Spider-Man’s Lizard Part 2: The Digital Effects
Rhys Ifans brought a palpable measure of tragic humanity to the role of Dr. Curt Connor in the epic superhero reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. Giving realistic and stunning visuals to his evil alter ego The Lizard, involved months of animation and effects work that grew in scope as the complexity and sophistication of the look increased. I recently had a chance to talk with two of the main supervisors involved in creating Spider-Man’s latest adversary. In this second of two articles, digital effects supervisor David Smith talks about the incredible details taken to build the digital skin simulation that made the Lizard look so “lizardy.” You can also find the first article, where animation supervisor Dave Schaub talks about the animation process that brought the Lizard to life, previously published on VFXWorld.com.
Dan Sarto: Tell me a little bit about your role, your involvement on the film in general, and then specifically with regards to the Lizard?
David Smith: Well, in general, I’m the Digital Effects Supervisor at Imageworks. That title takes on a number of roles. I work directly with our Visual Effects Supervisor and usually the production team. I present the material to my Visual Effects Supervisor, Jerome Chen. He also was the overall Visual Effects Supervisor on the film, after principal photography wrapped, so I presented to him, the director, producers and editorial on the creative team.
I was bought on after principal photography was completed as the work expanded. So I came in after initial designs had already been rolling. Usually, I’m the guy that gets that stuff [designs] rolling while they are shooting and then sometimes I help on the bigger demands of the shoot, but in this case I came on after principal photography wrapped. So that’s kind of where we pickup the Lizard as well, it kind of ties in nicely for this discussion.
When I came on, they had done a piece for Comic-Con, which had not final, but temp versions of some of the shots that they intended to have in the movie. After they got back they really started editing the film together. At the same time, one of the things that we started to build was the Lizard, as a visual effect in the film.
We started by taking the legacy design from the maquette they had done that pretty much showed what they wanted the Lizard to look like. There was an existing maquette that they used on set for reference and was the basis for what we started with. When we first built our digital version, we actually matched that maquette very closely. But it looked exactly like a maquette. And so when I came on, I was charged, me and the team, a pretty extensive team of supervisors and artists, with bringing more life into it, so it didn’t look like a maquette, but looked like the living, breathing Lizard man, a mutation of Rhys Ifans’ character. And so that was some of the first work we did, begin to infuse the characteristics of Rhys Ifans into the Lizard.