How They Did It: Chappie Becomes a ‘Real Gangsta’

Chappie, the adorable sentient police bot (voiced by Sharlto Copley, who also donned the gray suit on set for “the poor man’s mocap”), represents this year’s Baymax or Groot. And one of the best moments is the “Real Gangsta” scene (watch below), in which he transitions from awkward toddler to cool struttin’ teenager.  VFX supervisor Chris Harvey of Vancouver-based Image Engine explains how they did it.

With Chappie, South African director Neill Blomkamp returns to more intimate social commentary about violence and oppression in Johannesburg. And in adapting his 2003 short about an autonomous robotics company, he embraces the larger issue of re-introducing innocence and love through the AI-driven police “scout.”

Image Engine got involved in the build of Chappie in collaboration with Weta Workshop six to eight months before the shoot, which is pretty unusual because obviously the practical build usually drives the digital build. “In this case, it was a little bit different,” Harvey explained. “Neill gave some concept art for Chappie to us and we fleshed that out in three dimensions, well before Weta had to build the practical model. This allowed Neill to play with it digitally and to make quick changes. But also the movement felt like Sharlto’s performance. We needed to make sure that Chappie’s ‘physiology’ could line up very well to Sharlto’s. So body proportions, joint placement made it a lot easier to mimic his performance and translate well onto the robot.”

In terms of the “Real Gangsta” scene, it’s the transitional moment in which Chappie starts to fit in with his new “family,” a couple of desperate thugs played by Ninja and Yolandi Visser from the South African rap-rock group Die Antwoord.

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Clips, Movies, previs, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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