Computer Graphics World

Edition 1 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 41 of 49

40 cgw | e d i t i o n 1 , 2 0 1 8 D E P A R T M E N T CREATING THE AQUATIC CHARACTER IN THE SHAPE OF WATER BY KAREN MOLTENBREY CREATURE FEATURE irector Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water is a homage to the great creature features of the 1960s. It is also a love story, not only to the genre but also between the char- acters, no matter that one is human and the other is not. This otherworldly fairy tale is set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. Here, in the hidden high-security gov- ernment laboratory where she works, Elisa is trapped in a life of isolation until she discov- ers a secret classified experiment involving an amphibious creature, a biological "asset" of the US government that seems to have the fundamental adaptive qualities of water. "In a monster movie of the '50s, [Richard] Strickland, Water's square-jawed, good-look- ing government agent, would be the hero, and the creature would be the villain. I wanted to reverse those things," says del Toro. THE CREATURE Taking on the creature role is Doug Jones, who utilized a meticulously designed pros- thetic costume. CGI also played a role in bringing the creature to life. The initial inspiration for the creature came directly out of nature, with his bio- luminescent skin, layered eyes, and strong, sucking lips merging into a sleek, human- oid-style form. Four intricate suits, each capable of getting waterlogged, were made. But that was only half the battle. A digital or digitally augmented monster was needed for certain scenes, as well. Dennis Berardi, VFX supervisor, became another key partner in craing the creature's full existence. Berardi began by creating an exacting digital double of Jones in the prosthetic suit. "Guillermo wanted the creature to not only be able to emote like Doug, but to also move underwater in a certain way, so we did a lot of early movement tests with our animation team at Mr. X, and we got to the point where we could do a digital version of the creature that could match up with Doug's beautiful performance," he says. Craing the underwater movements was a research-intensive process that involved looking not only at Olympian human swimmers but also such aquatic species as sharks, puffins, otters, and pen- guins. "We looked at anything that moves very gracefully through the water in order to base it all in reality," Berardi explains. DIGITAL METHODOLOGY Handling the digital side of things was Mr. X, the sole VFX vendor on the movie. In all, Mr. X completed over 600 visual effects shots, accounting for about an hour of the film. Close to 160 artists worked for nearly a year on the feature. The group created a fairly diverse set of effects for the feature film: underwater environments, hero fluid simulations, digital hair, a period-accurate Baltimore replacing Toronto, lots of set extensions, extensive damage to Strickland's Cadillac, several key shots of digital gore, and of course, aug- menting Doug Jones' performance as the amphibian man. In every shot, at a minimum, the creature's eyes (larger than Jones' actual eyes and proportionally different) and facial performance, from his brow to his upper lip, were created in CG. (Due to the form-fitting nature of the suit, it wasn't feasible to include enough animatronic controls for a full facial performance.) The eyes and facial work accounted for roughly 70 percent of the digital creature work. For the remaining 30 percent, the CG artists would replace his entire head or body. When the creature needed to be entirely CG, oen it was because the suit's range of motion made the performance impractical or impossible to capture, or when he was underwater. D

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Computer Graphics World - Edition 1 2018