Cinesite has completed over 650 visual effects shots on the new Twentieth Century Fox film, Marmaduke, which features the voice of Owen Wilson as the loveable hound. Marmaduke opens in cinemas across the UK today.
Directed by Tom Dey, and originally based on a newspaper comic strip by Brad Anderson, the film follows the story of a suburban family who move into a new neighbourhood with their large, loveable Great Dane, Marmaduke, who has a tendency to wreak havoc in his own oblivious way.
Working for a total of 11 months on the film, Cinesite’s visual effects supervisor Matt Johnson and his team centred their pipeline on existing proprietary software and custom-built tools to overcome the series of challenges that animating ten different live-action dogs created. “It was a massive task for us,” explained Johnson. “Placing CGI faces over live-action animals sounds like a simple task, but each breed of dog or cat brought its own unique challenges and the detailing involved meant we had to push our pipeline to its limits.”
Cinesite used a hybrid technique which involved combining fully textured and lit CG passes with parts of the original photography re-projected over the animated geometry. To create the CG faces of the different canine characters, Matt’s team built base head models in Autodesk Maya using photographic references of the dog actors. Blend shapes based on individual muscle shapes were then integrated into the rig using in-house tools.
The muscles were further defined in the animation process. A customised rig was designed to mimic the muscle structure of a dog and this became the primary layer of canine muscles. The muscles were further defined on a secondary layer, mimicking the muscles of a human face.