“Our assignment on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was to previs several of the big action set pieces in the film. We enjoyed working closely for the past year and a half with Director James Gunn to maintain his vision and make those sequences exciting,” says Ron Frankel, Proof’s founder and creative director.
Guardians of the Galaxy presented us with numerous big action sequences that have really never been done before. Full CG, high-adrenaline battle sequences that required a lot of choreography and blocking for the staging of the action. James was very good about seeing the action from the audience’s point of view and doesn’t want viewers to be lost or confused by any of the action.”
Adds Earl Hibbert, Proof’s previs supervisor on this project, “Another of the big challenges we confronted on this film was helping James bring the characters Rocket and Groot to life. It was important to James that the audience forget that these two characters were CG and instead accepts them as real characters – characters that actually exist in the world of the film – because they really are the heart of the movie.”
As far as technical challenges, there was a lot of greenscreen involved in production, and most of the sets were built from scratch, so the team had to make sure that the action designed during previs would fit into the sets that were being constructed. Hibbert worked closely with Production Designer Charlie Wood and Visual Effects Supervisor Stephane Ceretti to make sure the dimensions of Proof’s set would closely match the actual build. “In this manner, the action we designed during previz could be captured on the set, while still giving James the flexibility to improvise new shots if he wanted to,” Hibbert adds.
“This previs and post team was great, one of the best I’ve ever had. This was a big complicated film that presented some real challenges, so to see it come together the way it did was incredible,” Hibbert concludes.
According to Ceretti, they started developing the sequences early in prep with the director, Hibbert, and the storyboard artists. “We wanted to be as prepared as possible for a fairly complex and fast-paced shoot. Earl and his team did an amazing job at collecting all the information from James, the art department, and the VFX department, to come up with previs that really made sense and made a big difference in the way we prepped and shot the movie,” says Ceretti. “All the main sequences were previsualized before we started shooting, which allowed all departments to get a visual sense of the film and what was required to achieve it during the shoot. It was also an essential tool for the VFX vendors.”
Once back in Los Angeles, the previs team transformed into a postvis group, still spearheaded by Hibbert. “We had a huge task ahead of us, with more than 1,900 VFX shots to postvis,” says Ceretti. “We could not show the movie without fully postvisualizing our two CG characters, Rocket and Groot, and all the spaceships and aerial effects, as well as adding in backgrounds and set extensions for many of the greenscreen sets. A huge effort was put in the collaboration between James, Earl, the editors, and the VFX department to complete a version of the director's cut that would have all the shots postvised.”
Ceretti contends that Proof’s work was invaluable to everyone involved in the project, from prep, through shooting, and through post.
One of the action sequences for which Proof designed the previs is The Kyln Escape. Here, the Guardians come together as a team for the first time, and Gunn really wanted to build character and humor into this sequence. The choreography and visual effects were complex. Proof provided Gunn and Ceretti with a great deal of data to enable them to work quickly while on set.
Another is The Space Pod Chase. For this fun ride sequence that features the lead characters in a chase while escaping from the film’s villains, Gunn had specific action beats he wanted to hit. He gave the Proof team a good deal of freedom to come up with interesting shots and choreography while maintaining the overall goals of the action he had in mind. The sequence feels fast, vicious, and dangerous – the audience feels as though these characters could die at any moment.
NOTE: ACCOMPANYING IMAGES COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS AND PROOF © 2014