Tripping Out on Scott Pilgrim
For this preliminary design work, because it was only on stills, we worked almost exclusively in Photoshop. We took the original photographs and painted successive layers of removing more and more detail, flattening out colors and surfaces, until finally we arrived at the graphic style of the books.
"For the falling snow, we developed a highly controllable and directable 3D snow particle system in Houdini that could be tuned not only for amount, speed, and wind acting on the snow, but also for the character and the style of it."
For the final confrontation with Ramona's arch evil-ex Gideon (Jason Schwartzman) at the Chaos Theatre, Scott pulls a flaming sword from his chest and fights a horde of charging hipsters.
The actor wielded a plexiglass sword filled with red LEDs so that he had interactive light cast on him representing the flames; it also gave great reference for the level of motion blur the CG flaming sword should have. He had a cut off version of the sword allowing him to swipe "through" his attackers, and a full-length version for shots where his strikes don't connect. Each time Scott strikes one of the hipsters with his sword they burst into a shower of coins. The coin explosions were created in Maya DNB and rendered in RenderMan; the CG flames again were created in Squirt; the plexiglass sword was replaced with a CG metal blade, which, in turn, was engulfed in CG flames. The flames were overseen by Mick Harper with assistance from Federico Fasselini. Jim Steel, Shahin Toosi & Cleve Zhu oversaw the compositing effort.
"Ultimately, the vfx play a key role in creating the fun, energy and insane 'never seen before' surprises that characterize the film," Churchill concludes.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.