Resident Evil Gets the Uber Licker
Mr. X (helmed by president and production supervisor Dennis Berardi) underwent a new pipeline evolution to help tackle the new monster star of Resident Evil: Retribution -- the Uber Licker.
Indeed, it took a lot of planning to drive 700+ stereo shots (most of which were entirely CG) more efficiently through the pipeline. They had a high shot count and had to scale up during a short post schedule. To handle the sheer volume of image and sim data, for instance, they split them between two fileservers to prevent the slowdown of the sim farm and allow the artists to concentrate more on their specialties and less on data wrangling. At peak, they reached more than 100 TB of data and consequently purchased an additional 100 TB of fileserver space to handle the load.
At the same time, Mr. X built an Alembic-based pipeline to support their native use of Maya, Houdini and Nuke interchangeably. Additional refinements to the texturing and look dev pipeline were required to handle the vast amount of hero creature and dig-double work. Animation was particularly tasked with the evolution of the Uber Licker creature.
"We decided to adopt Alembic throughout our entire pipeline, so that all of our core pipeline apps used the exact same scene build structure and the same animation and the same point caches," explains lighting supervisor Trey Harrell. "It made our scenes significantly lighter so that we could push a lot more data through, which was another challenge. There were fewer iterations from effects and lighting onward for any given shot."
Of course, it helped Mr. X having 10-year creative relationship with director Paul Anderson when it came to the design and execution of the franchise's biggest bad-ass creature yet, the Uber Licker, based on the Licker from the Resident Evil video games. "Our heroes in the series up until now have been able to hide behind walls because they've been chased by dumb zombies," admits animation supervisor Jason Edwardh.
"We wanted to up the ante and take away that safety net. So we approached the Uber Licker as not committing the cardinal sin of having you see every pixel in frame all of the time. In a monster movie, less is more and we really worked hard to make this creature look scary.
"We first needed to define how this massive, unstoppable creature was going to move. And from the animation side, we paid particular attention to how to transfer a more agile animal and do something more dinosaur size. We used aspects of horses, baboons, gorillas, rhinos and cheetahs. Once we figured out the proportions and the structure, then we had to figure out and dial in our equilibrium in terms of his weight, his gait and his speed. He also had no face to emote with. It was just a big brain and a whole bunch of teeth. So we had to really focus on his posture and tell a lot through his head motion alone. I recall a shot where we locked the camera to the rotation of the head, which worked out well."
The approach also informed the shading and lighting of the creature as well. From a shading standpoint, they wanted the membrane on the outside to look like burned bacon and medium rare steak for the musculature on the inside with the fat and muscle sinew.