Making Superman Fly Again in Man of Steel
The sequence also required complex simulations. As Superman battles with his enemies, buildings are destroyed, vehicles are wrecked and roads are ripped apart. The mayhem necessitated the use of MPC's proprietary destruction toolkit, Kali, enabling the FX team to handle the demolition of different elements, including brick, glass, wood and concrete. The team also used Flowline to generate volumetric dust, smoke and fire around the destruction.
For Metropolis, Dneg (under the supervision of Ged Wright) rendered 32 square miles, which they situated along the eastern seaboard. The city is nearly all CG and was developed in previs form by Pixel Liberation Front. It was a mash-up of Chicago, New York and LA. "Dneg, which had already done a virtual Gotham for Batman, developed a procedural city basket for Metropolis. Their team did lidar from the ground up along with texture photos. We also got a helicopter with a lidar mounted on a steadicam to go down some of the city canyons. We wanted to get roof detail but ended up getting detail all the way down to the streets. They had a complete survey of Chicago, which was then used to tear apart. Then they could throw it back together again procedurally. Then there was another procedural process to layer in the structures inside a building they knew was going to break. Office building interiors became easier to do in CG because the camera moves were impossible. We broke our rules at the end just to keep up with the fight, shooting on greenscreen sets and the rest of it was all replaced later.
Meanwhile, Weta Digital (under the supervision of Dan Lemmon) handled the organic-looking Krypton interiors designed by production designer Alex McDowell as an outgrowth of biomech physics in addition to creatures, robots and space craft.
But one of the coolest sequences was the Kryptonian history lesson that Jor-El (Russell Crowe) provides his son in the Fortress of Solitude craft buried deep in the Arctic. McDowell showed the production team an art installation comprised of tiny cubes that were suspended in a grid and you could look at a representation of yourself in that array of cubes shot by a video camera at low-res.
They decided to utilize the effect in a series of displays in a more tactile way. "We looked at a push-pin effect by Michael Fink in the first X-Men movie," DesJardin recalls. "It took a long time and a lot of R&D. But for the history lesson, the trick was to take deep images and make them look like forced perspective elements in this space using particles of varying resolution sizes. Sometimes we wanted chunky details; other times we wanted finer detail when they were smaller.
"We gave Weta a lot of license to play with the tactile display. But Zack had a very specific idea for the history lesson that was going to be more stylized than the other displays. We looked back at the beginning of Hellboy and Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. We had to bridge the exposition with imagery that wasn't redundant."