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Man of Steel VFX: Putting the "Super" in Superman

By Henry Winchester

Web: http://www.moving-picture.com (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 20th June 2013

As well as providing a high-resolution digital double of Superman, MPC also created one of Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) for the Battle of Smallville sequence.

A Piece of Cape

A subtler effect Rocheron worked on was Superman's trademark red cape. "The cape is very iconic," he says. "It's a direct extension of his body; it's used in conjunction with his pose to get those very strong and cool silhouettes. It was very important to get that right. You don't want the cape to just rest behind him, not really doing anything interesting, it has to be there to emphasis his movement."

"We were treating the cape literally like a character."

To get the cape to move and flow correctly MPC wrote a system whereby a basic version of the cape could be keyframed to set up certain shots. From here, the team wrote a pipeline so the cloth simulator would fill in the additional movements to achieve the right level of grandiose - but understated - billowing. "We were treating the cape literally like a character," says Rocheron.

Superman's jaw-dropping first flight sequence was also created by MPC. It's a critical part of the movie - it's the first time you see Superman in his outfit, and it conveys the power and freedom the character has. "Superman tries to control his power," says Rocheron. "He attempts to fly over the arctic environment, crashes into a mountain, and realises that the sun is his main source of power."

Having left the Fortress of Solitude, Superman tries out his new-found abilities in the arctic.

Once Superman's airborne, he flies into the upper atmosphere, into space, and then returns for an aerial tour of the planet. "We did a fully-digital Utah canyon to frame the action nicely for his movements, and we did a CG African savannah where he flies over a herd of zebras, which is a little homage to the Superman: Birthright comic book," says Rocheron.

"We put the camera on a virtual jet, which can circle around at speed, and you'd have to use very long lenses to be able to get close enough to the characters. It's all about how you design shots in a realistic manner."

MPC used NASA photography to create a CG version of the earth, and then inserted their spaceborne digital double of Superman.

A Positive Envirocam

In total Rocheron reckons MPC worked on 450 shots for Man of Steel, and he's most proud of his work on the Envirocam process. "It's really a cool upgrade to what's been done before with virtual cinematography," he says. "We've been capturing scans, we've been capturing textures - but here we can capture shots."

It's also something he's using for forthcoming projects. He kept schtum on what these might be, but he's credited on Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Gareth Edwards' new take on Godzilla.

"We developed it for Man of Steel, but it's something we're starting to use on all pretty much all our films at MPC," he says. "There are a lot of different uses - you can use it just to capture sets and generate references, but I'm using it on the project I'm working on right now to capture scenes."

Superman during the Battle of Smallville sequence, which made extensive use of MPC's Envirocam technique.

Related Links

Man Of Steel - Official Website
Man Of Steel - Nokia Exclusive Trailer
Guillaume Rocheron - IMDB

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