At Tuesday night’s Autodesk screening of The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21) at the Landmark in LA, senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri admitted there’s no escaping the Uncanny Valley. The key, he told host David Morin, is to make sure that you get all the details right on the face to overcome any creepiness. That was the secret to Weta’s success. They leveraged the Avatar technology but improved the lighting to handle all the indoor scenes.
Speaking of lighting, when asked why director Steven Spielberg took a lighting consultant credit, Letteri said it was probably in keeping with the latest trend on animated films (Roger Deakins being the most prominent), but that there was nobody else to fill that role. However, Letteri revealed that Spielberg drove the lighting. At first, they were going to emulate the brightly-colored style of Hergé throughout, but Spielberg found it too flat-looking so he decided on a film noir look for interiors and nighttime scenes.
Meanwhile, the bravura two-and-a-half minute motorcycle chase in Morocco occurred as a result of the previs offering so many long master shots that Spielberg decided to utilize one in the film.
Snowy, the dog, proved challenging because of his white, curly fur and trying to maintain the spirit of Hergé’s odd design for the terrier. Weta used Maya and nCloth and Spielberg made sure that Snowy stole every scene he was in.
When asked if animation and VFX are converging, Letteri pointed to the screen and indicated that Tintin’s the proof.
And for those wondering why Tintin didn’t make the Academy’s list of 15 VFX Oscar contenders, Letteri said it didn’t help that several members of the Visual Effects Branch Executive committee have yet to see it. On the other hand, no animated entries made the cut, so there continues to be a bias against animation or a hard-to-classify hybrid such as Tintin.