Bond Gets a CG Komodo Dragon for Skyfall
In Skyfall, which is breaking box office records for the James Bond franchise in honor of the 50th anniversary, Daniel Craig's 007 loses his mojo. He also has a tense yet humorous skirmish with a Komodo dragon (courtesy of Cinesite), which marks the first CG creature for the franchise.
"They make a big thing about the franchise not being about CG, but I liked the way [Oscar-winning] director Sam Mendes worked," explains Jon Neill, Cinesite's visual effects supervisor. "You can tell he's from the theater the way he would get everyone together, including the technical people, and walk through the whole sequence."
But, of course, Neill didn't have much interaction with Mendes and worked closely with VFX production supervisor Steve Begg. However, the Komodo dragon sequence was quite intimidating, especially given a production that doesn't like CG. "We were lucky being in London with a zoo that has two Komodo dragons," Neill relates. "One was friendly and the other was brought in from the wild, which isn't friendly. So we collaborated with London Zoo and managed to get into an empty room, which is attached to the main enclosure so we could set up all our lights. We painted the walls white and we put white silks on the ceiling and then the Komodo came in via a trap door. We were able to take really nice reference pictures and video with three cameras."
Unfortunately, the dragons looked too clean, so they also took reference photos of Komodos in the wild. Cinesite modeled using Maya, and added texture using Mari, Photoshop and Mudbox, and then composited everything into the live-action plate using Nuke. They enhanced the scene by adding CG dust and gravel that blended in with the pit.