Go behind-the-scenes of the VFX in DreamWorks’ Annie winner (watch three exclusive making of videos below).
Bill Desowitz: There’s quite a difference between the two films, isn’t there?
Dave Walvoord: In some ways it’s surprising how simple the first one is. It’s a beautiful character piece. As part as Dean’s vision for how the trilogy plays out, this was the effects extravaganza and epic in scope and battles. That set a huge challenge for us. We had to do a lot more and everyone was focused on how we get everything on screen. And that’s where theApollo suite helped us with that. We had tools much more advanced than on the first movie that helped us realize that vision. There’s that really long, 800-frame shot at the beginning of the Bewilderbeast battle. You couldn’t really imagine doing those shots on the first movie. And while it stretched us, now it was possible and really looks great.
BD: Talk about the impact of the new Torch lighting tool as well.
DW: Torch was designed to handle complexity. So it was designed to scale up to much larger shots so that we could have much bigger crowds, much bigger sets. On the effects side, we took a different route. Our core tool is Houdini but on top of that, our R&D team have made custom solvers for fluids so you can do fire and water in a much more believable way.
BD: How difficult was the creation of ice as part of the Bewilderbeast arsenal?
DW: Ice is very challenging and it’s something we’ve always had difficulty with. It’s such a unique surface and has incredibly complicated shading characteristics. Ice has no color, what it’s doing is taking the environment and refracting light, absorbing light, and scattering light. And all those things are global effects. Fire’s very difficult from a motion point of view, but in many ways the shadings are simple. There’s almost a 2D look. But ice is the opposite: it’s very dimensional and the properties just don’t live on the surface, they live all the way through it. And you can see all the way through it. And so algorithmically it’s very challenging and creatively it’s very challenging. And we had to do it in a way that no one sees ice behave. No one sees water turning into ice in a split second, which is what we were doing. Ours is a hyper-sped up kind of effect that we didn’t have a lot of good reference for.
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