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Godzilla VFX

By Henry Winchester

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

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Date Added: 30th May 2014

We talk to MPC's visual effects guru Guillaume Rocheron about creating the monsters for Gareth Edwards' first blockbuster movie, Godzilla

© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved


The last time we spoke to MPC's VFX supervisor Guillaume Rocheron, he'd just finished work on Man of Steel. He told us about the ground-breaking work MPC had contributed to Zack Snyder's Superman movie, especially the thrilling single-shot action sequences made possible with its bespoke Envirocam technology. He concluded the interview by telling us what he was working on next: Gareth Edwards' Godzilla.

12 months later and Godzilla has crashed into cinemas and become a resounding box-office success, much like Man of Steel last year. We had a chat with Rocheron about re-imagining the legendary and iconic creature for an entirely new audience, and working with director Edwards on his first mega-budget feature.

Godzilla Trailer
Warner Bros Pictures/Legendary Pictures

"We were involved in Godzilla very early on, a year before principal photography, to help put together the very first clip that got the movie green-lit, and that's what we showed at Comic Con in 2012,” says Rocheron. "It was done before we had finished character design, but it was really a piece that would show the style and the mood he was going for with the movie.”

The Comic Con trailer achieved a remarkable amount of praise, casting aside doubts that Gareth Edwards could handle a mega-budget Hollywood blockbuster after his sleeper hit, Monsters.

"The Comic Con presentation was more of an atmospheric piece showing devastated landscapes and then you'd get a glimpse of Godzilla through the dust.” says Rocheron. "It was really just how Gareth wanted to translate the film on screen.”

Godzilla makes its way through MPC's digital version of San Francisco
© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

After the release of the Comic Con trailer, MPC was employed to create the titular monster in all its humongous glory. The team studied reptiles such as lizards, crocodiles and alligators for the creature's features, and then looked at footage of komodo dragons and fighting bears for its lumbering movements.

Despite its huge size the team concentrated on minuscule details, ensuring scales slid over one another realistically, and rigging Godzilla with an underlying musculature so he moved properly.

Godzilla has some subtle moments – well, about as subtle as you can get for a film about a 100-metre tall lizard
© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved

The man in the suit

Edwards was still keen to homage Godzilla's rather low-tech beginnings in the original 1954 Japanese film and its sequels. "There's a legacy of Godzilla being played by a man in a suit in the movies, and it was very important to give him a human element,” says Rocheron. Motion capture was considered, with actor Andy Serkis providing different behaviours, but these ended up as reference materials rather than CG performances.

"Because of the scale of the creature and the anatomic differences between a human and a giant lizard or MUTO (Massive Unknown Terrestrial Organism), you can't do performance capture per se,” he says. "The performance capture helped for reference because you could look at the performance and be like, 'we can use that cheek-puff, or that head angle'. But in the end, the creatures are 100-percent computer-animated, it was just visual references.”

"He was definitely the most complex CG creature we've ever created, just because of the sheer size. One of his fingernails is the size of a car!"

The team soon realised that achieving a sense of scale was rather difficult. "He was definitely the most complex CG creature we've ever created, just because of the sheer size,” says Rocheron. "One of his fingernails is the size of a car!” Framing Godzilla alongside common objects such as vehicles and people could give a sense of size, but they found a simpler way to make him look massive: dust.

"Because the creatures are fighting through the city they generate a lot of dust, and we used this dust interaction as a scale reference,” says Rocheron. "It was a very, very, very high-resolution dust simulation with intricate details like dust swirling around the creatures and parting around the arms or the head or the skin. Right away you have this reference of scale, because you're like, 'Okay, I know what dust is, and I know how dust is moving very slowly against them'.”

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