March 17, 2009

MPC Vancouver Completes VFX for Watchmen

Vancouver, BC - MPC completed 250 shots on key sequences of Watchmen, the DC Comics graphic novel-inspired release for Warner Bros Studios. In the Vancouver studio, MPC personnel produced various digital VFX, including 3D environments and cityscapes, the CG Owl Ship, and digital doubles.  
Working from Yale town, Vancouver, MPC's VFX supervisor Jess Norman oversaw a team of 35 VFX artists. Key members, including CG supervisor Max Wood were brought over from London to join the team. MPC Vancouver uses the same pipeline and tools as MPC London.

Autodesk Maya is complemented with a suite of proprietary tools written in-house by the MPC R&D department.  Shots were rendered in RenderMan and MentalRay, and composited using Shake.  

MPC's invisible effects work appears in many scenes, says a representative, and starts with the high-impact opening sequence “Blake's Demise,” a fast-paced, hand-to-hand combat scene in a high-rise condo. To add to the adrenalin-fueled atmosphere, the team created the completely digital cityscape seen outside the smashing window. Blake, aka The Comedian, gets thrown out of the window. As well as adding crashing glass and doing a digital double takeover, MPC added a CG version of the iconic smiley pin following Blake down to his death on the street.   During one of the key flashback sequences, “Riot Control,” the superheroes deal with the civil unrest of the tumultuous 1970s.

MPC modeled and animated the CG Owl Ship, called in reinforcements under the guise of digital doubles, added CG crowds, extended the sets and enhanced the turbulent environment with smoke and light beams. In a dramatic nightmare scene, two of the main characters get atomized by a nuclear blast after ripping each others skin off to reveal their superhero costumes. With the characters shot on green screen, everything else was created digitally. The Owl Ship and digital doubles also appear in the tenement fire scene, alongside CG smoke and fire elements added to enhance the fire on a miniature roof top. The surrounding environment was created using projected digital matte paintings.  

For the climatic Karnak sequence, the team created a realistic Antarctic environment with ice, water, and snow effects. Almost not making it over a vast ice cliff, the owl ship crashes into the snow surface, spraying snow and ice everywhere. Several of the shots in the scene were fully digital and required full understanding of the way that environmental factors interact.