Posted May 14

Before and after breakdowns that show the power of the VFX production pipeline

by Joe Beedle
Before and after breakdowns that show the power of the VFX production pipeline by Joe Beedle

Every year, the visual effects industry becomes increasingly more advanced as technology, and our understanding of how we can apply it, develops. Here we look at some visual examples that show the technical advancement and power of the VFX production pipeline in recent film memory.

Recreating Rachel – Blade Runner 2049

One of the greatest accomplishments of Blade Runner 2049 (2017) was an incredible CG recreation of Rachel, initially played by Sean Young in the original movie. Lorne Peta doubled for Young on set, with her facial performance captured digitally and used as a reference by artists at MPC that supplied the VFX used to create the Rachel replica. The facility also used photos of Young from the early 1980s as reference, in addition to a scan of her skull to gain a clearer idea of the proportions of the bridge of her nose, cheekbones and jawline.

Re-designing Dumbo

When MPC Film was entrusted with creating Dumbo, one of the most iconic characters in movie history, plus the elephants as CG characters for the Tim Burton-directed film, the studio wanted to make sure they looked as realistic as possible. The team at MPC paid close attention to the distinctive skin of Dumbo and the elephants, developing several tools in rigging, techanim and lighting to ease the creation of the wrinkles in the elephants’ skin, and to give it a photorealistic texture and appearance. For instance, the Modeling department, which started out with typical-resolution 3D mesh of elephant skin, then provided a higher-resolution version of the mesh, which was created by subdividing the original mesh twice (effectively producing 16x as many faces). You can read about that in more detail plus findn out other tools used here. More about Dumbo's realistic skin wrinkles specifically can be found here.

The visual logic of Ad Astra

For Ad Astra, MPC Film was the lead VFX studio, delivering 198 shots using their Vancouver, London and Bangalore facilities, along with Mr. X, which had 167 people working on the film. Both studios focused on scientifically accurate effects such as the brightness and exposure levels between stars and surrounding assets. Tremendous attention was also given to lighting exposure, which refers to the lighting of various objects depending on their distance from the sun as Roy McBride journeyed across space. This was one of the greatest visual challenges during the compositing process of the film.

Unprecedented territory – The Lion King

Unlike the previous two examples, The Lion King (2019) was entirely CG, bar the opening shot that shows actual sunset footage from Kenya. This meant that, rather than building CG on plates filmed on a set, every pixel of the film was a render. Innovatively, The Lion King was shot on a virtual stage where the MPC team made use of virtual reality tools and monitors to emulate similar filming processes used on a traditional set. The previz department worked hard to try and bring the cinematographic vision of each shot to life, before they were rendered in detail. You can go into more detail about the technologies and tools used for creating the fur, the environments, and rendering here. –

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