VFX Production Supervisor John “DJ” Des Jardin, MPC VFX Supervisor Pier Lefebvre and MPC Animation Supervisor Michael Langford led the MPC Film VFX team to make 177 shots for the “Downtown Battle” sequence in Godzilla vs. Kong. VFX artists from MPC Film Studios in Montreal, Bangalore and London worked together to bring the epic showdown between the two titans in downtown Hong Kong.
The creative team based at the Technicolor pre-production studio in Culver City, Los Angeles worked on all fronts of the Hong Kong footage viewing process, from preview to post-view. The team worked closely with director Adam Wingard on a trip from Vancouver, on location in Hawaii, Australia, and then back to the studio in Los Angeles. Preview Supervisor Kyle Robinson led the charge with his team of asset creators and sequential artists. “With the guidance and leadership of Visual Effects Supervisor DJ Desjardin, the MPC team and I were able to help make this film an exciting life in a building,” said Robinson.
In the early stages, MPC Film was delivered with concept art of King Kong and Godzilla towering over the pink, cyan and orange lights of Hong Kong city, saturated in a blue haze. Famous for its vibrant night scenes of neon signage, laser shows, and huge LED screens, it was important to encompass an authentic portrayal of Hong Kong’s cityscape.
Both the preview and post-visualization teams helped solve many of the creative challenges encountered in this crucial sequence. The work done in pre-production helped set up the production success on set as well as during post-production. The creative collaboration that began in pre-production shows clear visual links to the film’s final cut.
One of the main goals of the MPC Film team was to recreate the specific lighting concept. There were many conversations going on with Wingard throughout the process regarding the city’s neon lighting color scheme. Additionally, it was important to demonstrate the scale of Kong and Godzilla, as well as the realism of CG City.
In addition to developing the dynamic portrayal of Hong Kong, the team ensured that these striking colors accurately illuminated the characters throughout the fast-paced and highly destructive clash. What begins as an understated and colorful ensemble is artfully hammered into a fiery hell.
The introduction of a new proprietary software tool called Populate HK (Hong Kong) Technology was created to Godzilla vs. Kong. This was a script, based on PACS, built by Joan Panis, supervisor of MPC Film CG, to help push the city’s main environment into every shot. Populate HK meant that any updates made to the major version of the environment could be easily incorporated into new shots. This included reading all the changes made to the shots by the animation team. Populate HK reads the base environment and the edited animation and prepares the city for rendering. The script also held the abilities to ensure that the blueprints were completed based on the sections of the city visible, making them less burdensome to surrender.
The “Battle of the Town Center” was a particularly difficult sequence as the majority of the shots were entirely in CG and included a lot of complex destruction effects. Continuity throughout the sequence was a key goal in ensuring that previously destroyed buildings retain their fragmented appearance, as well as shattered neon lights glittering amid the mass destruction.
Supervisor CG Timucin Ozger created an automated Houdini destruction workflow scene, which could also render exits with neon lights as light sources in Mantra Renderer. This workflow created outputs similar to what the lighting service would render. This helped to avoid surprises of different appearance between departments and to maintain consistency. MPC has also improved its Parallax Shader to make skyscrapers photorealistic. The new shader could merge windows in offices and create Parallax rooms that actually looked like offices, not just single rooms.
The main challenge for the animation team was to create a fierce and dynamic battle that not only underscored the scale of the titans, but also showed the emotion of the fight on their faces. The animators had fun acting out the battle and choreographing how Kong and Godzilla might fight, then reinterpreting that performance in the keyframe animation. An added challenge was to create a loving, non-threatening interaction between Kong and Jia, despite Kong’s monstrous size and intimidating appearance. Getting the perfect emotion and expression on Kong’s face was essential to selling his wordless feelings.
Legendary images’ Godzilla vs. Kong is now in theaters worldwide via Warner Bros. Pictures and Toho (Japan).
Source: MPC movie