By Meleah Maynard
As kids, Jeremy Lasky and Daniel Gonzalez knew just about everything you could know about two of their favorite Marvel Comics characters, Hulk and Wolverine. Years later, the HD title sequence of the long-awaited animated feature, Hulk vs. Wolverine, makes it clear their enthusiasm hasnt waned over time.
Marvel Studios and Lionsgate Films tapped Lasky and Gonzalezs award-winning design and visual effects studio, Perception, last year to make the title sequence for the feature, which was released on DVD in January. Made almost exclusively with MAXONs CINEMA 4D and Adobe After Effects, the sequence seamlessly blends live action footage, still photography, 3-D models and 2-D design to create a look and feel that pays homage to both the characters.
Made with CINEMA 4D, the labs tank is one of the most eye-catching parts of the Hulk vs. Wolverine title sequence. C4D is easier to become proficient in than other tools, and we like it because it works so well with After Effects, says Jeremy Lasky.
Titles are an
area of expertise for Perception, which is also known for their work with top
clients, including Deutsch, BBDO, MMB, ABC, HBO and ESPN, to name a few. Eager
to work with Marvel Studios, Lasky worked tenaciously to make them aware of
what Perception had to offer and his efforts paid off. They had a very tight
budget and only two weeks to execute the animation, but we took it because we
wanted to show them we could accomplish great things in a short time and they
were very impressed, says Lasky, adding that Perception has since worked with
Marvel on several other projects.
In addition to
being the owners of Perception, Lasky and Gonzalez are also the studios
creative directors. And they knew, with just two weeks to craft the titles,
they were going to need to come up with some pretty ingenious shortcuts.
Because both the Hulk and Wolverine were engineered in a lab, Lasky and
Gonzalez wanted that type of setting for the titles. But they didnt have time
to build the whole thing with CINEMA 4D, as they normally would. So they looked
around for a working laboratory where they could shoot some still photographs
and HD live action footage.
While the blades on Wolverines fingers were created by a CINEMA 4D artist, the glint and refraction on the blade were added in 2D. Separate mattes for each blade were popped out to save time.
After contacting a long list of places, they found a lab that was happy to give them access for a few hours: Columbia University Medical Centers Radiological Research Accelerator Facility in Irvington, New York. The lab had so much high-tech equipment, we didnt have to get any props, says Gonzalez, equating the rooms atmosphere with almost a modern day Frankenstein laboratory. It was a look they both loved because it harked back to the evolution of both characters: the Hulk who was an accident and Wolverine, who was created against his will. We wanted to show how these characters came to be without really showing the characters, creating a tease was the goal. Gonzalez explains.
To amp up the labs spooky feel, Lasky and Gonzalez turned off the overhead fluorescent lights while shooting and used a flashlight to illuminate only what they wanted viewers to see. You cant even fake that look in 3D unless you have time to do it which we didnt, Gonzalez says. View the titles at http://perceptionnyc.com/index.php/work/marvel_titles/
Those who look closely at the bottom right corner of this screen shot (near the cone) will see three gashes on the laboratorys door. They show that Wolverine was there, says Daniel Gonzalez, adding that the titles offer several more Easter eggs for die-hard fans.
To meet the two-week deadline without compromising the look they wanted, Perception worked to create the perfect balance between live and still images, as well as 3D. The goal, Lasky says, was to blend everything so well that it would be impossible to tell which was which. Fire and smoke, for example, which can be seen coming from various machines, as well as a characters skeleton, was composited using imagery from Perceptions vast library of elements. C4Ds advanced renderer gave us very realistic renders for some environments, while its MoGraph module made more graphic elements with ease, says Associate Creative Director John LePore, adding that the team particularly liked the way CINEMA 4D made it possible to create collage-like compositions that grounded elements of fantasy in a recognizable reality.
creating a 3-D skeleton, Perception purchased a model and then rigged and
animated it themselves, using CINEMA 4D. They also made the skeletons ribs
much wider in keeping with the characters muscular physique and added
Wolverines trademark blades to the ends of his knuckles. There was a lot of
work to do before we even started to texture anything, so we saved time on this
one by finishing it with extra lighting tricks in Adobe After Effects,
The bubbling tank of eerie green liquid, which plays a prominent role in the title sequence, was also created using CINEMA 4D. Textures, bubbles and liquid were added once the camera moves were settled on, as well as the thin green lasers that can be seen around the bottom of the tank. Other elements, such as the green dots that revolve around the machine to simulate a radiation field, are actually 2D, Gonzalez says. We take the camera data of the 360-degree move into After Effects and apply it to a particle system, he continues. Then we multiply it to mimic a 3-D move in a 2-D world, so it looks like the particles are moving around the machine.
Wolverine fans will notice that this part of the sequence shows the characters spine being coated with adamantium, a remarkably strong metal that renders his bones unbreakable.
majority of the work was done with CINEMA 4D and After Effects, Perceptions
creative team did use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for some content
development earlier in the pipeline. We dont render out a full HD version in
C4D until were finished with everything, including camera moves, Lasky
explains. The beauty of C4D is that you dont have to re-track everything from
scratch when you export camera information to After Effects.
project was done in HD, render times were longer than they would be with
standard definition. In order to move things along as quickly as possible,
Perception rendered low-res wire frames and camera data to get a look at camera
moves, animation and low-res textures before bringing everything into After
Effects to begin design and compositing. Full HD renders were done overnight
and that footage was swapped into the project when ready.
This screen shot offers a glimpse at how Perception recreated Wolverines comic book
logo in 3D using CINEMA 4Ds wrap deformer.
Lasky and Gonzalez also enjoyed crafting the look of the titles themselves. Because both characters have logos on all of the comic book covers, they recreated those logos, giving them texture and lighting to make them feel real. We wanted it to look as if the lab is giving birth to both titles, Gonzalez says. Subtle details make for a better sequence than your average company can provide and we pride ourselves on going beyond what clients expect.
Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer. Contact her at her website: www.slowdog.com