The Disney+ streaming service was launched at the end of 2019. Along with their animated family movies (including the whole Pixar roster), the catalogue includes National Geographic’s documentaries, as well as movies and series from both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars franchise.
One of the Disney+ crown jewels was indisputably The Mandalorian, the space Western Star Wars fans had been waiting for. When Lucasfilm contacted Hybride to collaborate on the series’ VFX, the studio was definitely onboard. It was in fact the next logical step, after creating impressing VFX for The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019), Rogue One (2016) and Solo (2018).
Hybride’s contribution to The Mandalorian was mostly focused on two key elements: bringing the IG-11 bounty hunter droid to ‘life’ and creating full CG environments for Navarro City and the Lava Flats, a huge environment made out of flat lava rocks that stretch out endlessly.
THE MEANEST ROBOT IN TOWN
In our story, IG-11 is a relentless bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to get his mark. With his double jointed shoulders and elbows, hydraulic arms and legs, and his ability to rotate his head and torso 360 degrees, IG-11 has the ability to quickly transform into a ruthless killing machine.
To help match the live-action puppet of IG more accurately, Hybride sent a detailed CG version of IG to be 3D printed. These 3D prints were then used to create the live version of the puppet used on set.
At the beginning of IG-11’s design phase, Animation Director Hal Hickle, presented the Hybride team with the unique opportunity of creating an original character that hadn’t been seen in the Star Wars universe before. The original brief was to have IG-11 appear to be made out of old and heavy car parts. His joints needed to be animated as if they were loosely fitted together in order to give him a nonthreatening appearance.
IG-11 also has no specific facial features except for a pair of crude binoculars that generally imply the direction of where he might be looking. Given these constraints, Hybride’s animation team needed to convey what IG was thinking, through his stilted actions alone. Together, these character elements created a unique opportunity to explore the different facets of this seemingly unemotional robot. IG-11 is a simple yet nuanced character that the team thoroughly enjoyed playing a part in bringing him to the screen.
The Nevarro environment is located in a dusty volcanic wasteland with its Main City built around the remains of past lava eruptions. The CG landscape, filled with a large variety of lava rocks and volcanic ground structures, was built based on ultra hires photogrammetry scans taken from locations in Hawaii and Iceland.
The large-scale data set was then processed and stored in a model library. The scan was then cleaned up in order to remove light and shadows, and all of the maps were color balanced so the rock pieces would match one another. The ground’s surface was created from multiple high-resolution textures and different reflection attributes to imitate the look of lava. The textured layers were then mixed to obtain a natural ground behavior that takes into consideration sand and rock elevations and reflections.
The resulting library was made accessible to Hybride’s artists in order to create the different types of surrounding topographies. Based on set pictures and Lidar scans, they created a massive library of city elements such as building facades, ground assets, street props, and towers, which were used to assemble a dozen scenes. Overall, 250 assets were painted based on the provided artwork and the color scheme was set to blend perfectly into the set. Afterward, an overall weathering pass was performed in order to unify the city’s aging infrastructure.
The workflow was designed to control multiple asset resolutions, with infinite points of view. Using the approved artwork as a guideline, several sub-locations of the city were digitally generated starting from the streets, all the way up to the Courtyard set extension. This approach made it easier to generate additional shots for large sequences made up of various sub locations without compromising the end result in a fast-paced TV series production such as The Mandolorian.
The Mandalorian proved to be quite an adventure for the Hybride team, who was more than happy to jump on board. As Jon Favreau confirmed on Twitter back in December, The Mandalorian Season 2 will be released in Fall 2020.