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October 30, 2007

ILM & Tippett Studio Show Off Spiderwick Creatures

On a recent trip up north to Industrial Light & Magic and Tippett Studio, VFXWORLD was treated to a sneak peek of the CG goblins, boggarts, fairies and sprites that inhabit THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, from Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies, opening Feb. 15.

"Legendary animation and VFX pioneer Phil Tippett served as creature supervisor. He oversaw the design and development of Thimbletack, Hogsqual, the Troll, Red Cap and the army of goblins and bull goblins. On set Tippett worked first with ILM visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman, who left to supervise INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL and was replaced by Tim Alexander."

-VFXWorld.com

Based on the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES is a fantasy/adventure involving the Grace children (Jared, his twin brother Simon, and his sister Mallory), who live with their mother in a secluded old house owned by their great-great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick. Jared finds a field guide by Spiderwick about the invisible, odd, magical and dangerous creatures that live on the estate, and the family is soon confronted with a monstrous ogre, Mulgarath, who wants the book to control the world.

"It's happening here and now," said director Mark Waters, in trying to distinguish SPIDERWICK from other children's fantasies. "These creatures are combinations of creatures that could've lived here. We raise the jeopardy and excitement because of CGI."

Legendary animation and VFX pioneer Phil Tippett served as creature supervisor. He oversaw the design and development of Thimbletack, Hogsqual, the Troll, Red Cap and the army of goblins and bull goblins. On set Tippett worked first with ILM visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman, who left to supervise INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL and was replaced by Tim Alexander.

Tippett offered a naturalistic impression: "I provided a sense of observation of the natural world. To find the character, I got involved with sound design, voices, effects. I [looked for] concrete visualizations for characters, working with a dynamic reality." However, there was one unexpected revision in design: a water troll was changed to a land troll.

The team at Tippett Studio in Berkeley was responsible for the final animation of the Hogsqueal, the Troll, Red Cap, the goblins and bull goblins, and worked closely in tandem with the ILM crew for 15 shots in which the two companies shared characters. Tippett's team was comprised of VFX Supervisors Joel Friesch and Blair Clark, CG Supervisor Russell Darling and Animation Supervisor Todd Labonte.

ILM worked on Mulgarath, the ill-tempered Boggart, the majestic Griffin, a rapacious Raven, the Snake, Sylph and a host of magical and elaborately detailed Sprites. Alexander also oversaw the effects involved in creating the seamless interaction between lead twin characters Jared and Simon, both played by actor Freddie Highmore. In addition, ILM did some environmental work, including the Griffin ride through the fantastical world that encompasses all four seasons. ILM's team also included Tim Harrington, animation supervisor, and Christian Alzmann, visual effects art director.

ILM completed 341 shots, including 224 in 3D for 30 minutes of footage. There were 215 artists at the peak during the 15-month job.

Thimbletack transforms into the Hyde-like Boggart with full 3D geometry for each model during transformation and subsurface scattering for ears. He's like The Incredible Hulk, who turns devilish when angered. The only way to calm him is with honey. Thimbletack's facial animation was a challenge, too. Harrington said they pushed R&D for new tools:

* Facedon: a library of preset expressions or blend of expressions that they could cut & paste ("Evil Laughter").

* Face Select Interface: controls for intuitive interface for anatomical movements. This was very helpful with the Hyde-like transformation.

* Fat Shapes Tool: developed for staggered transformation shapes.

Byron the Griffin was rendered 26 hours-per-frame at 8K for more detail. The Griffin was the most difficult challenge for ILM because of feathers and hair. Muscle definition is improved over hippogriff from HARRY POTTER or dragon from ERAGON. It helped to previs the Griffin flight sequence too.

For the shape-shifting Mulgarath, ILM utilized quick changes for proportions in design phase and Rapid Prototyping animation. They did muscle and flesh simulations and remapped human anatomy on creatures through BlockParty, the proprietary modular rigging system.

Meanwhile, for Tippett's most ambitious project with a crew of 100+ (including 30 animators), they created a new pipeline. For the goblins they built one skeletal system with blendshapes and numbered packages that is Maya-based. They used brickmaps and global illumination development. The design of the goblins was a mixture of toads, pit bulls and gorillas and it took two animators to choreograph 40 goblins and 20 minutes to render 100 goblins.

-VFXWorld.com

  

Posted by dschnee at October 30, 2007 7:13 AM