Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction's VFX Supervisor Talks Robot Complexity

In an interview with Gizmodo, Transformers franchise visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar discussed the complexity of creating the robots for Transformers: Age of Extinction and how each film is actually harder to do despite improvements in technology. Highlights below, full article here.
"We've all been students of how to make the Transformers characters look more real, more metallic, better acting, more photographically real in each of the films. Certainly the robots look better than they have before in this one. They're sharper, the colors are more detailed, and the biggest change is, I think, the large amount of work that we had that was all robots, lots and lots of shots in the film don't have human actors in them at all. In fact, our work accounts for about 90 minutes of the movie. It's data-heavy, it's the largest film I've ever done, and it's the largest data push through in ILM history.

To do one model takes roughly—it could be less, it could be more—15 weeks. So you start with artwork, and lots and lots of designs and artwork that are photoshopped in 2D. Then we turn [the art] into a 3D character and all of its little pieces have to be built. Optimus has over 10,000 pieces in him, for instance, and each one of those pieces has to be modeled correctly. It's easy to make a box or a rectangle in the computer but it's very hard to do compound curves—that's what is time consuming. Every [model] has to be painted. So we have an entire ILM paint staff, which started over a year and a half ago just to get the models ready so we can have them ready to be put in a shot.

After that you get the models done, you kind of like the way it looks, then you rig it. That's the internal skeleton, and that takes another 15 weeks because there are so many little pieces—the joints and the swivels and so forth that allow the animators to make all the little mechanisms move and turn and spin and flip. Then finally you're ready to put them in a shot, and at that point you still spend about six months fine-tuning the look of the character.

's gotten harder. [The Transformers] are more dense, they have more pieces, and the look and style of each one is more complex. Let me give you an example: In this film, Optimus Prime undergoes three different character changes because he gradually becomes an updated version of a knight, a knight formation. His shoulders, his helmet, his facemask and the cuffs on his sleeves, and lots of different details and chest pieces all revamp throughout the movie. ...Then in addition to that, he's got four levels of damage and each one of those has to be created.

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