Monday, July 06, 2009

Escalating Visual Effects for Transformers 2

A new article from VFX World talks about how Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen raised the bar in visual effects for movies. The challenge for Industrial Light & Magic was creating the more complicated effects of 46 robots rather than the first movie's 16 while making them bigger, more complicated and at the scale IMAX requires all in the about the same amount of time it took to do the first film. Below are the highlights from the three page article that is worth the read as its amazing the details that have to be considered when creating a CGI sequence. Thanks to a site fan for the link.
- 46 robots in sequel, 14 robots in first
- ILM had about same amount of time to do the increased demands of the second movie as did for the first.
- Takes around 12 weeks to build the model and then another 12-15 weeks to do the rigging and painting for each robot in the computer.
- ILM created 60 builds for ROTF, Digital Domain also designed a few including Alice.
- Disc storage went from 20TB for first film to 150TB.
- Crew size maxxed out to 350 to reach deadline.
- Devastator, if in the real world, would be 150 feet high and Jetfire would be 50 feet tall.
- "both Michael Bay and Scott Farrar wanted to introduce the fact that these characters are alive. Drooling and spitting and bleeding and breathing. Rather than mechanical beasts standing around."
- "[Jetfire] has a sneer at one point, so we had to redesign the face and the eye area so he could wince," Farrar explains.
- "We utilized a lot of martial arts influences and spent about two months doing previs for forest fight sequence and did a full three-minute animatic (in Maya) before the plates were shot for that sequence. "
- "It took 72 hours per frame to render Devastator. We tried a little bit of everything for the forest fight. It's still an action sequence but the hard part was shooting thematically. We know the IMAX people tell you to slow the camera down and lock it off. Well, that's not how Michael shoots. We have pause moments, where you see the characters slow down, but then we have high speed and go back and forth that way."
- "People in computer graphics don't want to reduce motion blur, but the problem with the robots is that they have so many little pieces that they become artifacts with so many sharp things moving through the frame. I found it's better to reduce motion blur in certain moments, like when Bumblebee comes close or Starscream has moments in the forest fight and Optimus and Megatron, where we reduce motion blur to half, a third and an eighth."
- ...the breaking apart of a pyramid top was eight times bigger than the previous ILM rigid simulation record. It only required four or five shots but that took seven months just to create the simulation of the blocks tumbling and being torn apart by Devastator.


  1. All that doesnt matter!!! I enjoyed the movie but it would have been MUCH MUCH MUCH better is they incorporated some of the same things in the first that they did not get to do in the second. In the first movie every autobot and Decepticon had their time to shine. By doing this it made it very easy to know how many robots were in the film, and who was who and who was hitting who. You got to see every robot in both forms except for the scorpion. Each robot had at least 3 or 4 transformations each. NOt # 2. HOw can you go from 16 robots to 46 with the same amount of time. I honestly can't tell you how many robots were in the movie.



  3. I thought the story was perfect. Not too little and not too much. Perfect for an action-adventure summer blockbuster. I didn't want some emo-dabbling talky-talky movie. I wanted ACTION!

    I really enjoyed all the mind-boggling special effects. I'm going to see it for my sixth time after work today! Woo!

    ROTF totally puts me in happy mood!


    It's Visual Effects - you hater!

  5. There actually is a story. Just stop looking at your iphone every 10 minutes and texting your teenie-bopper friends during the film, and maybe pay attention...Annoying!

    This article is about top notch artist, modelers, riggers, texture artist, lighting artist and animators in the film industry and the grueling hours they go through to do what they love. Hitting deadlines with due dates bumped up (meaning less time to work on). And to top it all off...setting the bar in VFX history. That's the article in a nutshell.

  6. As both a Star Wars and Transformers fan, I appreciate the talent that ILM brings to bear in the realm of visual effects. With that said however, I feel that the renders of the robots and the fluidity of the effects scenes in ROTF were not as good as the first film.

    The robots from the first film had a more physical presence to them. In ROTF a lot of them just really stood out as visual effects to me. The fight scenes were also all over the place and did not flow or evolve.

    When it comes down to it, what makes a movie great is the story. I think that film makers easily get sucked into the trap of visual effects. The more you can create things in the real world rather than on the computer the more realistic it will come across. Star Wars Episodes I-III are excellent examples of this. Too much focus on digital environments and characters and not enough focus on story and plot development. That's one of the reasons Eps. I-III fall short of Eps. IV-VI

    I think its also pretty telling that ILM had to crank out a vast greater amount of effects shots in the same time they had for the first film. I think if the ILM folks had been given a sufficient amount of time to get the greater amount of work done, the movie effects would have been truly spectacular. But when deadlines are looming and you're rushed the work will most likely suffer a bit. I think that's the case with this movie.

    I hope everyone learns from this one and that the third will be the sequel we've been waiting for that strikes the perfect balance between story, character development, action, humor, and special effects. The first one pretty much had it; the second one doesn't.

    Let's hope the third will be the answer that gives us a movie more on the caliber of the Dark Knight. The transformers franchise and the fans deserve a movie that has a rich, riveting, suspenseful, and action packed story that takes itself seriously. Team that up with great visual effects that don't stick out as visual effects and you'll have a true blockbuster that maybe more people will like. It can be done.

  7. The last statement was well said. I think Transformers should not be compared or inspired to be among the caliber of Dark Knight. There's so many batman films and Dark Knight is in its own category. Transformers needs good writers on board for the 3rd installment. Let's just hope...who knows, there might be a different director.

  8. Don't get me wrong. I believe that Michael Bay, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and the people at ILM are more than capable of putting together a third installment that could be great. I feel they've pretty much proven that with the first one, which was a strong movie in my opinion.

    I think there were some external factors beyond their control though that also helped to contribute to the movie not living up to everyone's expectations.

    One would be the aggressive two year time frame they had to complete the movie in. George Lucas at least gave himself 3 years between Star Wars Episodes. Two years is a pretty darn short time to write, script, cast, shoot, and edit a blockbuster special and visual effects intensive sequel that's intended to be bigger and better than the first. This is evidenced by the fact that the movie's final version wasn't even completed when it began premiering over seas.

    Second would be the writers strike. This had to have had somewhat of an effect on development of the movie's story. Work essentially had to begin on the movie before having the story completely worked out.

    If they had been given more time I bet the movie would have been better. I know I could have waited for an additional year. That's why my vote is for TF 3 in 2012, not 2011, if that means we'll get a better end product.


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