Cinesite has completed over 170 shots on the new Warner Bros film, Clash of the Titans, including a battle involving giant arachnid creatures called scorpiochs.
Animation fans will be waiting to see how the creature effects in the new movie measure up to the original 1981 classic, which featured work from the master of stop motion Ray Harryhausen.
Clash of the Titans, which is directed by Louis Leterrier and opens in cinemas over the Easter Weekend, follows the story of Perseus, played by Avatar actor Sam Worthington, who is born of a god but raised as a man. Perseus is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson), the leader of the gods of Mount Olympus, and unleash hell on earth. Leading a daring band of warriors, Perseus sets off on a perilous journey deep into forbidden worlds where he finds himself battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts.
For the film, which was shot at Longcross and Shepperton Studios in the UK and on location in Tenerife and Wales, Cinesite scaled up to a team of 80 people and created one of the film’s main battle scenes – the scorpioch battle scene – a battle involving giant scorpion-like creatures called scorpiochs. Simon Stanley-Clamp, visual effects supervisor and his team created six variations of the scorpioch – a 15-foot fighter, two 30-foot fighters, two 40-foot travellers and a 60-foot mother – using Autodesk Mudbox to model the creatures and Autodesk Maya to animate them.
Cinesite faced the challenge of ensuring that the scorpiochs were weighted enough to look realistic as they walked. “Because they’re so much bigger than real scorpions, we had to calculate the speed these beasts would move at,” explained Stanley-Clamp. “It was a challenge at first because they needed to be quick enough to attack the warriors, but at the same time the viewer wouldn’t expect a 60-foot scorpioch to be as agile and speedy as a 15-foot fighter, so we had to play around with weighting them to reflect their different sizes.”
Another big challenge that Cinesite faced was generating CG dust, sand and gravel particles. “What might sound like a simple task on the surface, proved to be very tricky in reality,” said Stanley-Clamp. “The scorpiochs throwing the warriors around the desert would naturally cause dust to be thrown up, but on the shoot and because the characters are CG, very little was generated.”
Cinesite’s solution was to develop a customised particle simulation solution for their pipeline. “We wrote a completely new fluid dynamics simulation pipeline centred on Houdini and rendered through Mantra,” explained Stanley-Clamp. “This pipeline was designed to create fluid dust simulations, gravel hits for where the scorpiochs’ feet hit the ground, and overall sand and light gravel in the atmosphere. The fluid dynamics simulation was fully self shadowing and allowed full interaction with the scorpiochs’ geometry.” The final composite was completed using Nuke and Shake.
“Being involved in this film has given us the opportunity to develop new techniques which we’re already applying to other projects,” said Antony Hunt, managing director at Cinesite. “Working on the scorpioch battle sequence pushed our creative boundaries, and in my view enabled us to produce some of our most creative work to date.”
All images used here are courtesy of Warner Bros.