Achieving a Grittier Conan
When director Marcus Nispel (Friday the 13th) decided to take on a reworking of John Milius' Conan the Barbarian from 1982, he returned to the nihilism of the original comics. A revenge story in which a young warrior hunts the villain that killed his family and wiped out his village, the VFX contains an assortment of CG characters and environments.
"Marcus wanted a realistic-looking film," recalls Friend Wells (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), supervising VFX producer/VFX supervisor. "The notion that it was very gritty was very important. But the fantasy elements had to be believable and inhabitable.
"We brought in Dylan Cole (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland) very early to conceptualize matte paintings and environments and set extensions. And then a whole list of creatures. The challenge was the script was being rewritten even through production. But it was smart in terms of discarding what wasn't achievable."
They split up the creature and environmental shots and worked in parallel with the vendors doing the 3-D conversion (supervised by Evan Jacobs), setting up a Shotgun database for asset sharing.
They went to Base FX in Beijing for the Dweller. It's a 100-shot sequence involving the villain's pet that lives in the basement torture chamber. It's squid-like and creepy with tentacles. But since Nispel likes to improvise, there wasn't room for MoCap. The stunt work, therefore, was planned and prevised by Proof in Bulgaria, and the director jazzed it up.