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January / February 2019

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DEPARTMENT 31 POST JAN/FEB 2019 almost shot by shot." ILM's crowd team populated the battle with "hundreds of thousands of assets, all fighting each other, including the crab-like Brine and Atlanteans with stinger vehicles with gracefully flapping wings," says White. "It was easy to mix them up in the chaos, so we used a strong color palette to tell who's who: red for the Brine, blue for the Atlanteans, green and gold for the Xebelians. "James also asked us to really play up the laser trails and bubble trails behind them, like contrails, which were beautiful and helped orient the audi- ence by defining the space and perspective." There were several almost :30 shots in the final battle, White notes. "Those were particularly dif- ficult in terms of getting the choreography right: squid releasing ink as a smokescreen, narwhals spearing Xebelian soldiers. We had storyboards and previs for this third act, but we needed to supplement them quite a bit." ILM developed crowd tools, built within SideFX Houdini, for the underwater battle and a plug-in for The Foundry's Nuke for physically accurate color, depth and attenuation. Modeling and ani- mation were done in Autodesk's Maya. "The final battle had amazing and gorgeous choreography," says LoCascio. "The end result puts you in the center of a huge journey. The attention to detail is exceptional, and people who see the film more than once say they discover new things with each viewing." ILM also crafted the Karathen monster, a mythical leviathan and guardian of Atlan's trident. "It was a fun creature — a massive movie monster that you dream about making," White laughs. "In wide shots you see the whole Karathen, but in close ups Arthur was standing between its horns. So, the level of detail of the creature had to hold up depending where the camera was. We had to figure out the components of the skin and spent a lot of time on the face since the camera would be around the head a lot." Karathen had to have enough mass and move slowly enough to convince audiences of its enor- mous size. "We were constantly looking at scale within shots and sometimes put a small asset in the foreground so Atlantean stingers, for example, would look diminutive as they approached the giant creature," White explains. On the Warner Bros. lot, the production built "a DI-quality screening room from scratch in our post production offices," says McIlwain. "It was an important tool in the process. I could call James and present full-resolution 2K EXR files using my DaVinci Resolve micro control panel. We had an Avid set up in the room too, so we could project through Resolve or flip over so the editors could project through Avid. It worked so well that I want to do the same thing on my next project." LoCascio notes that, "we created postvis shots for 100 percent of the film for the director's cut screening. Proof, Halon, Day for Night, The Third Floor and Digitial Domain, as well as our own full- time, in-house department, worked tirelessly to deliver on an exceptionally-tight schedule. They all did an incredible job, and this process allowed a glimpse of what the final film would be. "I feel blessed to have collaborated with such a great group of people," LoCascio says. Although the film is packed with breathtaking VFX, she emphasizes that Aquaman is "very story-driven and emotionally touching with great characters. It offers something for everyone — I enjoy every second of it no matter how many times I see it." "The scope of Aquaman was huge and the visual design and complexity of shots was really exciting and a huge challenge," says White. "James was just fantastic to work with. He cared so much about how the characters would look and feel heroic, and that's paid off with the audience and how they're responding to the movie." Jason Momoa in the title role. The final underwater battle sequence was particularly challenging. ILM completed the intricate hair work (top and above).

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