Method Tackles the 'Riddick' Mud Demons
Watch two separate VFX progressions from Riddick by Method Studios on AWNtv!
Riddick is a welcome return to its Pitch Black origins. Vin Diesel's eponymous badass is left for dead on a scorched planet, pursued by bounty hunters and alien creatures called mud demons. For Method Studios, the creature work was a new challenge after specializing in environments for years. It entailed a new pipeline and greater animation finesse.
Riddick also marked one of the first times that the LA facility collaborated closely with its London and Vancouver sister studios on the 100 shots, spread among 110 artists. Nordin Rahhali supervised the work out of the LA office while Ollie Rankin did the same in Vancouver. Since then they've collaborated together on White House Down. Gunnar Hansen served as the production VFX supervisor
The mud demons lie dormant in caves until the infrequent rain season begins and then migrate in the hundreds to kill. They come in several sizes, bare razor sharp teeth, move on two legs and have scorpion-like tails with pinchers. In some scenes they had more than 120 creatures visible, all with random shader attributes so they didn't look like clones and contained different walk cycles. Then they animated multiple hero creatures to enhance key moments.
In addition, there were the usual VFX elements: full CG environments, environment extension, CG digi-doubles, CG rain/mist/mud, lightning and electricity gun effects. Method used Maya, Houdini, Zbrush, Mari and Shotgun, and rendered in V-ray and Mantra and composited in Nuke.
"The mud demons are bi-pedal and have a third joint in their leg and they're arms are very nimble," explains Rahhali. "It was an interesting case study of motion because the creatures were defined by three categories: the teenager, the momma and the bull or what we called big daddy. He was the male adult, very large, much more muscular and much more amour-plated. The vast majority were teens and we gave them texture and shader variations that would differentiate them from females, which were one color scheme. The young males also had red stripping on their bodies. That was procedurally done for the bulk of the creatures. Momma and daddy were used for the two fight sequences we worked on."
But they had to revamp their creature pipeline. They had a mechanism in place for multiple characters but not for the amount of characters required for Riddick. They could no longer rely on brute force.