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Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light & Magic

COW Library : TV & Movie Appreciation : Debra Kaufman : Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light & Magic
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CreativeCOW presents Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light & Magic -- Film History & Appreciation Editorial


Santa Monica California USA

©2013 CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


When director Guillermo Del Toro conceived the battle between the Kaiju monsters and human-controlled Jaeger robots, he knew the best possible VFX facility to bring this vision to reality would be Industrial Light & Magic, the company that pioneered CG creature-creation. In an unusually close collaboration between director and VFX facility, Pacific Rim gets up-close-and-personal with organic and metallic creatures that are both believable and thrilling.



Guillermo Del Toro is the original fan boy. The director who has been behind an amazing variation of creatively powerful work, from Hellboy to Pan's Labyrinth, Del Toro is passionately engaged in the worlds of fantasy and sci-fi. So much so that he acknowledged his own obsession by dubbing his latest effort, Pacific Rim, "robot porn."

Robot porn it is. The terrifying Kaiju -- huge monsters from the depth of the ocean, each with its own physiognomy and personality -- meet the 250-foot high Jaegers, man-made and man-directed battleship-like robots. The immensity of these main characters (who play alongside a cast of human actors with their human dramas) can't be over-stated. Perhaps it's no surprise that Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a pioneer in all VFX, brought this all to life.

ILM hard surface modeler David Fogler enumerates some of the stats: The Jaeger 'Gipsy Danger' is so large that the Statue of Liberty would only reach its knees. It is 10 times taller than King Kong and its feet are as long as two city buses. She (in the tradition that battleships are referred to as females) takes only two steps to cross a football field.


(L-r) The United States' Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
(L-r) The United States' Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka.


ILM created 21 variations of Gipsy Danger, accounting for its two major upgrades and all the battle damage. "We had to compensate for all those different versions of Gipsy," says co-VFX supervisor Eddie Pasquarello. "Multiple artists actively worked on the Gipsy Danger model for a full year."

The Kaiju (Japanese for "strange creature") had its own challenges. Their power is classified, like hurricanes, on a scale of 1 through 5, 4 and 5 being the most destructive to the Jaegers. Kaiju are organic; they're not born, however, but grown. And their blood is a corrosive glowing liquid called Kaiju Blue. Onibaba is a Category 2 Kaiju; Knifehead is Category 3; and Category 4 Kaiju include Leatherback, Otachi, Raiju, Scunner and Sydney.

"The Jaegers and the Kaijus are central to the film -- not more important than the actors of course, but if they don't work, the film won't work," says ILM Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel. "Normally on a project, we go out and look at whatever we can to provide references. We did that for Jurassic Park, when we went to the zoo and looked at giraffes and ostriches among other animals. But with 250-foot machines, there's nothing that will help you with that. We had to use our imaginations."


ILM Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel
ILM Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel


Industrial Light + Magic VFX supervisor Eddie Pasquarello
ILM VFX Supervisor
Eddie Pasquarello
The shot count for Pacific Rim was 1566, and ILM split the work up among its San Francisco (432 shots), Singapore (163 shots) and Vancouver (190 shots) facilities. ILM's John Knoll was the overall VFX supervisor; Pasquarello and Lindy DeQuattro were co-VFX supervisors; and Nigel Sumner was the VFX Supervisor at ILM's Singapore facility. Although the lion's share of the VFX were done by ILM, Pasquarello reports that some work was also done by Base FX, Rodeo FX, Hybride and Ghost VFX.

"I was a very nice mix of companies and workers," says Pasquarello. "I feel like we cast it well, to everyone's strength. No company just did rotoscoping; everyone did their shots from start to finish, so everyone shared in the full finalling process. We're super proud of everyone who worked on it.

Rodeo does gorgeous environments, including some of the establishing shots flying into the Shatterdome in Hong Kong; Base FX worked on Shatterdome interiors using ILM assets and also did work on placing Jaegers inside the Shatterdome; Ghost FX did some interior work as well as a sequence where you see buildings constructed around the fallen Kaijus; and Hybride did all the phenomenal heads-up displays and graphics."

"All these companies took on unique challenges and did very well," he concludes. ILM also supervised all these far-flung companies: Base FX is in Beijing; Rodeo FX and Hybride in Montreal; and Ghost VFX in Copenhagen. "We had lots of CineSync sessions together," says Pasquarello. "We share a pipeline with Vancouver and Singapore mirrors our pipeline. Lindy and I covered all the third party work together and we'd have our own dailies and CineSync sessions as well as online reviews."

ILM got the Pacific Rim job by completing a test; along with several other contenders, they completed a sequence that was part of the Hong Kong battle between Kaiju and Jaegers. "I read that Guillermo was privately hoping it would be ILM," says Pasquarello. "Fortunately, our test impressed him, Legendary and Warner Bros."

From the beginning, Del Toro told ILM that he wanted a look that was gritty and dirty. "He wanted you to see the oil, the dirt," says Pasquarello. "He didn't want unrealistic camera moves and shaky cam. He wanted you to feel that you could actually put a camera in that position as opposed to something you couldn't believe."

One of the first things Del Toro told the ILM group was that they had to assume that some of the shooting -- to be realistic -- would have to be from a helicopter. " He wanted to see the rotor wash in the water below, from the off-frame camera shooting it," Pasquarello says. "You see flaring and splashing on the lens that isn't stylistic. He wanted it all grounded in actuality across the board."


China's Crimson Typhoon in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC
China's Crimson Typhoon.


The goal of creating realism with such un-real creatures hit its first bump when it came to the push-pull between scale and speed in animating them. "The first thing you do to suggest huge scale is to slow things down," says Hickel. "But the sequences are action-sequences so you can't slow it down. We had to figure out how fast we could go and still have it feel as big as we wanted it to feel. Part of it was taking into consideration that they wouldn't be fighting in an open space but a big chunk in Hong Kong and another chunk in the ocean, so there would be fluid simulations of the ocean reacting to them. We have very sophisticated software to do that to make water and its reactions as realistic as possible. But if we were to animate the characters too fast, it wouldn't mesh with the realistic water motion."


(L-r) Russia's Cherno Alpha and China's Crimson Typhoon in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
(L-r) China's Crimson Typhoon and Russia's Cherno Alpha.


"The same with the Kaijus and Jaegers crashing through the city," he adds. "If they're trashing through too quickly, it won't look realistic. We had to figure out how fast we could go, and then it became a challenge to design of the sequence, how to cut from one shot to the next. Guillermo has an awesome sense of rhythm, when to speed up and slow down, when to add the lightning flash. On our end, we contributed ideas."


The United States' Gipsy Danger in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
The United States' Gipsy Danger.


"In one scene, Gipsy Danger is throwing a roundhouse punch and if we showed the punch wide, it would feel like slow motion," he says. "A little of that is nice to give it scale and grandeur, but the way it actually plays in the scene we start on the live actors and we see the Jaegers throwing the punch, then we see Gipsy mid-way through the punch. Then we added a shot that looks like we mounted the camera on the fist of the Jaeger, which creates a visceral exciting shot. Figuring out interesting angles to shoot things and using the standard time-honored editorial tricks of when to cut on the impact and what angle to use worked with what we were doing in animation to make it look fast."

Pasquarello agrees that ILM was "constantly trying to find weight and show proper scale." "I think we achieved it better than we could have imagined and at the same time to Guillermo's aesthetic," he says. "He knows better than anyone the Toho movies he's paying tribute to. When you combine that aesthetic with the scale of the movie, it's unique, something you haven't seen before. And Guillermo pushed us to that."

Differentiating the Kaijus from the Jaegers was important. "I had a conversation with Guillermo early on," says Hickel. "I said, the Jaegers are bipeds controlled by people, so do you want to use motion capture? He said, no, I want to have very intentionally stylized motion so that you can really feel that there is machinery inside, that the Jaeger is doing what the pilots inside do, but it's machine parts that make this 250-foot machine go forward."


Director GUILLERMO DEL TORO on the set of the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: KERRY HAYES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
Director GUILLERMO DEL TORO on the set.


They rejected the idea of a lurching stop-start mechanical look. "We couldn't go there, partly because it starts looking goofy and not capable of defeating a monster," says Hickel. "If you imagine all that weight, once you get it up to speed, the idea you'll get it to stop and then bring it up to speed doesn't make sense. We had to respect the mass moving. It can't come to a sharp stop, but we had to find ways within the motion, such as the arm motion, to put in little hard stops and mechanical recoils that was almost a layer on top of the motion that tells the audience it's a big machines."

Just as Del Toro was interested in a larger realism with regard to the movie's look, he also wanted the realism of seeing as many small details as possible. "The Jaegers are pretty simple forms, covered with armored plating," says Hickel. "He wanted them to feel like walking battleships. But between the plates, he wanted to make sure the audience sensed that it was packed full of machinery, and we see the pistons and gears moving. This thing is enormous, complex and mechanical."


The United States' Gipsy Danger moves a crab fishing boat out of danger in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
A walking battleship. The United States' Gipsy Danger moves a crab fishing boat out of danger.


As Pasquarello notes, Del Toro wanted to see "the small against the large." "You see the little pistons moving in this 250-foot creature," he says. "You see the levels of scale that the Jaeger effects when it walks through the ocean. The result is layered and complex, and it all adds up to a very believable war environment."

"This is just good filmmaking," he adds. "When you see this large Jaeger, you have nothing to measure against it unless you put something against it scale-wise. Guillermo is a master of the way he composes the shots so, for example, putting a piece of the Shatterdome behind a Jaeger. A lot of our shots were designed to push the envelope of selling the scale of the movie."

The challenge of creating the Kaijus was different than that of the Jaegers. "We had to make them look organic," says Hickel. "And that is more familiar to us, since we've done so much creature work throughout the years. The design of the creatures guided the animation. Leatherback is reminiscent of a gorilla, so you want to move him like a gorilla. Otachi, who is this smart, wily, mean-looking Kaiju, needed to look like he was thinking and calculating, and he looked more like a dragon with that movement."


A Kaiju, code name Leatherback, in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
A Kaiju, code name Leatherback.


"Guillermo would give us info about the personalities of the different Kaijus, and, for the animators, that's the fun part," he says. "You get a cool creature and some words about the inner life of the creature and then you go to town on it...with the same scale challenges as the rest of the film. But that was less of a discover process than the mechanical language for the Jaegers. The tricky part for us with the Kaijus is that Guillermo loves his monsters and thinks a lot about them. If we were ever vamping with a monster -- having it stand there and not do anything with a purpose -- Guillermo always pushed us to make the characters always look engaged, never just sitting around waiting for the next punch to come. He wanted them to feel like they're present in the scene, otherwise it's bad acting."

"It's good to be pushed that way," Hickel adds. "Guillermo is very literate about animation of all kinds and he really speaks our language and we can have really great conversations with him, which is a lot of fun."


Russia's Cherno Alpha in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
Russia's Cherno Alpha


Hickel says another big challenge in the film was the simulations such as the water and destruction. "It was so complex and intense on this show," he says. "CG water is hard to do and we've been doing it on and off since Perfect Storm. And it never gets any easier. We're getting better at it, but we're always asking our artists for more. We did some good work with the maelstrom in Pirates of the Caribbean 3 as well as in Battleship. But in Pacific Rim, many scenes take place in or under the water. Or, if not, it's raining, and dripping off the creatures. All that work is worth noting."

Pacific Rim's pipeline was similar to that of an animated feature. "We wanted to get the animation right before we started simulating, and we tried not to do too many things simultaneously," says Pasquarello. "When Gipsy Danger is walking through the sea, he's displacing lots of water, but then there's the second and third sim of how it splashes back, hits Gipsy and rolls back off. With our pipeline, similar to the way you'd do an animation feature, we'd lock up the animation up front." ILM used Maya for animation; its main renderer was Arnold but V-Ray and RenderMan were also used. For environments, ILM artists used 3ds Max and V-Ray, Nuke for compositing, The Foundry's Mari for paint, and a proprietary rotoscoping tool.


(L-r) The United States' Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
(L-r) The United States' Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka.


In looking back at the work on Pacific Rim, Pasquarello says that scale was perhaps the biggest challenge. "The Shatterdome, where the Jaegers are housed and serviced, was very difficult in the sense that it needed to feel like a little city so there are all kinds of scale issues there," he says. "You believe it is a city of its own and that proves just as challenging as anything else. Guillermo doesn't take anything lightly. He's the perfect client in that sense because everyone here likes to take things to the max, and he pushed us to do that."

Pacific Rim, in fact, was the first time that Del Toro worked with ILM, and the collaboration was both unique and especially rewarding for all the fanboy-artists at ILM.

"The collaboration with Guillermo wasn't typical," says Pasquarello. "He was here on the ground, with us and aware of what everything took he used every effort for the maximum effect on the screen. Having him be such an integral part of the team as opposed to being elsewhere and having us show him shots drove us to new heights."


Japan's Coyote Tango in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. ©2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.
Japan's Coyote Tango.


Then there's the synergy between Del Toro and the kind of people who are drawn to careers in visual effects. "ILM is full of fan boys exactly like Guillermo," says Hickel. "People can sense his love for the material, the fun of making monsters which is part of what we do here. He loves that and we love him."

"It's a geeky group," admits Pasquarello. "I keep trying to tell myself I'm not one of them but I have the Kaiju toys behind me on my desk. Guillermo was here a lot and called the whole crew together several times. He wanted everyone here to understand his decisions and what they were doing and to believe in it. So people got more invested because he was passionate. We felt his heart in this and we all bought into it."

That love of the genre clearly translates to the screen, and critics and audiences are responding to it. It seems a bit surprising that Pacific Rim is the first time that fantasy-loving Del Toro worked with the masters of illusion ILM. Clearly, it was a good marriage.








Pacific Rim Trailer - "Resistance" from Warner Bros. Pictures







Photo Credits in order of appearance:

(L-R) The United States' Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure "Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

ILM Animation Supervisor Hal Hickel

Industrial Light & Magic VFX supervisor Eddie Pasquarello

China's Crimson Typhoon in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

(L-r) Russia's Cherno Alpha and China's Crimson Typhoon in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure "Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

The United States' Gipsy Danger in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

Director GUILLERMO DEL TORO on the set of the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: KERRY HAYES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

The United States' Gipsy Danger moves a crab fishing boat out of danger in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

A Kaiju, code name Leatherback, in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure "Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

Russia's Cherno Alpha in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

(L-r) The United States' Gipsy Danger and Australia's Striker Eureka in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

Japan's Coyote Tango in a scene from the sci-fi action adventure Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures PACIFIC RIM, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC.

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Re: Article: Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light & Magic
by Matthew Gleason
Wow, great article. Visually very well done.
Re: Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light & Magic
by Mark Suszko
Just for fun, I wanted to read about the animator/compositor assigned the inglorious job of modeling and rendering the mountain of kaiju "poop" in one of the film's early establishing scenes. I'm just trying to imagine that editor coming home to brag about his or her work on Del Toro's masterpiece, then, when asked what part they animated, has to say what part they actually worked on. It's like the old joke about the priest hitting a hole in one ion a Sunday. Well, maybe that will come up in some session at Comicon:-)
Re: Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light + Magic
by Jim Hines
Tragic all that talent went into bringing those now tired old generic/cliche scifi elements, robots and monsters to life.

Somebody tell me I'm wrong. Tell me we haven't seen these creations many times on screen in the past decade or so. It's just tragic producers and studios aren't daring enough to turn the creatives loose to make something unique and original. The tools and talented artists are there waiting to create them.

I know why they're afraid to take a chance at the box office. All that money involved. But they are killing the genre and wasting a generation of phenomenally creative artists. Just a shame.

Rock on!
Re: Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light + Magic
by Steve Sayer
Jim, you asked me to tell you that you're wrong... so, with all due respect: I think you're wrong!

I'm very excited to see this film, specifically because it does seem to be a devoted love-letter to a classic (and admittedly often schlocky) genre. We've seen it before with rubber suits, with stop-motion miniatures, with hand-drawn animation... but never before with all the might and sophistication of modern-day cutting-edge VFX. Far from being a tired remake of something that's been done to death, this film promises to be a culmination, a long-awaited realization of something that we've always had in our imaginations but have never been able to see photorealistically on the big screen. The genre has grown up alongside its fans.

Far from being a waste of talent, I think this is a singularly appropriate use of talent. The article itself makes that point: people drawn to VFX careers tend to be exactly the kind of people who are excited by this kind of project. I'm an effects artist myself, and I would have given my right arm to be able to work on this film (well... except then I wouldn't be able to use my mouse!).

In no way does this imply that I'm not also, like you, looking forward to this level of sheer VFX horsepower also being applied to other, different, more unusual genres.

All that being said, I'm just going by the trailers... will be seeing the full film tonight, so my fingers are crossed!
@Steve Sayer
by Jim Hines
Very well rebuted Steve. Nicely stated. And for the record my son (15) is on your side of this disagreement.

Just to be sure we're on the same page my beef is not with the subject matter but rather the conceptualization of the Mecha, Reptilian Monsters and the assorted HUD and random Sci Fi elements. It would seem to me that we've seen these designs before, e.g., Transformers, Cloverfield, Battleship, Ironman, are some that come to mind. My desire is to see a 'unique' take on this CG Elements.

I fully understand wanting to be a purist when it comes to representing a genre. Just as I'm sure there are some who might feel there is only one way to portray Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf, etc. But I feel there is not only room but a need to offer the movie goer a fresh version from time to time.

So to be clear and to reiterate it is not the subject matter or the execution that I'm at odds with. It is the artistic direction that I feel is "cliche".

Rock on!
@Jim Hine
by Jim Hines
I should proofread before posting
"rebutted" "these" "goers" "cliché"
Re: @Steve Sayer
by Steve Sayer
Thanks Jim--I see now I took slightly the wrong angle on your original post.

Still, there's something to be said, again, for taking designs that don't really break the mold too much, and simply translating them faithfully and spectacularly to the new level of scale and detail possible with today's effects technology. Maybe now that that's been done, we will see new ground being broken and different directions being tried. I share your anticipation!

There are some videos of Del Toro talking design, which might interest you. Now, I don't know if I'm quite ready to believe him when he claims the Jaegers don't look like anything that's ever been done before. That being said, given the extremely long history of robot design and monster design... I find myself wondering if it's really possible for there to be something truly new under the sun? I sure wouldn't want to be the artist who had to come up with something totally new and fresh while still keeping to the needs of the film (clear silhouette, 'readable' mostly-bipedal motion and fighting styles, etc.).

For the record, I was infinitely happier with the design and direction of the Jaegers than I have been with the recent Transformers. Those giant CG Transformers do represent a departure from tradition, a creative re-imagining of the robot motif... and I personally think it made for a terrible end product. Watching the first film (I've avoided the sequels!), I absolutely felt that that film was the 'waste of talent,' since all the incredible modeling, rigging, and animating efforts of hardworking artists ended up being so totally obscured by the chaotic, fragmented look of the characters, and especially the fights. As others have observed, in the midst of combat, you often couldn't even tell where an Autobot ended and a Decepticon began!

That certainly doesn't mean that all innovation is to be avoided... just that innovation for it's own sake doesn't automatically guarantee success.

So, for me, if the Jaegers look like the Iron Giant's Hollywood brothers and the kaiju look like Cloverfield's cousins, I don't mind that so much, so long as we get more readable interactions out of them. (If anything, I found the omnipresent water effects a little too obscuring/distracting in that regard.)

Thanks for your take! I found the film breathtaking as an effects vehicle, and was tremendously entertained. I hope you and your son will be (were?) as well!

(Oh, and it's worth mentioning that there's room even in such a massive effects film for some nice subtleties... have a look at this article, if you haven't already.)
@Steve Sayer
by Jim Hines
Thanks for the links Steve. Good stuff. The discussion contrasting visual cues with verbal ones was thought provoking.

We saw the movie last evening. Wow!. ILM has every reason to crow and be proud. The 'scale' - they really pulled it off. So enormous. Everything was beautifully executed. And I did see some "unique" takes on some stock sci fi elements. My kids loved it (15, 11). My wife was mildly amused and I had a good time. We've come a long way from "Mechagodzilla". Favorite fight was when the Rodan style Kaiju carries Gypsy Danger up into the sky.

Rock on!
Re: @Steve Sayer
by Mark Suszko
So, wait; you critiqued this movie BEFORE you went to see it?
@Mark Suszko
by Jim Hines
I didn't critique the movie at all - before or after. I'm talking about the art direction which can be easily ascertained from still images and trailers.

The movie (story) was mediocre, if you want a review. Nothing new on an old framework. No Oscar winning performances (special merit for Mana Ashida - Young Mako) - no remarkable writing - missed on the Richard 2 "St. Crispin's Day" homage. Some welcome attempts at humor - But, no big surprises. You could tell all that from the trailers as well. It's not quantum physics. It was a nice distraction and I had fun. But not anymore fun than I did when I watched Godzilla back in the day.

So in conclusion, ILM and Del Toro did a bang up job with some tried and true formulas but in the end - a good well written story - trumps all.

Rock on!


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Jonathan Bird's Blue World is an underwater adventure series co-produced by the titular Emmy Award-winning cinematographer and naturalist, and the Oceanic Research Group. This epic conversation with Jonathan covered his trajectory across over 20 years in the industry, through NLEs (from Avid, Media 100, FCP, and now Premiere), camera formats (Hi-8 to 4K), computing platforms (adding HP workstations to his previously all-Mac shop), and business models -- starting with creating the TV show he'd always wanted to work on.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
TV & Movie Appreciation
Digital Domain & The Many Layers of Maleficent

Digital Domain & The Many Layers of Maleficent

Digital Domain drew upon their decades of Academy Award-winning expertise to build realistic CG humans for Walt Disney's Maleficent -- including, in some scenes, Maleficent herself. VFX Supervisor Kelly Port took us inside the 2-year process of bringing it to the screen.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
TV & Movie Appreciation
Making Maleficent Fly

Making Maleficent Fly

Maleficent's Oscar-nominated Visual Effects Supervisor Carey Villegas speaks to us about his work creating the world of the iconic Disney villain, coordinating multiple effects houses on every one of over 1500 shots, and the challenges of creating realistic effects.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
TV & Movie Appreciation
Method Studios Creates Dramatic Effects for Divergent

Method Studios Creates Dramatic Effects for Divergent

Method Studios was selected as the lead VFX vendor, who ultimately proved to provide 381 shots for Summit Entertainment's Divergent. Set in a dystopian Chicago, one hundred years in the future, the film demanded seamless and invisible VFX to create a believable world of complex environments using set extensions, digital doubles and CG characters.

Editorial, Feature
TV & Movie Appreciation
Stalingrad: An Intimate Epic

Stalingrad: An Intimate Epic

Set in one of the bloodiest battles in human history, the film Stalingrad also offers an intimate look at five Russian soldiers in World War II, trying to preserve their own humanity while protecting the life an 18-year old girl - while also trying to hold off a dramatically larger Nazi force. This bold 3D story is already the highest-grossing film in Russian history, and Creative COW's Tim Wilson says you'll be impressed.

Review, Feature
TV & Movie Appreciation
Stereo 3D Post Perfection for Russian War Epic Stalingrad

Stereo 3D Post Perfection for Russian War Epic Stalingrad

The film Stalingrad is an epic look at the battle that turned the tide of World War II, and already the highest-grossing film in Russian history. It is also the first Russian film to be shot and produced for IMAX 3D, which posed some new challenges for the filmmakers, specially in post. Stalingrad opens Feb. 28 for an exclusive engagement in IMAX 3D theaters, and here's your chance to take a closer look at its making.

Editorial, Feature
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