G.I. Joe Gets VFX Retaliation
It turns out that director Jon Chu was perfect for G.I. Joe: Retaliation. His previous experience with the last two movies in the Step Up dance franchise was the perfect training for the balletic action in the G.I. Joe sequel, in which the Joes are decimated and disgraced by a sneak Cobra attack.
And Retaliation required its own VFX Joes for support from Digital Domain, Industrial Light & Magic and Method Studios (under the overall supervision of James Madigan). But other than the obvious CG explosions and a brief bit of creepy morphing, the result is invisible VFX at its most proficient.
DD (supervised by Thad Beier) handled several key sequences, including an exploding motorcycle by baddie Firefly (Ray Stevenson), the Zeus space-based satellite, a tank battle, the reveal of the President as an imposter, and a massive ICBM explosion (the biggest simulation in DD history).
DD was challenged to create vehicles and aircraft that look fantastic but which are also plausible. That work included a fully-CG version of the Cobras' complex, high-tech HISS Tank, a counterpart to a practical tank model that had to appear photo-real and indistinguishable from the physical model, along with the Zeus satellite and the Cobra commander's dual jet engine-powered helicopter.
DD artists built two identical CG models of the HISS tanks, using a practical one as reference. Beier and the DD on-set team conducted a set survey, taking thousands of photos and HDR images of the tank and environment. Under Beier's supervision, artists from DD's partner team at Reliance in London then built the CG tank counterparts, with thousands of parts all shaded and textured, and integrated them into the plate footage of the practical HISS tank and mini-tank to create a massive battle. As the tanks roll, the treads pick up mud and dirt and kick up dust, all of which had to be created in CG to match the practical tank in every way, down to lighting, color and texture.
At the end, there is a spectacular explosion of a Zeus satellite, which is created and destroyed totally in CG. This sequence was actually a plot twist added just six weeks before delivery. Digital Domain was challenged to conduct the development work to determine how to explode the satellite in space and how best to break apart the model, as well as complete all shot work, in this extremely short period of time.