Vision Q&A: Some Kind of Monster

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In Hummer's latest, two monstrous terrorists-a Godzilla character and a giant robot-fall in love in a city that is fictional and stylistically consistent, thanks to the vision of director Noam Murro and VFX artists at Santa Monica's Method Studios. Here, VFX supervisor Alex Frisch and animator Laurent Ledru give us just a peek into the process.

How did you communicate about how the spots were to look? Did Noam Murro use any specific phrases that cemented the vision for you?

LL: The concept and goal was to mix two very different visual styles, to bring out the best of them, without lessening any of their original impact and core features. We used the old Japanese Godzilla characters and the movies' aesthetic, and integrated this style into a photorealistic environment. To settle on common ground, to communicate on the same vision, we did "inspirations" research, and on the top of that we worked with Murro and Pixel Liberation Front to do a previz, which was highly valuable, to determine the needs and direction for this project.

What techniques did you use to make the characters look as realistic as possible?

AF: The team at Stan Winston Studio did an amazing job at creating the costumes. Both monsters had their own sets of challenges. The Godzilla-like monster was probably the most challenging because it's a lizard. Early on we looked at tests where the actor in the suit was allowed to walk with his heel on the ground, but it looked too human-like. So we decided to put him on risers, so his heels were never touching the ground. It brought a lot of animality in the monster walk, but it was excruciating for the actor since he could never rest his thighs. There were three puppeteers working simultaneously with the actor to animate the face and the eyes in order to bring life to the monster. For the robot, it was all about the actor's choppy, mechanical moves in order to create a more robotic motion. We shot the monsters in slow motion to give them more weight.

How did you integrate the monsters and buildings?

AF: We created an endless number of elements in CG to glue all the pieces together. This was a very challenging, complicated project, but it turned out really well, so it made all our efforts worth it.

LL: Artistic but realistic matte paintings and tasteful, careful compositing didn't hurt.

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