Frantic Films VFX Helps Evolve Dragonball
April 15, 2009

Frantic Films VFX Helps Evolve Dragonball

Hollywood, Calif. - VFX studio Frantic Films VFX, a division of Prime Focus Group, has contributed 334 shots to the feature film, Dragonball: Evolution from Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by James Wong, the movie stars Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, and ChowYun-Fat in the live-action film adaptation of the popular Japanese manga comic book series.
Dragonball: Evolution is based on the popular Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama, whose work spawned best-selling graphic novels, video games, and a successful television series. The live-action adventure centers on a team of warriors, each of whom possesses special abilities. Together, they protect Earth from a force bent on dominating the Universe and controlling the mystical objects from which the film takes its name.

Frantic's Vancouver and Winnipeg facilities handled most of the VFX shots, with VFX supervisors Chad Wiebe and Mike Shand overseeing the work from Vancouver and Winnipeg, respectively. Ken Nakada, one of the industry's leading matte painters, oversaw about 30 matte painting shots from Frantic's Hollywood studio, while additional rotoscoping and paintwork was completed at sister company Prime Focus in Mumbai. Prime Focus Group company Machine FX in London also contributed plate treatment to about 35 shots. Frantic and its partner studios worked directly with the film's VFX supervisor Ariel Velasco-Shaw and VFX producer Janet Muswell Hamilton.

In addition to assisting with overall look development for the film and color treating plates throughout the movie, Frantic handled two primary scenes in the movie: an extremely technically challenging lava lake sequence in which Goku battles an army of virtually indestructible demon warriors called the Fulum Assassins, and a climactic fight sequence between Goku and his enemy, the evil Lord Piccolo.

For the lava lake sequence, Frantic provided on-set VFX supervision in Durango, Mexico. Artists at Frantic's Vancouver facility designed a digital environment, including mountain scapes and a molten lava lake complete with lava falls and crust, rocks, and debris swirling about, that all had to interact with Goku and the Fulum Assassins.

Frantic created full digital versions of these Fulum Assassins that had to match up seamlessly with shots of the actors in costume. During one dailies review, the Frantic team actually had to remind the producers which characters were real and which were digital replacements. Additional work done by Frantic on this scene included extensive sky replacement and the scripting of custom tools for Frantic's in-house fluid simulation toolset Flood to generate the photo-real lava.

Frantic Films VFX's technical director and science advisor Marcus Steeds oversaw the development of new architecture for the Flood fluid simulator, which gave full scripting access to the TDs. It also gave Frantic an integrated pipeline for voxel and particle-based simulations using an enhanced meshing technology. Frantic also made a custom direct-to-renderer mesh loader. The new architecture, scripting access, and tools gave the studio's artists an integrated simulation pipeline workflow that was more efficient and allowed it to tackle bigger problems with more speed.

For the climactic fight scene, Frantic's artists in Winnipeg did comple teset extension of the film's practical set of a stone temple that forms out of the ground, and also did full sky replacement as well as creating the "energy ball" effects generated by Goku and Piccolo during the battle.