A Bigger and Badder Wrath of the Titans
Early in pre-production, it became apparent that the Chimera creature would be too large and agile for a man in a suit to handle. Consequently, the decision was made to use a full CG creature, requiring previs on a number of shots to provide the crew a geographical layout for the sequence. This helped the production designer create arenas where battles could take place with the actors, stuntmen and props going head to head in precisely mapped out spaces. The Chimera itself was largely designed in pre-production, then handed to MPC to recreate as a CG model.
The specific challenge for MPC’s rigging and animation teams was how to make a beast with two heads move in a realistic fashion. As Brozenich explains, “The trickiest issues involved where to place the split in the neck, how far back on his spine would feel natural and how to proportion the rest of the anatomy to compensate for this. We also had to gracefully handle the inter-penetration issues arising from two heavily mobile portions occupying the same anatomical space. Thankfully, both issues were dealt with very effectively and very early on with range of motion studies.” MPC’s animation team looked carefully at the animation of the Chimera, referencing material of lions hunting and attacking. The FX team handled the Chimera’s fire-breathing with a mixture of elements created using Maya and Flowline combined with actual flame thrower footage shot on set.
The Makhai are two-headed, double-torso, sword-wielding killing machines. MPC’s concept art department designed these vicious creatures, which were based on an initial brief from the film’s VFX Supervisor, Nick Davis. The creatures were to emerge from balls of burning volcanic rock surrounding Kronos, but were not supposed to be too strong or large to battle humans. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s vision of the Makhai involved multiple arms and two distinct torsos and heads. The challenge for MPC was not only understanding how a character like this could fight, but more specifically, how it would emerge from molten balls of lava, run and navigate through complex terrain while swinging swords. To visualize the dynamics of such a creature, MPC’s concept, rigging and modeling teams collaborated to create motion studies which led to a final design. Having two body elements meant that the rigging team had to focus not only on the creature’s anatomical structure but also on how the split double torso would affect the creature’s movement. Many design iterations and some very clever problem solving resulted in the final Makhai creatures seen on the screen.
The Gods’ Death Sequence
In the Gods’ Death sequence, the titans, thankfully, are turned into sand. Shots were match-moved and actors were roto-animated to their performances. The actual destruction process was created using MPC’s in-house tool for shattering and rigid body simulation, Kali. Once the ‘Kali effect’, which provided the gross collapsing effect, was approved, the system was used to drive a more granular particle simulation resulting in the sand-like appearance. Likewise, the initial model undergoing the Kali effect was used to spawn a surface of particles that inherited their color from the textured and DMP-projected geometry. This served as the rendered hard surface for the actor, which was then introduced in a ‘patchwork’ across each performer’s face and clothing by the compositing team using Nuke. In some cases, whole sections had to be re-tracked and warped to contend with the changing topology of their faces as they delivered lines.
The final battle required MPC to develop an enormous 3D environment, which was a combination of plates from two primary locations - Tiede National Park in Tenerife and a completely different looking battlefield location in south Wales. The initial eruption and Kronos’ path of destruction required several weeks of specific aerial photography over various volcanoes and lava-bed terrain in Tenerife. The plan was to use live action plates for all of it so the editor, director, supervisor and all of the artists had an inherently realistic base to work from that could be re-projected and altered significantly in post as required.
Dan Sarto is editor-in-chief and publisher of Animaton World Network.