New Hardware, Water and Aliens for Battleship
Veteran VFX supervisor Pablo Helman oversaw the creature work and says that the skin and lighting were the main challenges. In fact, ILM's skin texture was akin to a version 2.0. ILM also took advantage of its new facial capture system for close-ups (also utilized on the Hulk in Getting Animated Over The Avengers). ILM now acquires facial data on the mocap stage along with the rest of the performance using Imocap. "We developed a system by which every part of the face was captured," Helman explains. "Problematic areas around the mouth and eyes that had to be totally keyframed in the past are now captured on stage.
"There's also interaction between an actor's hand and the alien's eye. We had to replace everything that was touched, so all the shapes and the stretching of the skin needed to be spot on. All that was brand new technology. The actor's performance is key in this; unless you're rigging your face in a specific way you will not have made the choices related to the actual performance. The quick on set system and the coding is a 2.0 version of Imocap. The weight, timing and sequencing worked out well between the actor and stuntman."
Indeed, this is a backlit, grungy world, according to Helman. The camera swoops into the action. Helman also supervised the Shredders wheel weapon, launched from the alien ship, which attacks the Marine base. All the destruction is either elements or CG. The simulation engine is the same as the one used for the water.
And water was vital for Battleship. According to Cofer, the water breaks up into clusters and then droplets and finally droplets break up into mist. Over that lifespan, the water becomes more and more influenced by airfields and wind currents. This was a totally new type of physics and rendering of water for ILM, which worked out a pipeline and toolset with CG supervisor Willi Geiger.
"We wanted to be able to represent the physics of that, so it's a full cycle," Cofer suggests. "And our rendering techniques had to be upgraded as well. We wanted to render everything together as a volume so that when we're representing sunlight, say, that the sun is actually refracting through dense parts of water and then breaking up and illuminating in a scattered way."
This was essential for the alien Stingers, which rely heavily on detailed water interaction. Large scale water simulation is still based on a system of grids yet there is further optimization using a new solver for particle-based simulation. It is the meshing that allows the water to go through its full cycle.
Meanwhile, Scanline (under the supervision of Stephan Trojansky and Danielle Plantec) contributed to the Hong Kong destruction sequence, among others, making use of its acclaimed Flowline fluid simulation system, which created water trails and other activity.