In our latest webinar, we spoke with Oscar-nominated VFX Supervisor and CG Spectrum mentor Genevieve Camilleri and CG Supervisor Stephanie Pocklington about their work on Love and Monsters which garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects. Find out how they created those unreal creatures in this Love and Monsters VFX breakdown!
Love and Monsters is streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer.
Visual effects breakdown: How the creatures were made
From the almighty Hell Crab to the mesmerizing Sky Jellies, bringing these creatures to life took a slew of talented artists.
Camilleri led the team at Mill Film as Visual Effects Supervisor, and Pocklington acted as CG Supervisor on the production of 550 visual effects shots required for the film.
Producing this complex array of scenes required high level supervisor practices. For Camilleri and Pocklington this meant knowing how to communicate effectively with different departments and different personalities.
Most films will employ a number of studios to carry out visual effects work, but Mill Film was in the unique position of being the sole visual effects vendor on Love and Monsters. Sharing work with other studios on a production means sharing assets and competing with different interpretations of a brief, giving the filmmakers options on which version they prefer. This process can generate more work for the stakeholders involved because of the number of amendments required.
Being the sole vendor on this project meant that Mill Film had more creative flex throughout the process.
It also sped up the compositing process because of the control they had over all assets.
The relationship between Mill Film and the production also benefited from their exclusive role on the project because of the focused attention they had from the filmmakers.
Camilleri was the only Visual Effects Supervisor for Mill Film, and the production side had their own Visual Effects Supervisor whose role was mainly on set directing what needed to be in the shots. He then supervised Camilleri’s team in post production, presenting finished effects to the director for approval.
Stephanie Pocklington supervised the CG department from beginning to end. This involved overseeing anything from 7 to 13 departments at any one time during the course of the production. Work started with match moves and rotoscope animation, followed by layout, animation, modeling, texturing, look development and rigging. Production then began on shot-based work such as environment building and matte painting. Creature effects were the final stage, along with general visual effects, and lighting.
Boulder Snail was the least challenging of all the creatures to create. The visual effects department began with the original plate which contained a blue screen element on set. The first step was to build the background environment which included recreating all the trees that featured behind the creature. The model of the creature was created and peripheral elements such as dirt, slime, bubbles, moss, vines, etc were added. Its movement within the shot was tied to the plates provided from the live footage. CG grass, leaves and dirt were built on the ground for Boulder Snail to interact with to further integrate it into the scene.
At the end, all the elements are given to the compositing team to rotoscope the foreground characters into the effects and graded to fit seamlessly into the entire scene.
The Giant Ant, nicknamed Miss Buzzard, was a puppet that the actors interacted with on set. It was then augmented and edited with effects such as mold, shine, etc. The creature was made up of a mixture of insect parts, such as its large grasshopper legs.
Practical set pieces are easy to add effects to because there are lighting and material references that guide the recreation of the element in CG.
For example, there are subtle differences in the way light hits slime or sweat or a wet look that enhances the effect in ways that creating an element from scratch doesn’t generate. Interactions of set pieces with the environment are also an advantage because background elements, such as the shower screen in this scene, don’t have to be re-created in post.
Giant Toad-Monster/Pool Frog
This was one of the main effects elements of the film, and also a favorite of the CGI team and audiences alike. Giant Toad-Monster was encrusted with many details including sores, snot, antennae with eyes, a transparent boil with tadpoles swimming in it, two eyeballs in each socket, etc. Most of the environment around him had to be recreated, including the water element.
Giant Centipede Monster
The Giant Centipede Monster, nicknamed The Siren, was the most challenging creature of the film. It was a complex character on multiple levels. The initial concept supplied by the production was not working well when the first iteration of the creature was created. The filmmakers realized the monster needed to be bigger and scarier, so the effects team made model changes including increasing the size and adding extra legs.
Another challenge was creating the complex framework of a centipede with multiple legs that need to all work together anatomically and in unison. Working within the limits of the plates supplied was also difficult, as the creature’s movements were confined within the constraints of the frame.
Fixing the correct texturing of the Centipede Monster was a delicate balance between a leather look and a hard shell finish. The lighting of the scene, which was overcast, limited the sheen of its skin so that it could realistically blend into the environment of the scene. Again, dirt and leaves were used to tie the creature to its surroundings.
The CG artists had to decide how the creature was going to sit in the ground, and how it was going to emerge from it. There was no mound or special geographical element from which it would arise, so the ground elements of the plate had to be replaced with visual effects.
The Sand Gobbler scene took almost a year to produce. Beginning from concept art, modeling, rigging, and all the steps along the way. The visual effects team worked from the detailed initial artwork created by Concept Artist Andrew Baker. On a trip to the market CG Supervisor Pocklington spotted an eel which she thought was perfect reference material for the Sand Gobbler, so she brought the eel to the studios to study. The skin was an important element to this monster, its chemical make-up, the moisture of the finish, and how the muscles moved underneath the skin.
The Sky Jellies, like most monsters in the production, were modeled on real-life creatures. Although encountering them in the sky would be fraught with danger, they make a majestic appearance in a scene where the main character has a rare respite from the frantic action of the rest of the film.
The CG team worked with an original plate that showed a physical puppet shot in the scene. Their job was to add human characteristics and emotion to MAV1S via expressions of the eyes and hand movements.
The Hell Crab monster was based on a Blue Swimmer Crab which was bought from the market and used as a reference by the CG artists. The team took high end photographs of the crab from many angles and poses to study its form. They used ZBrush to create the creature, with a file dedicated to each moving part to deal with its intricate details. The bits of moss growing on him, pieces of ocean rubbish hanging off of him, watery eyes that gave him emotion, and saliva dripping from his mouth all contributed to his backstory.
The post-apocalyptic world of Love and Monsters was created by unique one-off shots of landscapes and streetscapes. Over 100 plates of everyday environments were used to create the dystopian world of the film. This involved adding subtle enhancements such as dirt, leaves, cracks on the ground to give an aged feel.
Watch the Love and Monsters VFX breakdown webinar
Join CG Spectrum's Career Development Maxine Schnepf for the full webinar with Camilleri and Pocklington where they describe the creature effects in more detail:
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