Quickshots: Making ‘Valerian’s’ Doghan Daguis talk together as one

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The Doghan Daguis are a trio of comical characters appearing in Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. They were created in CG by Weta Digital. On set, full-sized maquettes were filmed and then scanned to help craft the digital versions. Three performers also acted out the roles in performance capture marker suits.

One of the characters’ interesting traits is the ability to finish each other’s sentences, but it was a challenge for Weta Digital to differentiate between each speaker and make sure the audience knew who was talking. Weta Digital’s visual effects supervisor Martin Hill discusses how they pulled that aspect of the character off.

Martin Hill: To really read the vocals rolling across from one character to another, we generally, rather than amping up the character who was actually talking, we commuted the characters who weren’t talking. We generally closed their mouths down a little bit more and would not move their head around so much. It made it very much more clear who was performing at any one time.

Quite often, to make the characters more fun, to make them within the comic book world, we would alter their jaw during a shot so we could get the dental fricatives sounds, the ’th’ sounds so we can actually see their teeth.

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Now, obviously, they’ve got these really long snouts. When they are facing one way or another to camera, they would generally talk on the side of their mouth that was facing camera, which is kind of an unphysical contrivance, but the trick there is always making it look natural, not making it look cartoony, making it feel like you are not noticing that you’re putting all of these cheeks and they’re not obvious things that they’re just all these nuances build the performance and make it more fun to watch.

Head stretching and stomach holes: re-visiting the visual effects of ‘Death Becomes Her’

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

“Bob had said to Meryl Streep: ‘Whatever Ken asks you to do, no matter how silly, just go with it. You can trust him.’ Because she must have been thinking, ‘What am I? What is this stupid thing?’ – Death Becomes Her visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston.

By the early 1990s, ILM had already been innovating in digital visual effects in a major way with films such as The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Then came along Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her. It would be released in 1992 and go on to win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, thanks to more innovation from ILM and practical creature effects by Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.

Death Becomes Her celebrates its 25th anniversary this week, and vfxblog goes retro on all the head twisting and stretching and stomach hole making work in the film with visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston. We discuss his long-time collaboration with Zemeckis, coming up with on-set solutions, experimenting with software and human skin texturing, and what’s changed in visual effects from then up until today. Continue reading Head stretching and stomach holes: re-visiting the visual effects of ‘Death Becomes Her’

‘We’re making a movie about emojis’ – so how do you animate those things?

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One of the appeals of being an animator must be new character challenges – finding the right movement, finding the personality, finding the ‘voice’, even when the characters appear to be quite simple. That challenge was awaiting Sony Pictures Imageworks for The Emoji Movie, and I talked to anim supe Sacha Kapijimpanga for Spark CG Society about finding a solution.

Quickshots: ‘Valerian’s’ multi-world oner

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Weta Digital’s Valerian visual effects supervisor Martin Hill discusses that insane ‘oner’ of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) dashing through multiple worlds.

Martin Hill: What’s happening in that sequence is, Valerian’s trying to get from one place to another as quickly as possible – that being a straight line. He’s just travelling in a straight line as fast as he humanly can with his exoskeleton power suit, or armour.

Essentially, anything that we could get in camera we would. There was a particular sense of movement that Luc wanted through the shots where the gravity was a bit different, he had his power suit on and so he wanted a particular gait we knew we couldn’t really get.

We did shoot Dane bounding against a blue screen for that shot. We shot him running towards the wall, and then we decided, on the day, at what point we would take over and go digital for performance reasons only. Then, halfway through the sequence, there’s a big orbit around his head where it’s back on Dane and then we’re just filling in the rest of the uniform and his body.

One of the big challenges was, we needed to create all these different worlds and they all needed to be distinct and they all needed to be their own things. What was very important was making sure that they all looked like they were still part of the same cinematic universe. That really boiled down to working with the art department, working with the set designers, costume designers and Luc and making sure that we didn’t have the same themes running through all the environments. The same is true for the characters. A lot of it comes down to colour pallet and composition.