MPC Vancouver has provided a range of visual effects and post production work for 160 shots across 9 sequences for ‘Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’ directed by Christopher Columbus for Twentieth Century Fox.
The main areas of work involved creating Greek Gods and simulating a fiery inferno. The MPC team also replaced numerous legs for characters Grover the faun and Chiron the Centaur. “Percy has been an interesting and challenging project – particularly in terms of the scope and variety of creatures and effects we have created,” said MPC VFX Supervisor Guillaume Rocheron.
The film is set in the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson’s Greek mythology texts and into his life. Nor are they happy: the lightning bolt of Zeus has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
MPC’s work was focused around five key creatures with the most challenging being Hades, a giant 12-foot tall fire demon. Once the concept work was translated into a computer model, facial movement and expression became paramount.
“For Hades’ facial performance capture, our teams used the ‘Mova CONTOUR Reality Capture’ system,” explained Guillaume Rocheron. “We integrated the data taken into MPC’s in-house motion blending tools and motion clips manager to allow the artists to mix and tweak different dialog and expression takes according to the requirements of the shots. It was important to stay as true as possible to the performance Chris Columbus captured on set but remain able to tweak it afterwards if Chris felt some adjustment necessary once transferred onto our 12-foot character.”
The Minotaur, a huge furry and athletic beast that Percy fights, and the Hellhounds, who are half dog and half hyena, joined Hades in the monster roster. Both used MPC’s dynamic in-house fur solution, ‘Furtility’ over anatomically correct muscle and skin simulations. As with Hades, their development started in the asset department, translating the original concept artwork into 3D sculptures the director could approve, before putting models into the production pipeline. MPC then modeled, textured and rigged the creatures using custom muscle and skin deformation solutions.
The second development phase was to create photo-real fire simulation for Hades and a giant fire inferno with hundreds of CG fire-like creatures called the Lost Souls. Rocheron explained that Hades was very challenging as fire was a major component of the character and so had to be both extremely detailed and very controllable according to his performance. “Our FX team pushed the fire simulations to a much higher resolution than we’ve done previously to ensure details were contributing to the motion and not only added as a post-process,” he said. “The simulations were computed at a voxel size of under 1mm and then plugged into MPC’s rendering system to generate accurate illumination onto the character.”
The team used the same methodology to create the Lost Souls, producing supernatural fire, shaped and timed specifically for every shot. Other work included leg replacement for Grover the faun and Chiron the centaur, compositing in shake to create the force field effects, not to mention the compositing together of all 160 shots.
VFX supervisor Kevin Scott Mack congratulated MPC Vancouver on its work: “Chiron! Grover! The Minotaur! Hellhounds! Hades! Lost Souls! Flying cows! Flying cars! Crazy transformations! You folks did an amazing array of awesome shots! Your ability to roll with the changes and still produce great work truly amazed me.”
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was released on February 12th.