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Despite its trouble plagued production, The Wolfman (produced by and starring Benicio del Torro) boasts some formidable vfx by lead vendor MPC as well as Rhythm & Hues and Double Negative, with additional support from Millennium FX, Peerless Camera and others.
MPC designed and created the crucial transformations in CG, using Rick Baker's work for reference. All Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.
After director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) departed over creative differences, Joe Johnston (The First Avenger: Captain America, Jurassic Park III) stepped in just prior to production. Steve Begg (Inkheart, The Golden Compass), the overall visual effects supervisor, was on the movie from the start, which lasted two-and-a-half years. He describes the challenging experience.
"The original plan was to try and blend Rick Baker's makeup design with CGI, which is what attracted me to the project in the first place," Begg explains. I thought we would continue that particular approach, but that's not quite what happened. It didn't automatically provide demarcation lines: it's one of those things that was organic. There wasn't a lot of planning in the visual effects work. I think that was courtesy of the fact that Joe had only three or four weeks before we actually started filming, so everything was ultimately biased toward a post-production approach. So the designing really occurred later.
I'd seen a lot of work by Rick Baker and his crew: the deformations and we took a lot of photographs and cyberscans of the artwork as a guide for us. Ultimately, what happened was we shot Benicio with tracking markers, reference cameras and the whole thing was basically invented in post-production. MPC was the primary company involved in all the transformation work, including the design and execution. And I have to admire the fact how it was designed on the run. We were given a selected cut of Benicio rising about, doing the mimicking, the potential transformation effects, and we overlaid the CGI (roto-animated, basically) on top of that. The whole thing was in a state of flux all the way through post-production from that point on. The movie was designed and finished about a year ago and then a reshoot was done around April or May to tie up some story points. So you're looking at year-old effects. So the rumor about the production being delayed by visual effects is not true. We worked on 1,200 shots and there are 600 in the film."
MPC also recreated Victorian London for the rampage sequence.
Indeed, MPC, led by Gary Brozenich and Adam Valdez, worked on fully animated Wolfman scenes, three gruesome transformations, all CG London rooftop scenes, enhancement of live-action Wolfman shots and the climactic waterfall environment.