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May/June 2021

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GODZILLA VS. KONG 23 POST MAY/JUNE 2021 more scars. We add a bit more barnacles — the little shells on his legs — and stuff like this. We try to keep him up to date with the latest technology that we have, whether it's muscle system or eye design." Both Godzilla and Kong are "super heavy" as- sets, Lefebvre notes. "For Kong, his groom is very heavy. His hair is a bit coarser than a normal monkey, but he's 300 feet tall, and his groom evolved in his battle. We have a version called 'Dirty Kong', where he is cov- ered in dust and has more debris stuck to his fur. We would put in street props that would get stuck, so that pass was very heavy." Godzilla, on the other hand, is complex due to his textures and size. "You always like to frame his feet because he is so big and stomps on stuff, so there's lots of super close-ups on his toes and the back of his spine," Lefebvre adds. The MPC Film sequence takes place at night, where the audience is introduced to Hong Kong as a modern city, with many of its skyscrapers outlined in bright neon lights. MPC provided previs and postvis services for the film, with Kyle Robinson heading the team as previsualization supervisor. Their primary focus was to establish Hong Kong's lighting, with its striking colors, which would illuminate the titans throughout the fast- paced, highly-destructive clash. "That was an artistic mandate," says Lefebvre of the city's look. "The director and the production designer had a concept of a very futuristic city, and we kind of made a hybrid of a real metropolis, like Hong Kong, that is quite modern, with lots of lighting and world noise and advertisements. They have a laser show that we were inspired by. And then we did add quite a bit of neon design to make it even more vibrant." Without question, building the city was MPC's biggest challenge. "It's a very long process," says Lefebvre. "We gamble a bit on the look of the city to drive the lighting of the characters. I kept telling my pro- ducer, our third character is the city, because it's such a thing by itself. When we were developing it, there was no monster in it for the longest time. We had thousands of props and cars. Compared to a character, a city is almost impossible to finish. The amount of detail you need to make it photoreal or, I call it 'world noise' to make it vibrant, to make it alive, is quite infinite." While much of the Hong Kong scenes were cre- ated digitally, there are several live-action sequenc- es. Ground plates, with people running for cover, were shot with extras. The aerial pass along the water, as Godzilla approaches the city, was cap- tured using a helicopter, as was some of the aerial footage of the skyline. But city restrictions prohibit helicopters from flying close to buildings, so visual effects had to create that illusion. Standing hundreds of feet tall, Godzilla caus- es considerable destruction when entering the city. Kong, at this point, is deep underground in what viewers learn is "Hollow Earth" — a subterra- nean world where all titans come from, and from where they draw their power. Hollow Earth is part jungle, part mountains and exhibits gravitational forces unlike those found on the Earth's surface. Sometimes the sky and mountains are upside down, for example, but Hollow Earth's massive creatures seem to navigate the unusual environ- ment with ease. The team of scientists who discov- ered Hollow Earth, and its entry point in Antarctica, are able to safely explore the underground world using vehicles called HEAVs, which float and hover using futuristic engines. In Hong Kong, Godzilla senses Kong's presence underground and uses his atomic breath to burn a hole deep into the Earth's core. It's this hole that brings Kong to the surface, with the crew in the HEAV closely following. "I think the shot — that was the most chal- lenging," says Lefebvre. "The HEAV comes out of the hole and goes along a building, and it's a bit like that adventure ride, with Kong's mouth — 'Arghhhh!' And then the next shot is all one sequence. The HEAV is riding along the beam, and there is a building that gets destroyed. They go through the building and continue to ride along Godzilla, so it looks like a wild ride. It's quite in- tense. It's a long shot." MPC's pipeline consists of Autodesk Maya, SideFX Houdini, Foundry Katana and Pixar Renderman, with Foundry Nuke for compositing. They also created a few proprietary tools, particu- larly for the interaction between the titans and the buildings of Hong Kong. The Populate HK (Hong Kong) technology is a script, based on PACS, built by MPC Film CG supervisor Joan Panis. Populate HK meant that any updates that were undertak- en in the main environment build could be easily integrated into new shots. This included reading any changes made to shots by the animation team. Populate HK would read the base environment and the amended animation, and prepare the city for render. The script also held the capabilities to en- sure that the shots were populated based on what sections of the city were visible, making them less heavy to render. "We had a system where everything that would be touched — either by Godzilla's beam or elbows, knees — everything that gets destroyed during the fight gets promoted to a special building where it gets its own interior, with office furniture and special glass that we can break," Lefebvre explains. "We had a cool system, where it was based on interaction. We didn't cut corners…It became a way we managed to track continuity. When you destroy a building and the shot is three seconds, in reality, the building continues to fall down, so we let the simulation run. That way, when they are doing their 'up' and 'down' (camera shots) in the city, we can get a continuity of the destruction." CG supervisor Timucin Ozger created an auto- mated Houdini destruction workflow scene, which could also render the outputs with neon as the light source in Mantra Renderer. This workflow cre- ated similar outputs to those the lighting depart- ment would render. This helped to avoid surprises of different looks between departments and keep consistency. MPC also upgraded their parallax shader to make the skyscrapers look photoreal- istic. The new shader could merge windows into the offices and create parallax rooms that actually looked like offices, not limited to single rooms. MPC began work on Godzilla vs. Kong in 2019 and was close to completion when the pandemic hit. Its work was pretty evenly distributed among its facilities, with London handling the hero assets, CG being created in Montreal, and compositing split between Montreal and Bangalore. "In the beginning, every facility was operating as normal," Lefebvre recalls. "I think it was March of last year when we got the notice from the local government to finish and go home. We [worked from] home from March until June (of 2020). I think we finished in June. It wasn't that bad to be honest. It took a week or two to maybe set up and [get] everybody used to the different system. I think finishing a movie is easier than starting one." So, back to the earlier question as to whether these two titans can coexist, and if not, which would reign supreme? Kong ends up as king of Hollow Earth, while Godzilla returns to the ocean depths as ruler of the surface world. So, it appears that each is master of his own universe and stands ready for a new conflict, should one arise. 'Dirty Kong' has debris stuck in his dense fur.

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