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A custom IK solver is the secret behind some of Hollywood’s new class of other-worldly CG characters.

In the world of computer graphics for entertainment, a key but little-known element in the creation chain is the IK Solver. An Inverse Kinematic solver is used to rotate and position linked elements. The Solver places control elements, which govern transformations and movement. Several software houses make them, and they are not cheap.

One small CG studio has decided it could not create the monsters, aliens, and robots it was being hired to produce unless it had a special IK Solver, so it made its own. In recent years Image Engine of Vancouver has created the crustacean-like aliens of District 9, the rebooted heroes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the dinosaurs of Jurassic World, and Chappie, the sassy robot that looks like pile of spare parts.

“Whatever the project, whatever the creature, we make sure we spend as much time up front to get that digital asset completely production-ready,” says Mark Wendell, computer graphics supervisor at Image Engine. “While other companies might throw armies of artists at shot work and solve every little rigging issue at shot time, we make a conscious decision to take the investment up front – we pour our efforts from the outset into extra lookdev work, and build our rigs with that extra intelligence.”

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