Theo Bialek VFX Supervisor
Throughout production, 250 Imageworks employees worked on the show and 325 visual effects shots were successfully delivered.
Sony Pictures Imageworks once again teamed up with director Jon Watts and overall VFX Supervisor Janek Sirrs, in completing the third act and successfully delivering 325 VFX shots. Production started June 2018, led by Imageworks VFX Supervisor Theo Bialek, VFX Producer Julie Groll, and Animation Supervisor Richard Smith.
In this film we really wanted to push the envelope of Spider-Man’s abilities as they relate to his performance and athleticism, given Peter Parker is somewhat of a veteran at this point.
VFX Supervisor, Theo Bialek
Imageworks was involved during the pre-production phase with drone animation tests and model concepts. These were done to assist in establishing practical shooting guidelines needed to accomodate the swarms of CG drones required in-camera. Continuing to refine the final elemental creature concept and develop the technology necessary to pipeline her build was also started early and continued well past the principal photography. However, In general the bulk of the team was delayed from starting untill scans and reference came back from set acquisition.
The sequences Imageworks worked on were split up between shots with and without the Elemental creature. Each CG Supervisor was responsible for assisting their respective departments downstream with the ultimate goal of getting all of the elements rendered and handed off to the compositing department for finaling.
In choreographing Spider-Man’s more traditional action sequences we heavily leverage the mocap performances. We opted to record Tom’s mocap as individual movements, instead of trying to capture his performance as one long take. A single punch, flip or kick would then be selected and arranged into a sequence of action by our animators. These rearranged snippets would then receive a layer of keyframed animation to sync the takes together and enhance the motion.
SUE (SUPER UBER ELEMENTAL)
The FX for the various elemental types were based off real world reference, such as volcanic storm clouds, flooding, and related disaster footage. The actual FX dev and simulations were all done inside of Houdini and rendered in Arnold through Imageworks’ proprietary Katana software.
Particularly challenging was that many of SUE’s elements needed to interact. Lava, rocks, water, smoke, and steam would all need to collide and influence one another. This interrlience of FX elements increased the complexity of the shots and often required upwards of 5 dedicated FX artists working in tandem on a single shot.
Production provided a concept for the original drone at the beginning of the project. Building this standard version was straightforward. As the scope of the drones performance increased throughout the film, new variants were needed. Imageworks artists worked with the production team to design and build a flamethrower and sonic variant. In addition to the three drones types there needed to be variation based on sustained damage to create the necessary organic realism needed for our scenes.
To keep the number of unique models to a minimum and still allow for variation, the team built damaged modular pieces that could be combined to create vast arrays of unique configurations. These physical model differences along with texture variations helped to further increase the amount uniquences needed.
The bulk of the shots relied on keyframed animation for drones central to the action and within close proximity to camera. Drones further in the distance were animated using flocking tools inside of Houdini to instance animation cycles and behaviors.
One of the most challenging parts of doing destruction is preparing the assets for stable simulations. This process involves a rigorous pass of modeling to ensure there are no interpretations and the appropriate interiors to the objects exist. Once the models have been upgraded, physical attributes are assigned and our simulations are run using real world physics and properties.
Tower Bridge, The Shard, and the surrounding area were created based on LIDAR scans and reference photography acquired while on location. Over a two-week period, reference was shot on and around the bridge from bus, boat, helicopter, rooftops, and from within the towers and walkways of the bridge itself.
Our layout team populated the roadway of the bridge both with vehicles and people using Maya. For debris and trash that was needed to help dress the bridge, the team leveraged off a proprietary in-house instancer tool. Cars and crowd cycles were art directed by hand in Maya.
Particularly challenging were Mysterio’s illusions. One of the most complex shots starts out with Spider-Man in a black void, green vapor gas at his feet as he runs toward invisible drones firing. As he uses his Spidey sense to make contact with the drones, he begins to disable the illusion and slowly reveal the walkway and damage left in the wake. This was an extended shot that required detailed choreography, sim, destruction and FX to complete. The animation was a combination of several mocap takes and complex keyframe throughout.