MPC Takes a Bite Out of Dark Shadows
Angelique’s transformation into a cracking “porcelain doll” was an especially challenging sequence. The team worked on over 115 shots showing her gradual calcification and break down, as well as a shot where she pulls a beating heart from her chest. The effect involved an intensive rigging study as well as a large team of roto-animators, who painstakingly match-animated to all Angelique’s shots. A team of technical animators further finessed the tracks, replacing the cracked model of Angelique into the shots. 7 different models were constructed during the building phase, each according to how the cracks increased and deepened throughout the scene. The lighting TD team handled both the cracked and clean or “un-cracked” versions for each shot to make the manipulation in compositing much easier. The compositing team also did a significant amount of 2D tracking on some shots with less movement, and made the finishing touches to each shot using two lighting passes and their own 2D tools.
Carolyn Stoddard, the “troubled teen” daughter of family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, who morphs into a werewolf for the film’s climactic showdown, was another great challenge for the team. MPC has taken on CG werewolves before (Wolfman, Harry Potter, X-Men: First Class). Though their pipeline was prepared for the work, they had not previously tackled such highly stylized werewolf designs. The art department was able to create something very close to director Tim Burton’s vision after a fairly involved 3D groom and lookdev process. The final render was completed with animated wolf legs in shots depicting her showdown attack on Angelique.
MPC’s DMP, FX and animation departments worked closely on the Grand Foyer sequence, bringing various wooden statues to life. As Angelique casts her spells around the house, we see her bring to life a number of wooden statues, including a serpent and caryatids. Elizabeth, brandishing a shotgun, blows the heads off many of the animated creatures. The statues were built with considerable flexibility in their rigs so that they could perform numerous eerie and often violent movements. MPC Animation Supervisor Peta Bayley had her team focus on the statues as a single “beat” of the action and the FX team added “breaking away” FX as the statues tore away from the wall. The DMP team played an important role in creating a sense of cascading levels of blood and destruction unfolding in the background. The start of the scene involves a segment with hero shots involving action elements used to sell the idea of blood seeping from statues and cracks. MPC’s 3D DMP department was able to sustain these elements across 200 shots without distracting from the foreground action. And some action it was indeed.
Dan Sarto is publisher and editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.