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'X-Men: Days of Future Past': Heaven Sentinel

By Henry Winchester

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

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Date Added: 28th May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past: We talk to MPC's animation supervisor, Benoit Dubuc, to find out how they brought the evil robots to life in Marvel's latest superhero blockbuster

Images courtesy of MPC © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox All rights reserved


X-Men: Days of Future Past serves as a bridge between the original X-Men trilogy and prequel X-Men: First Class. Iconic grizzly hero Wolverine must attempt to stop the 1970s assassination of Bolivar Trask, whose Sentinel robots will wreak havoc on the world in 2023.

X-Men films have always pushed the envelope in terms of visual effects, and Days of Future Past is no different. Key to the whole film are the Sentinels, whose design and movement needed to convey both strength and agility. We had a chat with MPC's animation supervisor Benoit Dubuc about how crucial it was to get these killer cyborgs' movements just right.

3dtotal: Could you tell us about your career so far?
Benoit Dubuc: I moved to Montreal specifically with MPC to work on the X-Men film. I got recruited by MPC seven years ago to work on 10,000 BC, and after that project I moved to Framestore to work on The Tale of Despereaux. The work at Framestore was more visual-effects based, and I had enjoyed my experience at MPC so I decided to come back to MPC. I haven't looked back since!

A terrifying vision of the future in X-Men: Days of Future Past - Image courtesy of MPC © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox All rights reserved

3dt: What does your role at MPC involve?
BD: I manage the department, so I had to build up the team in Montreal. We're now at close to 30 animators on the team, so when I got here in June I was the only one from animation on the team, and then I managed to get another MPC animator on board. Aside from that it's brand new staff and we had to train all of them while producing X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was a bit of challenge!

3dt: What specifically did you do on X-Men: Days of Future Past?
DB: Our work was the future Sentinels. There's 2 iterations of the Sentinels; there's the past Sentinels, which are set in the 70s, and those are closer to the iconic comic book designs, so they have the purple color and they're slightly more clunky in design.

A key element of the film's plot is that the Sentinels are built upon Mystique's mutant powers - Image courtesy of MPC © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox All rights reserved

Then, when we cut to the future, which is set in 2023, the Sentinels have been developed even further with the use of biotechnology. In terms of performance, our Sentinels are very different from the past Sentinels; they're more agile, more nimble, more stealthy, faster, stronger – they're more powerful. They absorb the power of the mutants and they are able to replicate it and generate it and use it to attack.

"We knew that Bryan Singer wanted something very athletic, very graceful”

From our animating standpoint, when I got on board the character had already been designed, and the first order of business was to develop the performance. We knew that Bryan Singer wanted something very athletic, very graceful. But how much of that we wanted to fuse with a robot that came across as very heavy, powerful and menacing. So we had to find the balance between robotic and athletic at the same time.

In the pre-production phase we did a bunch of animation tests that we presented to the VFX supervisor on the client's side, Richard Stammers, and we were able to develop the type of performance that we wanted to push to the movie. There was also a phase when I came on board and started playing with the puppet and I just wanted to make sure that we hit the strong poses that were needed in the film, and that the character could move properly. So there was a bit of a reshaping process where we slightly modified the proportions of the puppet to be able to accommodate our future needs.

Sunspot takes on a Sentinel - Image courtesy of MPC © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox All rights reserved

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