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MPC Creates Mammoth Beanstalk for 'Jack the Giant Slayer'

Visual effects company MPC delivers over 350 shots in native 3D for director Bryan Singer’s “Jack the Giant Slayer.”


LONDON -- Led by VFX Supervisor Greg Butler and VFX Producer Gayle Munro, visual effects company MPC delivered over 350 shots in native 3D for director Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer, an epic tale of a young farmhand who accidentally opens a gateway to world of Giants that restarts an ancient war for the kingdom the creatures once ruled. MPC’s main area of work focused on creating a mammoth digital beanstalk. Other work included creating CG environments, digital set extensions and destruction work.

Creating a five-mile high beanstalk…and then chopping it down

MPC was responsible for all of the digital beanstalk work in the film. The huge beanstalk extending to the Giants’ home of Gantua was created practically first; the production design and special effects teams created several 30-foot models. These were then animated, digitally enhanced and extended by MPC. DMP’s of the countryside below and digital cloudy skies above were later composited in.

Key framed digital doubles were used for the majority of the characters ascending the stalk. When night falls and a storm develops, the team added digital lightning effects and enhanced the practical rain. The team animated and carefully placed 3D rain for any shots with the characters looking up, so that any drops or streaks didn’t get painfully close to the 3D viewer.  

Having created the beanstalk itself, the teams were then charged with its destruction. A combination of CG and practical elements were used to fill in the shots where support vines fly to the air and the earth explodes as roots are ripped out of the earth.

For the wider shots showing the beanstalk falling across the landscape, procedural modeling and rendering techniques had to be developed. The beanstalk was created using animated curves that had sections of interlocking beanstalk geometry pieces. This was then rendered in Renderman, with the team relying heavily on ray tracing.

Sprouting beanstalks

The finale sees a sprouting bean destroy the part of the king’s castle. Shooting up through the centre of the castle structure, the stalk bursts through roofs and carries towers into the sky above. Destruction shots were created using MPC’s proprietary software, Kali, with Flowline dust and smoke effects composited in. The team also utilised a proprietary ‘brickify’ tool that sped up the process of getting castle structures into Kali, allowing for faster destruction set-up times.

The cliff edge of Gantua

The teams were also tasked with creating the cliffs edge of Gantua, the home of the Giants. A partial set cliff was built for the actors to work on, however the majority of the shots were digitally created. Waterfalls pouring from the cliff edge were created using multiple layers of Flowline water simulations, disappearing into volumetric cloud layers below.

Jack the Giant Slayer was released in the U.S. on March 1, 2013.

Source: MPC

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.