Jack Gets a Giant Re-Imagining
The challenge of the giants from a design perspective was that Singer wanted them to look unique as well as individually distinctive -- and not only the eight hero characters. For example, since the giants were sprung from the landscape, their faces resembled rock formations with boils and other blemishes on their skin. At the same time, Fee, Fye, Foe and Fumm were different from one another. Fee was tall and strong with stringy hair; Fye was tall and bald and triangular; Foe was short, rotund and bald.
But Fallon, of course, proved the most daunting and time consuming character. During script development Singer presented the idea of a two-headed giant, which he got from looking at Jack the Giant Killer illustrations and recalling the interactive humor from How to Get Ahead in Advertising. "Design wise, it proved to be a significant challenge," Rosenbaum continues. "You can't just stick another head on his shoulder. So we went through numerous iterations and came up with a kind of cystic growth but with his own personality. In terms of virtual production, you see Bill Nighy and John Kassir as his grunting side-kick coming together to create this character."
According to DD's animation director, Jan Philip Cramer, the action-packed kitchen sequence in which Jack (Nicholas Hoult), Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) and Elmont (Ewan McGregor) interact with the Cook giant (Philip Philmar) was the most complex. "It involved all the players: Digital Domain, The Third Floor, Giant Studios and our in-house facial capture for Kabuki, and it all came together," Cramer says. "They have different eye lines and different actions throughout the sequence. And it shows up the scale really nice. We planned it well and communicated well between the departments to make sure all the right assets were there. Once we finished mocap, we were able to cut it up and find good angles for principal and they were matched tightly with the previs and with the performance from the actors."
But things changed in production. Isabelle became a virtual character in the cage in the kitchen and rather than having to go back and mocap that, they had already done the sequence in the volume and had her data and could cut to that.
Meanwhile, MPC (under the supervision of Greg Butler) was responsible for the massive digital beanstalk. The production design and special effects teams created several 30-foot models. These were then animated, digitally enhanced and extended by MPC. DMP’s of the countryside below and digital cloudy skies above were later composited in.
The beanstalk was created using animated curves that had sections of interlocking beanstalk geometry pieces. This was then rendered in RenderMan, with the team relying heavily on ray tracing. Key framed digital doubles were used for the majority of the characters ascending the stalk.
Having created the beanstalk itself, the teams were then charged with its destruction. A combination of CG and practical elements were used to fill in the shots where support vines fly to the air and the earth explodes as roots are ripped out of the earth. For the wider shots showing the beanstalk falling across the landscape, procedural modeling and rendering techniques had to be developed.
But it's the evolution of virtual production that most excites Yeatman, who began with motion control. "Mocap offers new layers of directing and creativity -- it's more interactive. For me, it's getting back to using your imagination and that's the fun part of it."
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld, the owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.