Legion: More Than a Wing and a Prayer
Jeff Campbell, visual effects supervisor for Spin VFX, says there was a fine line between armored and traditional wings, which even contain a sword edge on the primary feathers. "The wings were all done in Maya and traditionally are very tricky because every feather has to be rigged," Campbell concedes. "And it's difficult to have them completely fold and cascade upon each other. And you expect them to be fluffy and that was one of our dilemmas, so some of the hero-like shots we made softer-looking and the fighting shots we made tough-looking. At first, they were giving us something leathery, but it looked too harsh, too shiny and too metallic, but we were able to control that in comp and didn't have to reinvent the wheel. Since our pipeline contains so many different layers, we were able to control all aspects of the element and didn't have to retexture, so it wasn't a bad process for us."
Spin additionally worked on a shot where an old lady goes crazy in the diner, which was challenging because it was a full-CG human and she can climb walls like a cockroach. "We had to rebuild the whole environment of the diner because of all the damage she does. And she's got cloth simulations and hair."
The other challenge was the climax, which was reshot in October. "I thought we were going to go back to the desert," Campbell continues, "but we ended up doing it on the Sony lot. Basically, the whole end was shot on a stage involving another 100 shots of greenscreen set extensions and, of course, more wings."
Look, meanwhile, had the challenge of the insect cloud. "From the farthest distance, it's a 2D-manipulated matte painting," Bauer explains. "The mid-ground is a 2D-manipulated matte painting with a few layers of 3D particles on top of that. And then as they get really close, it transitions to full 3D. The most difficult thing about the inside cloud from a distance was the design because Scott, usually very articulate about what he wants, kind of went around in circles with this one, and they had already been in R&D for two months with the look before I started. And I would say the look continued almost to the end of post. Part of it was Scott was prepping Priest, so his attention was really split, which worked out nicely for me because I was pretty confident that I knew what he wanted and just ran with it. And we would make things available online for him to look at.
"It sort of looks like an attacking Talon hand, and that was something that he had mentioned a long time ago, and they had gone down some bad roads with it and they abandoned that and went back to a cloud, but it only looked like a cloud, and we ended up getting rid of all of the clouds in the sky, so it was only the one and there were tweaks beyond that. Look Effects had hired the lead matte painter from The Orphanage, Mayumi Shimokawa, and she's a matte painter and a helicopter pilot. At any rate, she worked on this with Scott until they were able to establish the look. It's as subjective as it gets and some shots had 70+ iterations. "
A legion, you might say.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.