May 23, 2014 10:23am PT by Carolyn Giardina
'X-Men': An Exclusive Look at the VFX Behind the Future Sentinels (Photos)
When lead VFX house MPC returned to the Marvel Universe for X-Men: Days of Future Past, one of the biggest challenges was creating the Sentinels -- robots designed to kill the mutant superheroes. Below are "making of" images, provided exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter by MPC, who explained the challenges of the work.
MPC VFX supervisor Richard Stammers related that the Sentinels actually required two designs, as there was a "1973 version" brought to the screen by Digital Domain and a future version designed by MPC.
To create the sleek future robots, Stammers worked with production designer John Myhre and MPC's art department. The idea was that the Sentinels were engineered from the DNA of the shape-shifter Mystique, giving them transforming and adapting abilities.
These Sentinels -- which MPC saw through to final composite -- were "keyframe" animated, meaning they were animated by hand by the digital artists, and no motion capture was used. Most challenging was that they were covered with approximately 100,000 independent "blades," the movement of which had to be "directed" rather than driven by simulation.
"The vast number of objects proved too cumbersome with existing workflows, so an entirely new approach was required," explained MPC software lead Tony Micilotta. "We introduced the concept of a 'follicle' that approximated the shape and size of the final blade model. These were combined into per body part follicle-meshes and could be manipulated using standard meshing techniques."
"This not only provided requisite visualization for animators, but doubled up as basic objects from which the necessary mathematics could be derived," he continued. "This mathematical data was cached to disk using new in-house tools and was subsequently ingested by a newly developed extension of Katana [a popular look development and lighting VFX software] so that the blade models could be loaded and positioned correctly."
Below, you can see this work in progress.
To complete the look, in the below image the Sentinel has been given scales and texture that was similar to Mystique's but with a metallic futuristic look.