CULVER CITY, CA – Visual effects company Zoic Studios  was recently given another opportunity to showcase its expertise in digital environments and animation. The studio was called on by director Bill Condon, visual effects supervisor Terry Windell and visual effects producer Karen Murphy to contribute to the new Twilight film, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
Zoic delivered 82 shots across several sequences of the film. The studio’s principal VFX challenge involved a sequence in which Bella unexpectedly encounters a human when she is hunting for the first time. The production planned and shot the sequence on a combination of locations, sets, and greenscreens, with most actions covered by stunt players or shots with Robbert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. As the sequence developed in editorial, however, significant continuity issues emerged. Zoic used 2D and 3D CG environments, digital doubles of Bella, dynamic digital effects and high-end compositing to complete the scenes.
Zoic’s work began with conceptual development. VFX art director Syd Dutton created a series of concept sketches to help define the look and layout of the wilderness environments. The locale evolved along with the cut, from a scenic mountaintop to an enchanted forest. As the thinking changed, Dutton and Zoic artist Jeremy Melton quickly responded with new interpretations to help the director and VFX supervisor achieve their vision.
Climbing sequences were shot on the Stowamus Chief cliff at Squamish in British Columbia. To solve the continuity problems on this location, Zoic chose to create a CG replica of the distinctive precipice. Creative director Mark Stetson and CG supervisor Michael Cliett traveled to the location and shot numerous photos of the Chief for photogrammetry and texture mapping. Cliett’s team quickly solved and edited the geometry and started making texture maps.
Soon Stetson began asking for renders of some of the extreme angles of the cliff. “At first, I was thinking we would use the CG renders of the cliff, which were POVs just inches from the cliff face, as underlays for digital matte paintings. But the resolution of the CG cliff really held up, and we started seeing features that we never imagined. So then the task became art directing those features on the CG cliff face and selling the ideas to Terry and Bill.”
With concept development and technical development advancing, the CG team turned their attention to enhancing shots with other CG elements including splitting rocks, flying debris, dust and dirt off the forest floor, clouds and rivers… and Bella. Terry Windell and Karen Murphy had not intended that Zoic would be using digital doubles of the characters, but Stetson and Zoic VFX supervisor Ralph Maiers looked at the photographed elements of Kristen Stewart and her stunt doubles on wires and jumping into airbags, and they jumped to a different conclusion.
Maiers says, “Mark and I both knew that we could improve some of the performances from the physical stunt team, simply because we didn’t have to deal with the physics and safety requirements of the real world. We could animate Bella to perform some of her leaps, and her single-minded race up the cliff face, more gracefully and powerfully at the same time. This sequence gave our animators a chance to strut their stuff.”
Compositing supervisor Kenton Rannie’s team worked entirely in Vancouver. The biggest challenges were merging the location features with CG features, matching the stunt doubles and CG doubles to Kristen Stewart, and especially adjusting the lighting on both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson from the greenscreen stage to the newly designed dense forest environment.
Kenton Rannie and Ralph Maiers made repeated forays to the nearby woods of Stanley Park to shoot additional trees and undergrowth to create foreground, midground, and background layers of the forest. These elements gave Zoic the tools to really fill in the lushness of the forest, as Condon art-directed the environment almost bush by bush. On one aerial shot, Zoic’s comp team had to reposition the cliff face relative to the camera move and under the climber’s position, rather than simply move the climber to the correct spot on the cliff.
Along with key establishing shots of Seattle and Denali, Stetson’s favorite moments included turning a summer shot of the Swan family home into a snowy winter scene, and making Bella sparkle in the forest. Stetson concluded, “It was a great pleasure to work with Terry Windell and Karen Murphy again. They made this project an experience we enjoyed and a result we are proud of!”
Source: Zoic Studios