Ninja Assassin: There Will Be Blood
The Wachowskis are back doing what they do best with director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta). And Ninja Assassin is an anime-inspired martial arts film with plenty of CG: blood, weapons, dismemberment, embers and matte paintings. Nearly 800 vfx shots were done by Pixomondo, Trixter, Ghost FX, Rise FX, Evil Eye, Hirota Paint, Roto Factory and Prologue. In addition, in-house artist Ryan Urban provided postvis design, working initially in After Effects and later switching to Shake for many of the final composites, removals and fixes.
"It was a fun romp and obviously the complete opposite of Speed Racer," suggests Dan Glass, overall visual effects supervisor. "And obviously a lot of the same set up as V for Vendetta. The brothers were behind it but much more intentionally left it to James. Second time around, it's an easier job.
"The one thing for me was that it came so much on the tail of Speed Racer: they literally started shooting three or four weeks after we delivered. So, for the first time in my life, I just couldn't do it, so I brought in Chas Jarrett [Sherlock Holmes], who'd helped us on Speed Racer, and he supervised the shoot for me. I was there for breakdowns initially and kept in touch during the course of it and joined it in post."
As with Speed Racer, the production took advantage of Germany's Federal Film Fund. According to Variety, Ninja Assassin received 5.8 million Euros ($9 million). But in this case, more than three-quarters of the vfx took place in Germany. As a result, Chris Townsend (Journey to the Center of the Earth) was hired onsite during post.
"The majority of the vfx work was split between four different companies in Europe: Trixter in Munich, Pixomondo in Stuttgart, Ghost in Copenhagen and Rise FX in Berlin," Townsend relates. "As a vfx supervisor, I worked directly with them, to ease the flow of information between James and Dan and the artists and supervisors 5,000 miles away. For most of the artists, Ninja was the first time they had worked on a major Hollywood studio picture. With that, comes a steep learning curve about what the needs of the clients are, how high the quality has to be and how many iterations are deemed necessary to satisfy the director's vision. The nuances of client presentation techniques and when it's OK to charge for a requested change, were as important as checking black levels, matching grain and finessing matte edges.