July 16, 2008

Maxon BodyPaint 3D Helps Rhythm & Hues Unleash The Hulk

Newbury Park, Calif. - Maxon Computer announced that Rhythm & Hues (R&H), one of Hollywood's premier visual effects and animation powerhouses, turned to MAXON's BodyPaint 3D to address a myriad of complex texture painting challenges associated with the creation of central scenes and characters in the Universal Pictures feature film, The Incredible Hulk--including the Hulk's muscle-popping green skin.
Based on the Marvel Comics superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the movie tells the story of scientist Bruce Banner, who is desperate to find a cure for the radiation which poisoned him and which lets loose the rage within him that transforms him into The Hulk.
Animators at R&H leveraged Maxon BodyPaint 3D to create the complex and dynamic effects necessary to bring the story to life. Altogether, Rhythm & Hues worked on 234 shots in Hulk. The team of eight texture artists used Maxon BodyPaint 3D primarily to paint and texture The Hulk and his nemesis, The Abomination, in addition to painting props and portions of buildings and environments.
R&H features a state-of-the-art production pipeline comprising a balanced mix of proprietary and off-the-shelf software. According to Sarah Kym, a lead texture painter at Rhythm & Hues, a 3D paint and texture package needs to be smart and adaptable, and BodyPaint 3D more than fit the bill.
BodyPaint 3D tools and capabilities deemed useful to the R&H team while working on The Incredible Hulk included its extra-large texture map capacity, customizable user interface, Raybrush technology, and projection painting.
MAXON BodyPaint 3D's interactive, real-time capabilities proved valuable to the R&H team when it was faced with creating a wide array of highly complex action shots, including the story's signature physical metamorphosis of Bruce Banner into The Hulk. For this critical transformation sequence, MIG (Muscle Influence Group) maps were created in BodyPaint 3D, enabling lighters and animators to control the way the muscles rippled under The Hulk's skin.
Kym adds, "Every material group had multiple maps with each group to influence small sections of muscle, and they had to match within the material and across other materials. It was a crazy puzzle that had to fit as perfectly as possible so that we didn't end up with weirdridges or bunched-up muscles. I'd load 10 or 15 layers of maps per material group into BodyPaint 3D so that I could visualize how they were lining up, and then seam them or add or subtract them as needed. I was so happy that I could keep loading them in. I kept waiting for BodyPaint 3D to crash, but it didn't!"  
Additional key scenes developed with the help of BodyPaint 3D included The Hulk coming under heavy weapons fire and both The Hulk and The  Abomination demolishing vehicles.  
Maxon BodyPaint 3D has been an integral part of the R&H production pipelinefor the past 18 months, and Hulk served as an important stepping stone in the artistic team's familiarization and adoption of the product. The studio is currently using BodyPaint 3D on forthcoming films, including Mummy 3, They Came from Upstairs, The Fast and the Furious 4, and Land of the Lost.