Demonizing Season of the Witch
In Season of the Witch, directed by Dominic Sena (Whiteout), Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play disillusioned 14th century knights returning from the Crusades ordered to take a suspected witch (Claire Foy) to a monastery to discover if she is the cause of the Black Plague. Later, it turns out that there is a demon involved, which can only be destroyed with an ancient book, Key of Solomon, filled with holy rituals.
Tippett Studio, under the supervision of Blair Clark, was tasked with animating the demon. "We came in at the last minute to work on the demon after they wanted a fresh start," confirms Clark, who worked alongside another Tippett supervisor, Eric Leven. The overall visual effects supervisor, meanwhile, was Adam Howard.
Nate Fredenburg and Mark Dubeau, Tippett's vfx art directors, came up with a whole series of different looks, with guidelines for a classic look with wings and horns. Fredenburg referenced lots of classic demons from woodcuts and other artworks, and they offered a broad range of looks from the animalistic to the hunched over look of a gorilla.
"That's when they came back and asked for something more lithe and feminine," Clark suggests, "so we arrived at something new, which was thin yet still muscular. We also gave it cloven feet, a dog ankle and a fawn leg. You look at a demon and you don't think delicate. From Nathan's key art it was a matter of fine tuning skin texture and coloration. They wanted the skin to appear very warn and the wing membranes to have tatters and holes."
Using Maya, Shake and Nuke, Tippett animated the demon while tackling various physical challenges, beginning with the wings. "Wings are always a challenge," Clark says. "They're either in the way or don't move the way you'd like. They were designed really well and we paid close attention to the design. Since they wanted holes in them, we decided not rip it to where we've got these big, spider web-like shapes that we were going to have to billow every time she moves. So instead we put tears that have holes warn in them rather than ripped. We've had other shows where the wings are more problematic than this and I was frankly surprised at how well these wings behaved themselves."