Intelligent Creatures created the dynamic and continuously changing inkblot concealing the face of WATCHMEN's vigilante hero, Rorschach. IC animated his inkblot movement to reflect the mood and emotion of the actor, while maintaining the integrity of this celebrated graphic novel. IC replaced the character's live action head through complex cranial and facial-motion tracking, which was seamlessly positioned between the live action scarf and fedora.
To duplicate the mouth and facial movements produced by the mask when the actor spoke or moved, Intelligent Creatures used a match animation process. The development of an elaborate animation rig driven by the facial tracking markers, formed the foundation of this movement.
The "look development" team reconstructed the cloth fabric of the practical mask right down to the cross-hatching and hair like fibers. These minute details were created through the use of complex shaders and 2D workflows, including fur and cloth shaders to emulate the rim lighting captured in the live action plates.
It was critical that the inkblot animation pipeline retain flexibility and speed to promptly address any changes required by the director and supervisor. For this task, IC enlisted the talents of seven classically trained animators to facilitate our "pencil drawing approach" -- this method was achieved by creating pose-to-pose animation on a 2D plane for an entire sequence, that surface was then wrapped around the 3D model of the mask. This process preserved the continuity of the inkblot within the entire sequence and allowed the lighting team to pre-light each shot prior to applying the inkblot treatment.
Lighting the CG head and mask was a significant under-taking. In order to sell the mask as a non-CG element, IC had to re-produce all the shadows created from the source lights by the fedora and other objects. Together with the shadow creation, the off-white fabric produced a challenging palette of subtle variations and layering of colors that needed to be captured in every frame, all of which had to be blended into the final shot.
WATCHMEN hits theaters March 6. Look to VFXWorld for further coverage of the film's extensive visual effects.