RoboCop - VFX Breakdown
Framestore, Mr. X, Method Studios, Modus FX, Soho VFX, Perception NYC, Cinesite & Peanut VFX has completed visual effects for RoboCop, released in the U.K. February 7, and in the U.S. February 12.
Method Design, a creative group that is part of Method Studios, set about organizing the data and graphics to display as Novak talks and gesticulates. “It was actually quite a challenging project as there wasn’t a lot of time to pull it together,” says Method Studios visual effects supervisor Nordin Rahhali. “There were also sometimes multiple vendors working on shots, so we’d get some of the military content, then we were doing all the panels, and then other shots. So we had to find the screen content and make the interactions make sense.”
A location in Toronto served for plate photography, with set extensions and digital ED-208, ED-209s and flying drones created by Framestore under visual effects supervisor Rob Duncan
“We built just the lower two stories of each building on a backlot set in Toronto,” recounts Price. “So Framestore had to extend the buildings and added most of the tops except where the insurgents appear. They also extended streets and created the landscape beyond.”
The ED-208s - human-looking robots - were completely digital creations. On set, production utilized a full-size photo-ready ED-208 created by Legacy for reference, while performers in gray suits stood in and would later be replaced. “We didn’t do any motion capture for the 208s per se,” notes Price, “but we did set up witness cameras and we did photograph them in the plate. They also worked with a motion coach to perform in a robotic way. But part of the reason we didn’t do live mocap, was that the 208s are robots and all manufactured the exact same way. And we knew that our stunt people weren’t going to do that, although they gave a great approximation.”
The bi-pedal 209s were not built for on-set use, although a full-sized aluminum bar frame on wheels served as reference. “We could drag it through the frame and had people operating it in the shots,” says Price. “It gave the camera operators, the directors and the actors something to focus on. We did create a sixth or quarter of the head of the ED 209 which had two different angled surfaces. We nicknamed it the ‘car door’ and then we pulled that through the scenes for lighting reference also.
Framestore utilized a cyberscan of Legacy’s ED-208 as well as extensive photogrammetry to model the digital equivalent. As it did for other sequences in the filming involving a CG RoboCop, the studio then employed its physically plausible lighting and rendering pipeline built around Arnold to complete the robots for the Tehran sequence. “It really allowed us to push the envelope because the renders gave us such a great start,” states Duncan.
Legacy Effects used art department designs to construct several suits and suit pieces, with an early decision made for various digital effects vendors to augment or render RoboCop completely in CG.
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