Images courtesy of MPC

Tackling 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

Last modification: 22 Feb, 2018
Duration
8 mins

*** Note: This Q+A may contain spoilers. ***


“Each film comes with its own complications, its own set of rules and list of things to accomplish,” says Richard Spriggs, Animation Supervisor at MPC. And each, he continues, “essentially has you starting over, trying to figure out fast what exactly it is.”

From reconciling Doomsday’s size, to equalizing super powers and switching live action seamlessly to CG, MPC waged battle to certain visual victory on Zack Snyder’s, DC Comics blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


 

You handled some pretty epic sequences in this film.


Yeah, we handled most of the work on Batman and Superman’s big fight sequence and we also took on the Gotham Battle at the end between Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Doomsday.


What were your biggest challenges with these?


In terms of animation, Doomsday’s transformation shot was pretty challenging. Getting his state change to work right his growth, his skin peeling off correctly was definitely complex. Also, making sure that all the characters in the CG shots looked just like the real actors was demanding. To make things look photorealistic when the CG played, we had a lot of very specific shots where we modeled specific blend shapes based on the actors' face, to ensure that each facial expression was the exact same as what that actor would do.


"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" VFX breakdown
Still from "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", VFX breakdown© 2016 Warner Bros Ent. All rights reserved. TM & © DC Comics.



What small details proved especially time consuming?


Doomsday is very, very large compared to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman at least four or five times the size. We had a bunch of reference shots by stunt actors and that was fantastic, but to get that stunt work onto such a huge size discrepancy was quite time consuming. Because they all fight him together and because of that size discrepancy, we needed all the characters to feel equally powerful. It took a lot of work to pull that off.



What was key to making these fighting sequences effective?


Getting the right camera angles and the right framing to make shots convey the attitude we wanted. We originally tested a few ideas around having one long, continuous fight sequence where the camera would whip from character to character, but ultimately we found that this didn’t allow for enough connection with the characters. We went with smaller shots and inserted character reactions and that helps make you feel that you are with that character rather than just watching them fight from afar. Also, conveying teamwork between Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman was so important, too. We wanted to convincingly portray that Doomsday was completely unstoppable if not for these three working hard together to defeat him.


Doomsday hero shot from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice© 2016 Warner Bros Ent. All rights reserved. TM & © DC Comics.



What were your references for Doomsday?


There was a stunt actor for Doomsday as well. Getting similar actions to what the stunt performers used and translating that to a character that’s 20 feet tall was so tricky. In a shot where Superman and Doomsday are charging at each other, Doomsday is a lot higher, so Superman would have to be high enough off the ground and at the correct height to throw his punch. There was a certain amount of reinventing there to make it feel that the characters were in the same space.


"I know it’s a broad answer but every department really did excel at their part in it. You can see all the hard work."



What are you most proud of with this?


Technically, the movie looks great. I know it’s a broad answer but every department really did excel at their part in it. You can see all the hard work. The effects department did a fantastic job with all the smoke, water and destruction; the assets department built the characters to look truly believable, making hair and capes move in an amazing way. Also, going from live action plate and straight into animation without being able to tell when we switched was quite important and we accomplished that. The way the lighting and the comp pulled everything together so that the final result looked hyper realistic is something to be proud of. It all feels just right.


It looks hyper realistic but there are distinct parallels to the comic book characters.


Yeah, we really did try to incorporate a lot of those iconic poses to make those connections with the comics. We gave Superman’s cape, for example, a very comic book feel when he was in the air. It was the same with Batman, too. We looked to the comics a lot for reference and tried to replicate things as much as we could.


"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" VFX breakdown; Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman
Still from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, VFX breakdown; Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman© 2016 Warner Bros Ent. All rights reserved. TM & © DC Comics.



You would have had ample references for both Batman and Superman – each has had their share of films and tv shows – but Wonder Woman, not so much. How did you approach her?


We were very attentive to the fact that she is a new character and we made sure that she was portrayed well and with strength. She is just as strong as Batman and Superman and I think that definitely came across in the way that she was revealed. The key for her was making her a strong, integral part of the team and not a side note.


"I love when you forget about the CG, when you get excited and lost in the moment, and you sit in the theatre and get immersed in what you’re seeing."



What do you battle with most in your line of work?


It’s always about getting just that right feeling for each shot, making sure that everything feels natural and believable. That’s always the hardest part of animating.


And what do you consider a victory?


I love when you forget about the CG, when you get excited and lost in the moment, and you sit in the theatre and get immersed in what you’re seeing. That’s the key, getting lost.


So you go to see all the films you work on in the theatre?


Oh, absolutely, yeah. I booked my tickets for the opening night of Batman v Superman because I knew the hardcore fans would be out that night. It was a really exciting film to watch and seeing their reaction was so great. All our hard work paid off. I consider it a great success.


"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" VFX breakdown
Still from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, VFX breakdown© 2016 Warner Bros Ent. All rights reserved. TM & © DC Comics.



How did this project set itself apart from others you’ve worked on?


Batman v Superman
was exciting to work on because there’s so much history. Portraying that history while adding a new take came with a lot of pressure but was very exciting.


"Do it because you love it and because it’s what you want to be doing. It takes passion to do this kind of work, lots of passion."



How long have you been in animation?


Approximately 11 years. I’ve always been a big fan of movies and I went to art school because I really wanted a career that would let me be artistic. Now, being a part of these movies that I love so much is fantastic. For me, this fits perfectly.


What’s changed the most since you started?


The quality of the work. As time passes, technology gets more advanced and people are understanding their craft better and pushing the boundaries. It’s still a relatively new industry but we’re all really quickly learning from experience.


"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" VFX breakdown
Still from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, VFX breakdown© 2016 Warner Bros Ent. All rights reserved. TM & © DC Comics.



And what have you learned from your experience?


I’ve learned a lot – from problem solving as I go. As I said, each movie has its own set of problems and because of that, you develop a lot with each one. On this particular project, I learned so much watching the stunt performers and seeing Zack’s direction on what they should go for. I’ll definitely take what I learned about camera angles and getting eyes looking where they should be looking onto the next thing.


What’s your best advice for fellow animators?


Do it because you love it and because it’s what you want to be doing. It takes passion to do this kind of work, lots of passion. That – and enjoy yourself. When you do, you’ll produce amazing work.


What super skill do you wish you could utilize to make your work more amazing?


I’d want to work really, really fast but still get the same quality. That’d be quite nice (laughs).




MPC
tagged teamed with Maya to heroically model and animate 450 super shots in DC Comic's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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