If a movie is a massive studio blockbuster, then the Prime Focus World visual effects team have most likely had some involvement in its making. Prime Focus was responsible for creating the stunning effects for titles such as Men in Black 3, Dredd 3D, Mirror Mirror and Total Recall…to name just a few! And of course, every new VFX project comes with its own challenges. Len Wiseman’s remake of Total Recall was one such project that allowed the team to flex their creative and technical muscle.
Working in partnership with Double Negative, lead VFX vendor on Total Recall, Prime Focus delivered over 400 VFX shots. More than 50% of these were for the Robotic soldiers known as ‘Synths’. These largely CG characters were represented by live actors on-set with no available mo-cap data. This made, the tracking and animation of the internal hydraulics and gears a real technical challenge.
Offering you an insight into just how challenging this was Prime Focus’ VFX Supervisor, Alex Pejic, explained, "…with over 700 Synths to be animated, and no motion capture data, we had to provide accurate frame-by-frame body tracking using in-house tracking and animation tools. We had rig calibration controls to adjust for the different physiques of the various stuntmen in costume: skinny or muscular, tall or short, for example. Tracking shots with CG-guts added inside live-action armour was made more complicated by the fact that the live actor body armour is sliding and vibrating over muscle and fat, rather than bolted to a metal skeleton." Alex went on the explain how "it’s often that smaller gestures are more challenging to achieve than the larger ones, as the slightest over-rotation of the hips could knock the arm hydraulics out of alignment. The team’s attention to detail was the key to the success of the animation."
This article continues in Part II...