The Zombification of World War Z
The larger pyramids typically included around 5,000 agents. Once the pyramids were populated, the detailing was worked on, adding animation vignettes with zombies interacting and falling as well as the various actions needed on the ground. For falling and landing zombies, they used Papi, the in-house rigid body dynamic solver based on the Havoc engine.
MPC's modeling team built unique humans and zombies using reference photography and scans gathered on set. There were 24 different body types: men women and children with different texture variations. Each character was built as human, and at three different levels of zombification. Level 1 consisted of zombies that had just been bitten, level 2 was half-way there and level 3 was complete zombification with missing hair, defined veins and wounds. In addition, each character was also built at four different levels of detail from close up to long distance.
Clothing was built to match the different zombification levels: dirty and torn for level three and clean for humans. Once built, 3,000 crowd variables were decided on but with flexibility for change in tops or trousers for any character. For the large crowds, MPC's asset team created an even bigger wardrobe.
The environment team created 2.5D matte paintings based on photography taken in Jerusalem. The team also built a 70-foot tall wall that was seen in many of the shots during the Jerusalem sequence. The wall was built using photographic references of small pieces of set wall as well as various other concrete build reference materials. Outside the wall MPC created a wasteland with derelict buildings. These were created using CG models, matte paintings and projection techniques.
Much of the plane sequence was shot inside a partial plane on a gimble rig. Aside from CG explosion, vapor and debris, there was enhancement of makeup on live action zombies, including the addition of veins and eye treatment.
"Andy and I wanted more people in makeup intermingled with CG zombies because one or the other by itself didn't look great," Farrar admits. "The strange thing was there are shots where the zombies looked too human, so we'd have to do these quirky movements to make sure the audience knows they're zombies.I want to create illusion and keep the audience guessing as to whether they were live actors or CG characters. A well executed illusion -- I'm in."
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld and the owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com). He's also a columnist for Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and contributing editor of Animation Scoop at Indiewire. Desowitz is additionally the author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of 007 on screen, featuring interviews with all six actors.