Computer Graphics World

July / August 2016

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j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 6 c g w 9 T he translation of interactive video games into passive cinema has not been an easy one, but with nearly $400 million in box-office receipts aer two weeks in the theaters, Warcra has to be considered a success. It's the biggest video game movie ever and will likely be the first to earn more than $400 million worldwide. The film accomplished that despite dismal reviews from critics who, as a whole, found the story lacking. Directed by Duncan Jones, Universal Pictures' Warcra: The Beginning might be the first film for which critics found the CG characters more compelling than the live-action actors with which they share the screen. LA Times critic Justin Chang notes the "skillful use of performance-capture tech- nology to bring a fictional race to credible life (Kebbell's Durotan is an expressive standout)." And then draws a comparison to the human characters. "Jones pointedly introduces Durotan and his fellow Orcs first, and we soon grasp that, Gul'dan's unchecked megalomania notwithstanding, the horde is bent on survival rather than domination. There's also the unfortunate fact that most of the human characters are far less memorably realized." The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl: "…the filmmakers honor the games' multi-various perspectives by casting an Orc (Toby Keb- bell) as Warcra's first on-screen hero – and depicting Orc marriage with big-lug tender- ness. These scenes are… the only ones in the film that suggest that anyone in Azeroth (or the Orc world invading it) has ever felt anything besides go-here/fight-that." Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "It says something about Mr. Jones' choices that he gives Durotan so much screen time and that Mr. Kebbell, with the help of the special-effects wizards, makes good use of that time with a nuanced, moist-eyed turn that evokes old-studio gladiators like Victor Mature. Durotan is a beautiful brute, and all the more human for it." The Orcs are beastly humanoid charac- ters with tiny heads, tusks, and enormous hands, and they are always CG characters. But these critics – and others not quoted – haven't labeled the Orcs as CG characters. In fact, the critics talk about the characters through the performances of the motion- captured actors. It's a quiet tribute to the visual effects artists on the film. As anyone creating visual effects for films knows, there is more to bringing a character to life than transferring motion-capture data from an actor to a digital model. Mr. Kebbell's nuanced, moist-eyed turn would have been far less successful if his character had gazed into the camera with lifeless eyes, straw hair, and silicone skin. Bill Westenhofer was overall visual effects supervisor for Warcra, with Jason Smith and Jeff White the visual effects supervisors at Industrial Light & Magic. ILM was the primary vendor, creating 100 Orc characters, including the aforementioned Durotan and seven other heroes. T H E W O R L D O F W A R C R A F T Although Warcra takes place in many environments that World of Warcra players will find familiar, these locations were more oen sets than CG. "This is a movie that people will assume has a lot of CG environments," Smith says. "It's not true. The forest was a really large set, 100 by 50 feet, with giant, full-size trees that had six- to eight-foot-diameter trunks. We could get 50 to 80 feet of trees in cam- era. We filled in pools of blue in the distance." Similarly, another environment, the Stormwind Market, was a set with the first story and a half of all the buildings on a stage. Visual effects artists added the top floors and extended the city into the distance. They also added background shelves to a Karazhan library, a ceiling to the energy chamber, and extended other sets. Even the battles take place on a large set 50 to 100 feet long. ILM artists added the CG characters and mountains in the distances to live-action plates shot on set. "One interesting thing was creating the idea of a small world," Smith says. "A character might be standing in the snow, but in the distance was desert red rock in one direction, and in the other direction, a forest. We used that in the film to conjure up the feeling of the game. If you walk a little while from a snowy area, you'll be in a desert. The game really did define a lot of how the places in the world should look." Thus, ILM's work in San Francisco, Singa- pore, and Vancouver centered on the Orcs. "Our Orcs had to hold up half the movie," Smith says. "I wanted them to be as en- chanting as the fantasy makeup characters I loved growing up, but their eyes are very THE CG ORCS HAVE AS MUCH SCREEN TIME AS THE LIVE-ACTION ACTORS. ILM ARTISTS GAVE EACH ORC CLAN A SPECIFIC COSTUME TO HELP DISTINGUISH THEM IN SCENES SUCH AS THIS.

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