Yesterday, we posted a portion of HN Entertainment’s interview with Weta Digital’s Eric Saindon, who is the visual effects supervisor on the Robert Rodriguez film Alita: Battle Angel. In that section of our interview, he spoke about creating Iron City using Panama City, Panama as a digital blueprint, Alita always being envisioned as a CG character, and what it was like working with Robert Rodriguez.
Nick and CJ were also able to speak to Eric about his previous work including Avatar, another big project where he was also the visual effects supervisor.
Eric talked about the visual effects challenges on a groundbreaking film like Avatar, he revealed one of the toughest aspects of the film was creating the digital environments, mainly the jungles of Pandora. They used a crowdsourcing program that would be similarly used when creating the Iron City in Alita: Battle Angel.
“The big challenge for me was the environments, the jungles, the CG environments were the huge challenge when we did that back in back because just the amount of data, of plants, and interaction with the plants and the lighting and the amount of different assets and elements put together to create a natural feeling jungle. It was something we had never done before, like it easy to just throw in a whole bunch of plants and try to make it feel like a jungle, right, covering the screen with leaves and plants and things, but that doesn’t feel like a natural jungle.”
“So we spent a lot of time trying to come up with new techniques to do something like that and we ended up actually growing our jungles on Avatar, so that we used our crowd software called MASSIVE and we planted seeds like you would with a real jungle would be planted and grew it over time so that the big trees grew up and became a canopy which made some of the smaller trees die off and then the ground foliage filled in. I mean it’s all done in a matter of minutes but it’s growing an entire jungle so it feels like a very natural, natural feeling jungle. That was a big step for us on using real world a reference to something that feels more natural on the screen.”
Concerning the Avatar sequels, Eric doesn’t go into detail but does suggest new technologies have been developed for the films, which isn’t terribly surprising since Avatar 2 is expected to tackle the oceans of Pandora and underwater sequences done digitally might be even tougher than the jungle.
“Development is always in progress for those movies, right, Jim is one to always push the boundaries of what can be done and what needs to be done technology-wise, so we’re always working on new technology to finish those movies because I mean they’re just gonna be huge projects. And yeah, he is working on the performance capture and it’s all progressing.”
Eric’s latest work can be seen on the big screen with Alita: Battle Angel which is currently in theaters.