Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla — which has now brought in $323.4 million worldwide — involved some highly skilled work in bringing the monster to life, led by the film’s VFX supervisor Jim Rygiel, who won Oscar for all each film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Translating Godzilla from concept artwork to a photoreal CG creature took lead VFX house Moving Picture Company’s artists seven months — from the underlying bones, fat and muscle structure to the thickness and texture of his scales. “There is a lot of legacy from the original movie. For us, it was a unique opportunity not only to create this iconic creature but to tell the story,” said MPC VFX supervisor Guillaume Rocheron, who won an Academy Award in 2013 as part of the Life of Pi VFX team.
To create the 350-foot Godzilla, the VFX team started by studying animals including bears, Komodo dragons, lizards, lions and wolves, “watching what they do when they are attacking or scared.” The creature was given the movements with keyframe animation, meaning that it was animated by hand and without performance capture reference.
Another sizable challenge for MPC was the fact that Godzilla was shot in incentive-friendly Vancouver, while the climatic third act of the film occurs in the highly recognizable city of San Francisco.
MPC created a completely digital version of the downtown area, giving the filmmakers control to allow the creature to interact with the environment. “The entire bay, the water, the Golden Gate Bridge, all the boats are also CG created,” Rocheron said.
This work also meant ensuring that Godzilla was the right scale whether the virtual camera was placed on the ground or on the roof of a building.
Destruction effects were also used as an element to remind the viewer of the scale of the monsters in addition to showing spectacle. This involved some high-resolution simulations of buildings collapsing and swirling interactive dust.
MPC’s in-house destruction simulation tool, Kali, was upgraded for the project. The software team added new tools to Kali for postprocessing as well as performance, to allow faster simulation and rendering.