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December 10, 2009

Head of the Pack with CG Wolves

CGSociety :: Production Focus

As the New Moon rises, so do the stars at Tippett Studio. Charged with creating the Quileute Wolf Pack for the Twilight sequel, some of the industries leading character artists sunk their teeth into just under 60 shots ranging from three to twelve seconds that were pivotal to the storyline. And those shots are getting noticed.

Wolf Mountain and Frankenwolf
The challenge wasn't just to build a believable wolf, but to build five unique wolves of extraordinary size and weight, to portray that mass often with little more than the surrounding trees as comparisons, create believable fur and humanesque eyes that weren't distracting. Nate Fredenburg, Art Director, helped to make sure those requirements were fulfilled, combining real-world attributes and CG magic.
"At Tippett Studio, we always look to real-life creatures for reference on how to design our characters, real or mythical. For New Moon, we had a special opportunity to travel down to wolf sanctuary in Southern California to observe wolves up close and personal. The key to looking at live reference is to form a knowledge base, study the creatures, their quirks and behaviors, the language between the pack. We looked for signs of what the creature was about and added those to the visual effects to make them believable."

In Lucerne Valley, there is a sanctuary called Wolf Mountain where a dedicated group is trying to save wolves from extinction. This is where the Tippett artists traveled to spend personal time with the wolves, many tame enough to be approached and touched by strangers. There the artist could observe behaviors, pack interactions, hierarchy behaviors, and movement, and "closely examine the fur and its different lengths over the body, the coloring variations and markings, as well as the structure of the face, eyes, teeth and so on."

The trip was extremely fruitful, but Phil Tippett, with his honed eye for perfection, added a second method to study fur under different controlled lighting and wind. "We had a bunch of photographs of wolves that we were studying but Phil was insisting that we take it to the next level and have something to touch, walk around, and actually do your own," explained Fredenburg. This resulted in the creation of what became affectionately known as the "Frankenwolf".
Tippett bought wolf pelts and cut them up with an Exacta knife and pasted it onto a taxidermy blank "so that we could do a lighting lab in two conditions? controlled lighting on our stage where we could shine very specific lights and look at how the fur responded, then we took it outside on an overcast day, which was perfect for New Moon. We came up with strategies for how to artistically make the wolves look better in flat lighting, which is what we were dealing with and is a very difficult lighting situation."

For the full article visit CGSociety: Tippett Studio Jumps to the Head of the Pack with CG Wolves a Howling Success


Posted by dschnee at December 10, 2009 9:10 AM