Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
With Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm brought the Star Wars sequel trilogy to an epic conclusion.
Under the direction of J.J. Abrams, who returned behind the camera for the finale after directing The Force Awakens, The Rise of Skywalker skillfully blends all the ingredients we've come to expect from Star Wars movies with moments of dread and delight and battles of good and evil.
Having contributed its team's VFX expertise to the five most recent movies from the famous franchise, as well as on the Disney + space Western series The Mandalorian, the Hybride team was super excited to learn they would be taking part in the action-packed finale to the Skywalker Saga.
In the streets of Kijimi
To recreate the snow dusted streets of the frigid mountainous planet Kijimi, production built a large set in the exterior backlot of the Pinewood studios. Initially, Hybride's mandate was to extend what had been shot and create a city based on artwork provided by ILM, mimicking everything that was on set.
ILM structures and scenic details were shared with the Hybride team to build a library of assets for establishing shots and set extensions-including rooftop views of First Order walkers wading through the city. All of these elements had to be built while keeping in mind that they would be seen from many different views and distances from the camera.
Atmospheric elements and enhancements were simulated in order to add depth to the city that was always seen under the night sky. Chimney smoke, ice and snow effects were used in conjunction with the city lights to help sell the scale of the shots. Hybride artists animated flying ships in the distance to bring movement, then added light flickers, clouds, and colour variations throughout the city. Snow was then added on top of everything using a custom set-up in Houdini.
The droids are all here and so is...Hey-Heeeeyyy Babu Frik
When the Resistance fighters seek the assistance of Babu Frik, we are introduced to a tiny droidsmith working among the Spice Runners of Kijimi who has the ability to reprogram or modify virtually any droid, regardless of the security measures protecting its systems.
The suit built for the sequence where they deconstruct C-3PO in Babu's workshop didn't have any legs and only had the front half of the head, as the backside and wires needed to be completely recreated in CG. Hybride artists modified C-3PO CG assets to perfectly fit the scan of the suit used in the sequence.
Once the meticulous tracking and matchmove work completed, the team started to work on matching the set lighting. Using photo references taken from the set, chrome balls and HDRI's they were able to easily erase the crewmembers reflected on the suit. Hybride's artists then generated C-3PO's missing legs and the wires behind his head. Since we can see through the wires, it was very important to create clean plates so the elements could be seamlessly integrated.
Hybride artists then provided Babu with rod and puppeteer removal and digital eye enhancements using a few 2D tricks.
While exploring Ochi's derelict ship, BB-8 stumbled across the deactivated D-O, left alone and covered in dust. BB-8 promptly reactivated the little droid, who expressed his gratitude at being returned to life. Hybride animators articulated the animated BB-8 and D-O characters-reuniting with the beloved BB-8 that they had animated in Star Wars: The Force Awakens where he made his first appearance in the famous franchise back in 2015.
Since both droids filmed on set were practical puppets, the artists tried to keep as much of the robots as they could by erasing the puppeteers. Based on the two models provided by ILM, the droids were created entirely in CG for shots where their actions were to specific.
Using the Force
Kijimi set extensions are also featured in a Force Vision sequence when Kylo contacts Rey and engages her in light saber combat - Kylo on Kijimi, and Rey in a First Order sanctuary containing the remains of Darth Vader's helmet. Hybride used light sabers to wipe frames between the contrasting environments. Kijimi is dark, hazy and atmospheric, whereas the sanctuary is pure and white.
As Rey fights Kylo the action begins on Kijimi, and then continues to the sanctuary where a light saber blow hits the pedestal, causing it to shatter and Vader's helmet to fall. Hybride artists precisely choreographed the CG pedestal explosion and also articulated interactions with animation, which were then matched with Kylo picking up the helmet in Kijimi.
Hybride also contributed VFX for the sequence where Rey flees Kef Bir in Kylo's fighter, which she then destroys on planet Ahch-to. To establish the Jedi Island, the filmmakers used aerial footage of Skellig Michael, from Episode VI. For island surface scenes, the production team built a back lot set at Pinewood.
Hybride artists extended the set by recreating part of the island that hadn't been seen in previous episodes. Using photos and various plates that were taken on the actual location, they were able to generate all set extensions through a blend of matte painting and 2.5D techniques.
To enhance Kylo's burning tie fighter, the live action model was used as a reference for tracking and layout. Fire and smoke elements were then were added to the actual plate to intensify what was already shot. Interactive light from the added CG fire onto the live action model was crucial in order to make the integration believable. Burn textures were generated in Mari and all of the fire simulations were created in Houdini.
As Rey loses herself to hopelessness and desperation, the Force ghost of her former Jedi mentor, Luke Skywalker, appears from the burning ship.
"The glow couldn't be too bright against daylight exteriors", noted Hybride VFX Supervisor Joseph Kasparian, "it felt like Luke didn't match the lighting in the scene. In shots of Luke against bright backgrounds it was important to maintain the feeling he was still being lit, so we made sure the edges of his glow didn't become too transparent."
Star wars: The Rise of Skywalker was Hybride's 6th incursion into the Star Wars universe and represented the studio's most important participation to the famous franchise to date. The ninth, and final film in The Skywalker Saga, truly delivered a spectacular ending in a galaxy far, far away.
The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Released on December 20, 2019
Produced by: Lucasfilm
Director: J.J. Abrams
Overall Visual Effects Supervisor (Lucasfilm): Roger Guyett
Visual Effects Supervisor (ILM): Patrick Tubach
VFX Workload: 323 shots
Cumulative Duration: 18 minutes
Project Timeframe: 11 months (January 2019 to November 2019)
VFX Description: Design, Tracking, Layout, Lighting, Texture, Modeling, Animation, Compositing.
Steve Pelchat, (lead layout/tracking)
TEXTURE & LIGHTING
Christophe Damiano, (Lead Textures & Lighting)
Julien Chabot, (Lead Textures & Lighting)
Maryse Bouchard, (Lead Textures & Lighting)
Danny Levesque, (Lead FX Animator)
Dang Vy Nguyen
Richard Clément Tam
Patrick Piché, (Lead Technical Director)
John Mark Gibbons
Marco Tremblay, (Environment Supervisor)
Miguel Berube Ouellet
Robert De La Cruz
DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT ARTIST
PRESIDENT AND HEAD OF PRODUCTION
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
PRODUCTION VICE PRESIDENT
HEAD OF PRODUCTION MONTREAL STUDIO
VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISORS
COMPUTER GRAPHICS SUPERVISORS
VISUAL EFFECT PRODUCERS
VISUAL EFFECT COORDINATORS
Maxime Lemieux, (Lead Digital Compositor)
Matthieu Chatelier, (Lead Digital Compositor)
Samuel Armin Gutiérrez
PAINT & ROTO
Juliette Compignie, (Lead Paint & Roto)
Mélissa Laframboise Maillé, (Lead Paint & Roto)
James Daniel Haines
Mark Masson, (Lead Character Rigging )