non-cyborg elements, in order that we might exchange troublesome parts of the filmed plate, the place wanted. A few examples of this are Gangsta’s leather-based hood, Screwhead’s jacket, and Amok’s belt and pants.

We began with very correct scan and texture knowledge of the actors concerned and constructed the CG limbs on prime, from the idea designs. Amok’s design meant this was notably troublesome. We would have liked to maintain the actor’s head and face from the plates so the mixing across the neck/head space was troublesome to cover and mix given the hero nature of the photographs with excessive close-ups. The lookdev and simulation of muscle and pores and skin wanted to match one-to-one with the actor’s. Whereas we needed to take care of the legs/pants from the plate as nicely, there have been measurement variations between the cyborg and the actor, particularly across the waist, and that space wanted to be tightened up. This was achieved in a different way relying on the motion within the shot. Typically we have been capable of mix re-projection and warping methods in Comp. In different photographs, it was an entire alternative of the legs themselves, in impact the one factor maintained was the actor’s head. Our construct supervisor, Marc Austin, together with our Creature supervisor, Fred Chapman, and their groups, constructed the belongings to an extremely excessive commonplace, which allowed us to tug off such hero work. 

How did you deal with the lighting challenges? 
The on-set knowledge acquisition helped rather a lot right here, with loads of nice reference captured in digital camera. Nevertheless, numerous metallic reflections and hero creature work meant the accuracy of the lighting was considerably more durable to realize. Our lighting supervisor Mark Norrie, alongside together with his group of lighters, recreated the units utilizing Lidar and projected Picture-Based mostly Lighting (IBL), and set images, in Clarisse. An added problem got here with the addition of Alita interacting with our CG characters. Whereas Alita was animated and rendered by Weta, we needed to recreate their mild rigs so the 2, or typically three, characters might occupy the identical area. For this, we labored intently with Weta to remap their mild schema into our personal, and vice versa, together with passing geometry forwards and backwards between the 2 studios for shadowing and reflections. In some situations the lighters would undertaking Weta’s renders of Alita onto her geometry to get bounces of color from her arms or clothes onto the characters that DNEG was rendering. 

Are you able to inform us extra concerning the eyepiece for Amok? 
There was an eyepiece that was created as a prosthetic for filming, however the middle portion was created as a mechanical-looking iris diaphragm, like inside a digital camera. We have been requested to create a extra hi-tech robotic lens search for that inside piece. We created a number of ideas after which constructed a CG model of the chosen design to be tracked into the sensible eyepiece. We ultimately additionally wanted to deal with the look of the remainder of the eyepiece as properly, because the work we did to make the metallic elements of the cyborg torso, made the sensible prosthetic really feel extra like plastic, and it began to face out as totally different from the remainder of the character’s hardware.

Which cyborg was probably the most difficult one to create and why? 
Amok.

Are you able to inform us extra concerning the destruction of the bar by Grewishka? 
Grewishka’s grindcutters broken the corrugated metallic of the bar, and in addition the picket flooring boards, earlier than he jumped by means of into the underworld. We created fracturing and bending metallic for the strikes into the bar, basing the impression factors on Weta’s animation. For the highest floorboards, we based mostly the construct on the precise flooring from the set, utilizing plates and reference images. We additionally created a subflooring and concrete slab that may be revealed when Grewishka crashed although the broken floorboards. The underworld surroundings revealed under was given to us by Weta. We used the geometry of Grewishka (animated by Weta) to drive the simulation of the destruction. This was one of many situations the place we would have liked tight integration between our work and Weta’s, so there have been a lot of iterations earlier than attending to the ultimate model. Along with the bigger picket planks, crossbeams, and concrete chunks, we additionally included passes for mud, damaged glass from the struggle, and sparks from hitting the metallic.

How did you deal with the problem to combine your work with the Weta Digital parts?
For our work with Weta, the photographs that we shared with them have been primarily composited by DNEG, even when nearly all of the CG was created by Weta. Typically, like nearly all of our bar struggle shared photographs, this was useful, because it allowed us to be in command of the mixing and balancing of the weather. In our evaluations, we all the time referred again to Weta comp variations, to insure that we weren’t deviating from the look that that they had already established. At occasions, nevertheless, like with some Grewishka photographs the place DNEG was solely creating the background surroundings, we ended up establishing the colour stability of the entire shot, together with Grewishka, with a purpose to create a extra constant sequence. 

Are you able to elaborate intimately in your surroundings work? 
The Iron Metropolis environments that we created have been closely depending on the work beforehand carried out by Weta for different photographs and sequences. Nevertheless, since some places similar to the road Motorball space weren’t but established, we needed to design the higher ranges of the town (set extension) utilizing the design language and parts that existed elsewhere in different places. In some instances we used belongings created by Weta, however we additionally needed to construct a number of sections of the town that weren’t utilized in any of the Weta sequences.

Is there something particular that gave you some actually brief nights? 
Originally of the venture, getting the 3D pipeline arrange was a problem. Tim Baier, our DNEG stereographer, did plenty of nice work making a strong pipeline, however earlier than that course of was all ironed out, it did trigger us a little bit of fear. 

What’s your favorite shot or sequence? 
The Ido daughter flashback sequence was a very pleasurable one to work on as a result of it was work that wasn’t shared between amenities, which meant we might delve into it extra deeply. The character was a singular one to construct; we tried to convey lots of the hardship of the fallen Motorball champion within the put on and misery on the mechanical and organic physique elements. It was additionally a sequence that appeared to have some emotional weight inside the story of the movie. 

How lengthy have you ever labored on this present?
Round 9 months. 

What’s the VFX photographs rely? 
DNEG labored on 260 photographs. 

What was the dimensions of your on-set workforce?
DNEG didn’t have any crew on set. We had round 350 individuals work on the undertaking. 

What’s your subsequent undertaking?
I’m presently engaged on TOGO, a Disney undertaking concerning the 1925 sled canine serum run to Nome, Alaska.

An enormous thanks on your time.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?
DNEG: Devoted web page about ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL on DNEG web site.

© Vincent Frei – The Artwork of VFX – 2019

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