With the Director’s Cut arriving on DVD & Blu-Ray for Hercules on December 1, 2014 in the UK, Trevor Hogg chats with Simon Stanley-Clamp about the visual effects work contributed by Cinesite…
Contributions to Paramount movies World War Z (2013) and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) as well previously working with Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno on X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) led to Cinesite taking part in the latest cinematic incarnation of Hercules (2014). “Initially, our contact was through Double Negative, who had subcontracted the work to us,” explains Cinesite Visual Effects Supervisor Simon Stanley-Clamp. “But John became one of our main contacts for the significant portion of the post-production so it was easy for him to put across what he was looking for.”
180 shots had to be produced for the battle sequence where Hercules and his mercenaries fight the forces of Rhesus. “We used Golaem Crowd integrated in Maya, especially with Coty’s army, to turn those 100 extras into 10,000 soldiers. It is less complicated than Massive, and works in conjunction with Maya, although working with it did prove a challenge for us.” Trees needed to be created. “Speedtree was used to generate a small forest for one principle shot, and assets from that forest were used in about 15 other shots.”
“We inherited horse models, which in many shots were hand animated to populate the charging cavalry of the Rhesus army,” explains Simon Stanley-Clamp. “Fur dynamics were created for the tails and manes using Maya. The same ‘dead body pass’ system was used with the arrows which needed to be seen to land and remain in the correct places in subsequent shots.”
“Over the course of the 180 shot battle, hundreds of soldiers are killed so for continuity we needed to create a dead body pass. We created the last shot first, which had the widest spread of bodies on the ground. We marked their position and worked backwards to introduce the bodies in the appropriate shots. A certain amount of shot sculpting was also required to relax bodies, hair, and limbs for the dead bodies on the ground, on a shot-by-shot basis.”
“We spent a great deal of time trying to get Golaem to work,” notes Stanley-Clamp. “It often felt like guess-work. In retrospect, hand animation would have been a more productive process in many cases. The compressed schedule was also a challenge, but one that we are used to rising to meet.”
Hercules images © 2014 Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Cinesite.
Many thanks to Simon Stanley-Clamp for taking the time for this interview.
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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.