We know that 3D modelling is an arduous process, requiring extreme attention to detail and creativity. It might be draining sometimes, too.
So we're offering you an opportunity to break away from your work and draw inspiration from some of the most extraordinary movie characters that were brought to life with the help of technology. Everything about these CG-generated movie characters is so convincing, it makes us wonder what wizardry stuff this level of CG will deliver in the future.
Can you match the level of expertise? We’d love to see your work!
1.Davy Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Entertainment Weekly named this Octopus-faced villain the second most convincing computer generated film character in film history (after King Kong, of course) and it’s fair to say – everyone saw it coming. Industrial Light and Magic tackled this ambitious project with exemplary precision and expertise, since seamlessly blending in Davy Jones and seventeen of his transmogrified crew with real, flesh-and-blood actors was a full-on challenge. The entire filming process was unique, too. Traditionally, the movements of a character like Davy Jones would be recorded using an old trick called “motion capture”, when the actor re-creates all of the actions in an isolated bluescreen soundstage. In Dead Man’s Chest, Bill Nighy, the actor who hides under the computer-generated octopus face, was acting on the main movie sets alongside Depp and others, wearing only something that he himself nicknamed “pajamas”, with reference dots on his face and around the suit.
2.Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Dobby is the most likeable house elf you’ve ever seen, do not deny it. He does look more human than his previous incarnations, but it took a team of 60 CG wizards 16 months to breathe new life into this magical creature. Dobby was played by a real actor and only later a crew of Framestore’s designers replaced it with animation. Months of rigorous work haven’t gone unnoticed, as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was nominated for an Oscar.
Although the movie was a flop, the Wolfman character is an intriguing blend of old and new world techniques: state-of-art make-up and mind-blowing CG. It’s nicely balanced and proper terrifying, as intended. Movie posters are especially eye-catching and give a good glimpse into the CG-extended film reality.
4.Hulk, The Avengers
Software engineered for the fantasy menagerie of “The Golden Compass” was used as a springboard for rendering the Hulk. Hulk is an entirely computer-generated character, but a cutting-edge motion-capture technology was used to mimic the brutal, sharp and aggressive movements of football linebackers and it also applied phosphorescent face paint and strobe lighting to digitally capture even the most subtle facial movement.
5.Gollum, Lord of the Rings
When it comes to CG-created movie characters, Lord of the Ring’s Gollum is always in the top three most admired Hollywood creations. Raitt, who’s behind this impressive CG-generated model, and his team developed a technique that implemented 964 control points on the model of Gollum’s face that made it possible to control Gollum’s facial movements in great detail.
6.The Iron Man
We’re coming to a point where CG gets better every day and if it’s possible to do it practically, then it is just as well possible digitally. What the actor wore during filming was the so-called football suit or a half-suit. What the actor playing The Iron Man needed to wear was the upper body piece, helmet, gloves and arms. The scene where Tony Stark’s house is blasted off the hill was also all CG-created.
Avatar’s ten feet tall alien race with shining blue skin is one of the most impressive creative adventures to ever venture into the big screen. Near-900 strong crew worked around the clock to bring this science-fiction epic as close to reality as it was possible. 1,800 stereoscopic, photo-realistic visual effects shots of the creatures, the machines and vehicles, equipment, environment and everything else were created. The goal was to incorporate the details of the physical actors into the digital characters, so a great number of photographs and scans was used.
8.Caesar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Did you know that every single Caesar’s hair is built and articulated individually? It’s impressive! In such way, when apes are in motion – running, touching something or fighting – the hair does everything it’s supposed to do and looks real. Performance-capture has played a major role in picking up actor’s body and face motions, but the really remarkable work was done applying all that information to digital apes. There are 1,250shots in the film and there were around 700-800 people working on editing and getting everything together, which is approximately 40 people working to get a minute of footage on screen.
9.T-600, Terminator Salvation
A high-end animation application software Houdini was used for rigging and animation to set up T-600 and Marcus cyborgs. Given the detail that needs to go into such animation process, invoking Houdini with its digital asset pipeline that allows different people to work on the same rig at the same time, seems like a reasonable choice. Although the appearance of T-600 has drawn a fair amount of criticism, since many thought of it to be too Frankenstein-looking, the detail that went into setting up the model is worth noting.
10.Electro, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Jamie Foxx, who played Electro, was wearing a black suit and blue make-up on set, but most of the work was done with computer generation. To make Electro as believable as possible, the Visual Effects team drew their inspiration from tesla coils, lightning bolts, plasma ball and any other form of energy. In order to give the film another touch of reality, Imageworks employed a freshly-developed software – “Doctor Gravity”, which allows blending real physics into the motion. In roughly 34 weeks, 1,600 visual effects shots were completed.
11.Where the Wild Things Are
Having sold over 10 million copies, Maurice Sendak's classic children book was a tough nut to crack, especially given the amount and complexity of digital visual effects and rich emotional facial animation of the creatures that needed to be done. On top of giant puppets and costumes, a great amount of CG work was involved. In just six months the crew of 250 Framework’s CG wizards managed to pull 1,400 character appearances into an impressive movie that touched millions of hearts.
12.Iorek Byrnison, The Golden Compass
The massive armoured polar bear, Iorek Byrnison, was not just another movie character. From the very start it was regarded as a co-star, therefore a lot of work and effort was invested to bring it to the same level of performance that the real flesh-and-blood actors exhibited. Over 200 team members worked on more than 300 shots and the result is fantastic. It all began from studying the real anatomy and physical structure of a bear, taking advantage of all the available references from photos and videos to interviews with an experienced wildlife cameraman. The beautiful Iorek’s armour was another challenge, since fitting one CG element on top of another and making it look flawless is not an easy task. And yet, the hard work paid-off…
13.Benjamin Button, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
When the fact that, what the audience actually sees in the first third of the movie is not Pitt, but a computer-generated copy of his head, sinks in, you start appreciating the amazing capacity of special effects. The challenge that the visual effects team was facing was a common one in movies that are heavily based on CG-generated characters – it’s the “Uncanny Valley”, or the creepy region for characters that look a lot like human beings, but don’t go all the way. So not making Pitt look like a zombie was a key goal and the movie turned out to be a real success.
14.Optimus Prime, Transformers
These 21 st-century bad-ass, big-screen fighting machines were at first crafted by hand. For example, Optimus Prime that sits on VFX Supervisor’s desk is actually tiny and has 51 parts. You can hold it in your hand. The one that’s seen on the big screen is 28 feet tall and consists of 10,018 parts. Since Optimus Prime has a speaking role in the movie, 200 moving facial parts were created to make it happen.
It’s a legendary movie, one of the pioneering CGI creations and there is not much to say about it, except that its ground-breaking use of special effects made the audiences crave for more high-quality CG-generated characters. And that’s a massive win.
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Juste Semetaite loves dabbling with the geeky stuff and often writes about technology, 3D printing, groundbreaking discoveries and science, and has a passion for design, architecture and the art world. Practices thoughtful living and passionately advocates for the social economy. She's also a master of sandwich-making. Juste currently resides in Vilnius, Lithuania.