MPC Vancouver's main area of work involved extensive CG in the epic Samurai Attack finale in Zack Synder's action fantasy, Sucker Punch.
MPC Vancouver’s animation and art department teams were very involved in the Samurai Attack sequence from an early stage. Ahead of principal photography MPC produced a first blocking of the sequence called “techvis”, using performance capture roughly retargeted onto giant 3D Samurai puppets in a Japanese pagoda environment. This allowed the director to block camera positions with continuity and action beats based on the fight choreography he had designed with the stunt teams. VFX Supervisor John DesJardin and the MPC team could then define what would be the best way of achieving each shot both during principal photography and post-production.
In the meantime, the art department and asset teams worked on bringing the 3 samurais to life, combining real samurai armor pieces and detail onto the original, very stylized body proportions. The next stage was to accurately build the Japanese Pagoda and its surrounding environment, based on the original artwork and set plans so that each section and plank could be destroyed during the final fight against the machine gun samurai.
To handle the extremely detailed destruction work, MPC’s Software and FX teams in Vancouver developed a new destruction system called “Kali” based on Pixelux’s DMM, a finite elements solver usually used in the video games industry.
This new approach allowed materials to flex and bend before breaking and the ability to define physical properties to each different material allowing the team to realistically simulate wood, metal and stone breaking. It also gave the modelers the freedom to create assets without regard for how they would break, eliminating the time consuming process of pre-cutting the geometry.
To accommodate the needs of retiming and speed ramps on the project, MPC implemented a full retiming solution into the pipeline allowing the artists to work on everything at 100fps and apply the final retime at render time to get accurate motion blur and animation interpolation.
In order to achieve the very stylized look Zack Snyder was after, MPC’s lighting team devised solutions to render the pagoda environment, illuminated by thousands of candles, extensively using global illumination and point-based illumination techniques.
MPC’s compositing team then had the challenging task of putting the hundreds of CG layers that would make each shot, from the completely digital environments, CG samurais, CG Babydoll, CG destruction passes, atmospheric, snow and dust layers to carefully balancing green screen elements to create a seamless and consistent look across the sequence.
Warner Bros Pictures