Rodeo FX worked on 126 visual effects shots for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’. The work included environments around New York City in the 1920s, the magical reconstruction of a destroyed room, and set extensions for MACUSA, the story’s elaborate wizards’ headquarters. But most important for the Rodeo FX team was creating and working on a number of the magical creatures the movie is named for.
It was an unusual chance to further develop the creature pipeline and expertise they had started the year before when they took on a series of shots of fully digital hippos and crocodiles for ‘The Legend of Tarzan’.
Directed by David Yates, who directed four of the Harry Potter movies, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ also takes place in Harry Potter’s universe, although within a new location and era. When a wizard, Newt Scamander, loses his magical suitcase full of enchanted creatures during a visit to New York, he and his friends must chase them down, try to recapture them and return them to their world through his magic case.
Out of the Jungle
“The team had done such a great job on ‘Tarzan’ that Warner Bros. welcomed our bid for ‘Fantastic Beasts’,” said Arnaud Brisebois, VFX supervisor at Rodeo FX. “Recognizing our capabilities, the studio approached us again for this film.” Digital Media World had a chance to speak to Arnaud and Mikaël Damant-Sirois, CG Supervisor for the project.
‘Tarzan’ had been an exciting opportunity to combine their team’s technical skill with artistic ability. With a brief calling for realism at a level resembling a documentary, for that film they put time into learning about movement and locomotion, and about using deformation and custom deformers with muscles to achieve naturalistic movement. They worked on different mesh types to control these looks, skeleton-muscle effects and improving their rigging.
The rigs were tested through animation cycles based on reference footage of all kinds of movement the real-life animals would make, sometimes causing textures and shapes to be strenuously deformed while maintaining a realistic look. As well as building the skeletons and muscle rigs, their work involved skin, hair and scales for the animals. Across these features, each individual animal was varied to create contrast in texturing, shading and distinctive markings.
While the creatures in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ were nothing like any animal you’ll see in a documentary, the production still wanted them to look real to the audience, and so ‘Tarzan’ proved to be good groundwork for them. They now had proprietary software and a creature development workflow in place.
A New World
The creatures for the new film depend more on the Potterworld aesthetic and conventions, of course, and less on nature. Lots of original design was passed on from the Art Department, so that the entire production was using one master reference. However, the need to give the animals behaviors and movement achievable on screen forced some practical design changes. The Rodeo FX team only had nine months to get all 12 of the extremely diverse creatures they were assigned shot-ready, and only five or six months up to the point of shading. Therefore animation development and refinement had to continue on through to the end.
‘The way we handled our creatures had to be different from the way the vendors with just one or two major characters to work on,” Arnaud said. “We didn’t have a long development period in pre-production that would allow a long series of iterations, for example, before getting the models and rigs much closer to completion. We also hadn’t had extended visits to the sets where they would appear. Occasionally all the animals appeared in a shot simultaneously, and some only appeared once or twice, but each time was important.”
The Mooncalf creature was an example of this challenge and also of the client relationship they maintained while they worked. The production really liked the endearing concept art sketches, but transferring the look intact to a rigged, screen-ready creature represented quite a development leap. Furthermore, because Newt Scamander also had a herd of Mooncalves in his suitcase that was released during his New York visit, they needed to find an animation style that could be translated into something manageable as the basis of movement for a number of creatures at once.
Read here for the full story: http://www.digitalmediaworld.tv/in-depth/1243-rodeo-fx-uncovers-fantastic-beasts-and-how-to-build-them?utm_source=newsletter_89&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=rodeo-fx-fantastic-beasts-evertz-discovery-v-ray-project-felix-4k-acquisition