Chronicling Narnia's Third Adventure
Framestore, under the supervision of Jonathan Fawkner, once again did the CG Aslan, the Christ-like lion of Narnia (voiced by Liam Neeson) as well as the dufflepuds, the standing wave, the picture that transports the children into Narnia and the enchanted mansion for a total of nearly 260 shots. Perhaps the work wasn't as flashy as in the past, but it allowed Framestore to showcase its fluid dynamics solver, and provided the opportunity to refine and improve Aslan, which had to emote in a complicated way.
The first priority was to create a new rig for Aslan and bring it in line with Framestore's centralized rigging tools, under the supervision of Nico Scapel, head of rigging. The old rig didn't allow Aslan's legs to stretch far enough to look realistic. Framestore was able iterate a change on the rig and then see a render the following day.
The Senate, under the supervision of Richard Higham, concentrated on 250 shots for various 3D environments and volumetric atmosphere, most notably in the forest area surrounding Ramandu's Island, and in the creation of the star, Lilliandil, Ramandu's daughter that takes on human form. The Senate wanted a combination of realism and magic for the star's transformation, which required solar flare-type images for a magnetic ring aura together with Maya particles and some fluids and simulations for something organic, bright and hot. They then took those simulations and emitted the same dynamics from the remodeled image of Lilliandil, taken from a cyberscan and made usable for a particle system.
Finally, The Mill, under the supervision of Sara Bennett, worked on the naiad water spirits. The concept is that the spirit is based on a young girl, so The Mill used photographic reference and made a fish-type tale to make the leaps through the water look more elegant. Having her emit water looked a little messy, so they instead used a lot of sims when she's leaping through water. They used Mudbox, Maya, RealFlow, Houdini, Softimage, Krakatoa and Mari. Rendering was done with mental ray.
Again, the challenge was getting a look that was believable. And yet, ironically, Apted told me a while back that he never could've pulled off Dawn Treader without having first directed the action-filled Bond film.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.