Computer Graphics World

July/August 2014

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j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 4 c g w 5 3 V I S U A L E F F E C T S ore trans- forming robot shots, multiple robots in those shots, more robots with dialog, more shots carried entirely by the robots. What more could Director Michael Bay have asked of the hard-working ILM crew on Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction? Why not put Optimus Prime on the back of a giant, transforming, metal dinosaur? Or create a ship, the "Night Ship," that holds dozens of giant Transformers onboard. And maybe have that ship suck up anything made of metal, in- cluding an entire ferryboat and then drop it on a glass high-rise in Hong Kong? "It took the largest crew I've had," says Scott Farrar, visual effects supervisor. "We pushed the biggest bunch of data through the joint in ILM's history. We had one shot come in three weeks before release. We had the background, but we had to figure out all the lighting and rendering. There was a huge amount of creative moviemaking to do." Working with Farrar during filming was VFX Supervisor Jeff White, and during postproduction, Co-VFX Supervisor Pat Tubach. Farrar, who received an Oscar for Cocoon, has been the visual effects supervisor for all four of Bay's Transformers films. He received Oscar nominations for the first and third, bringing his total Oscar nominations to six. He called this film's work "monumental." Writes Glenn Kenny on "[Transformers: Age of Extinction] is abundant in the most sophisticated visual effects that the movie industry has to offer, rendering in pre- cisely-engineered 3D all manner of ingeniously designed organic, mechanic, mutated imaginary creatures enacting breakneck action and wreaking large-scale mayhem with relentless impact." It's an opinion shared by film critics who otherwise panned the film – an astounding 95 per- cent. But, critical reviews haven't kept audiences from buying tick- ets to the 165-minute spectacle. Aer only two weekends, the film had earned more than half a billion dollars worldwide. E M O T I O N A L R O B O T S With 90 minutes of CG ani- mation, calling Transformers a visual effects-driven film would be an understatement. "That was all ILM's work," Farrar says. "We had between 50 and 60 animators. There was a heck of a lot of work to do." Scott Benza, who also received Oscar nominations for the first and third Transformers, was animation supervisor on this film, as he had been for the previous three. Sharing the supervisory role was Rick O'Connor, who had moved up from animator on the first Transformers to associate animation supervisor on the second and third. In this film, the transforming robots, both good and bad, have more dialog, and their narrative even carries the film forward in some scenes. Actors who pro- vided the robots' voices were on set during filming to give Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, and other cast members trans- former performances to which they could react. Although the ILM crew videotaped the voice actors, they chose not to use motion capture. "Scott preferred having the animators do keyframe animation, and they proved he was right," Farrar says. "It's an odd thing working with sliding, moving pieces of metal. With motion capture, it can become a horrible, mechanical mess. Someone would have had to clean up all the intersections. It was safer to just do keyframe animation. The robots capture the actor's performance, but they are still robots." Farrar describes a scene with the transformer Lockdown, Optimus Prime's nemesis. "He does this wince, like when you taste something sour, when he's speaking to Optimus," he says. "It completely matches [actor] Mark Ryan's facial features." The emotional performances asked of the robots gave anima- tors the opportunity to contrib- ute to the film in more creative ways than in the past. "Rick and Scott would come up with ideas for plot twists and dialog once we put our animation into play," Farrar says. "It's like blocking with actors who might say a scene would be better if they said something different. So Michael [Bay] would go to [Writer] Ehren Kruger and then have the voice actors change the dialog. We were doing that all the way to the end of the film." For the most part, animators moved all the various metal pieces on the robots to create the performances and the transformations. "We have giv- en them more control with each film," Farrar says. "A gear to turn, something else to move." But some parts in the robots' animation depended on simu- lation. A transformer with a long duster benefited from simula- tion, but the transformer Hound required the most simulation. "He had a huge laundry list," Farrar says. "Dog tags. Ten guns. Sashes and hoses. A beard. A bouncing jelly belly. All those pieces. We'd finish his anima- INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC'S VISUAL EFFECTS TURN THE FOURTH FILM IN THE TRANSFORMERS SERIES INTO A SMASH HIT BY BARBARA ROBERTSON

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