For the final Twilight Saga film, Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Tippett Studio returned to deliver its stunning photorealistic wolves
For the final Twilight Saga film, Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Tippett Studio deliver its stunning photorealistic wolves. They reveal their full ferocity in the movie’s final and gruesome battle sequence, where they take on the evil Volturi vampires. We talk to Tippett visual effects supervisor Eric Leven and animation supervisor Tom Gibbons about some of the new challenges.
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The snow-drenched battle takes place over the entire last act of the Bill Condon-directed pic, and sometimes features 16 wolves in a single shot. Production filmed the sequence in Baton Rouge on a white-backed pitch. Environment extensions, snowfall and other effects for the battle were handled by Hydraulx, with Tippett contributing the wolves. The overall production visual effects supervisors were John Bruno and Adam Howard.
Just prior to the battle, Edward and Bella’s new daughter Renesmee climbs the wolf Jacob’s back and is taken away to safety. For these shots, Tippett employed a motion control rig. “We could put the actress on top of this rig and then program the rig based on the animation,” says Eric Leven. “We took animation curves from Maya and translated them into motion control curves that the rig was able to understand. When we got there we put her up on this rig and ran the run cycle and we were able to matchmove that and it matched relatively seamlessly.”
The rig also relied on a Jacob fur-covered ‘saddle’ constructed by Legacy Effects. “We sent them reference pictures of our wolf from previous movies and guidelines about length of mane et cetera,” says Leven. “It’s funny - we never met them face to face but the practical prop on set looked exactly like what we expected.”
Leven had perhaps only half-expected to be able to do a soft blend between the fur saddle and their CG wolf, but that was not a viable solution. “I don’t know how seriously we took ourselves when we were selling that idea - it never really worked. We had to completely replace the fur with our digital fur. But at same time we had to save shadow information actress was casting or use digital human and cast a new shadow. We’d matchmove a human in there and get where her pressure points were on the fur to displace the fur.”
Tippett’s fur creation tool, Furator, was of course relied on for the wolf coats with the ability to quickly adjust length, scraggle and other properties. It has been modified on several recent productions (including earlier Twilight films), and was also adapted here to enable tight integration of snowflakes into the fur.
Tippett also took advantage of a move towards a more physically plausible rendering approach using RenderMan for its final wolf shots. “This time we had some really nice area lights that we were never really able to get before,” notes Leven. “It helped with really subtle soft light. All these Twilight movies take place under completely sunless skies - the light is really diffuse and really soft - which is tricky in regular computer graphics but when you’ve got nothing but fur it makes it really hard.”
The wolves are shapeshifters who change from human form. In this film, the transformations remained fast but Tippett was able to show more details. “The one thing we were able to do this time was that when Jacob reveals himself as a wolf to Bella’s dad - he does it intentionally,” says Leven. “All the other transformations in the rest of the movies are done, say, when someone’s upset. We changed it to have a little precursor to the event - we had some steam rising off of Jacob’s body and muscle twitches and high frequency things and then it just bursts out.”