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July 2013

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visual effects Creating a zombie apocalypse for World War Z L ictu r es. Post • July 2013 amount P 8 "During preproduction, Cinesite animation lead Peter Clayton and the rest of the team also created dozens of test animations to help the director, Marc Forster, visualize how the zombies should move. Hundreds of different movements were captured, from walks and runs to complicated vignettes which featured multiple characters for specific action in spe- ictu r es © 2013 Par LIDAR scans were used to help build CG sets and environments. amount P London's Cinesite took on about 440 shots. be tweaked, the geometry upgraded to a higher resolution and if need be, high-resolution cloth and hair simulations could be used." POST: What about the city environments. How much was real and how much was CG? THOMAS DYG: (Environments Supervisor) "The most elaborate of the environments we created was the New Jersey roof- inesite / Par cific shots. The zombie mocap was then augmented with keyframe animation to create the arms back, stooped forward run that the director was looking for. "Although mocap was used extensively for crowd scenes, a lot of pure keyframe animation was used for hero digi-double shots for actions, which were impossible to achieve in mocap C By Randi Altman EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ONDON — It's everyone's worst nightmare, or at least it should be — a zombie pandemic! And Brad Pitt, playing a former UN employee, seems to be the only one who can stop it. He travels the world and takes on the undead in order to save humanity. As you can imagine, there are tons of effects, digital cities, vehicles, helicopters, planes and thousands of motion-captured zombies hell-bent on world domination. Cinesite London ( provided about 440 shots for the film; many of which take place in the first half, which is set in Philly, New Jersey, Korea and on a military vessel. MPC (, also in London, handled about 450 visual effects shots, including the zombie crowd work, Jerusalem, the zombie pyramid, zombies being shot climbing over a bus, zombies attacking helicopters, the plane being destroyed with zombies flying out, the Wales sequence and epilogue. Jessica Norman was VFX supervisor for MPC. For more on their work for the film, please see our Website. For this particular piece, we did a Q&A roundtable with a few Cinesite artists. Enjoy… POST: You captured the movement of the zombie characters with mocap? Can you describe the process? ANTHONY ZWARTOUW: (CG Supervisor) "Led by the film's animation supervisor Andy Jones, the production did three mocap sessions, each two days long. Audio-motion, in Oxford, was the company used, and their Vicon Motion 160 camera system enabled the recording of multiple performers. One elaborate environment created by Cinesite was the New Jersey rooftop sequence. because they were too dangerous.This includes the zombie take-downs, inspired by Israeli attack dogs latching onto their prey. The head first, arms back attack was impossible to achieve for real without injury to the stuntmen." POST: An Israeli attack dog!? MATT JOHNSON: (Cinesite VFX Supervisor) "The Israeli attack dog reference brought up a lot of interesting issues. However tough you are, if you launch at somebody leading with your teeth, you will always try to cushion your fall with your arms; in this movie, the zombies don't do that. This meant that even the bravest stuntman could not accurately get the force of attack that we wanted, in many cases. "Fantastic work was done by a team of experimental dancers who were able to move and contort their limbs to an almost terrifying extent. Their actions were motion captured and combined with bespoke animation to create the unique movement characteristics of the zombies." POST: What about crowd shots? ZWARTOUW: "Our crowd system needed to accommodate both distant crowd shots and those where zombies are much closer, so it was decided to create a tool which enabled the Massive TDs to export portions of the simulated crowd as animation rigs to import into Maya, in order that the animation could top sequence, which was shot entirely on a greenscreen stage. The rooftop itself and the helicopter were the only set builds. Our VFX supervisor Matt Johnson and VFX photographer Aviv Yaron went to New York and New Jersey to shoot reference stills of various buildings from street level, as well as panoramas from various rooftops. "From this photography we created simple geometry, which we projected the photography onto. This was used to make up all the foreground and mid-ground buildings. For the background we used two sets of panoramas. The closest part of the background was Manhattan and the more distant background was a panorama of New Jersey. Manhattan was mixed in because it has a higher density of tall buildings, which visually looked more interesting from the top of our roof.  "Panoramas were created in PTGui. Simple building geometry was started in Sketchup and refined in Maya. All the elements were brought into Nuke, where the buildings were laid out, textured, panoramas set up, sun with flares and other atmospheric effects added. A number of mattes and layers together with a template script were passed on to our compositors.This template provided some control continued on page 46

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