Watchmen, in its original graphic novel form (published by DC Comics in 1986-1987), is legendary. Ever since the release of the comics, which was adapted for the big screen a decade ago by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Man of Steel, Justice League), fans have been craving for more.
Last year, the long wait finally came to an end when the critically acclaimed live-action follow-up series aired on HBO (now available on Amazon Prime). Hybride reunited with Visual Effects Supervisor Erik Henry to 'watch over the Watchmen', by creating a variety of impressive VFX, including squids (loads of them), one of Jupiter's moons, and a message written in frozen corpses...
It's raining... squids ?!
Setting the tone for this 2019 version of Watchmen, Hybride's most creative VFX work in Episode 1 translated into squids raining down on the city of Tulsa Oklahoma.
The sequence refers to the Watchmen original graphic novel's ending, where a giant psychic squid is teleported into the center of New York City the center of New York City by Adrian Veidt on November 2, 1985. As Veidt predicted, world leaders believed the Earth was under attack by an alien menace and came together-ending the threat of nuclear war-to fight the new enemy.
As a reminder of this strange event, squids regularly rain down onto the city where residents seem relatively unfazed by the event. In this sequence, Hybride's extensive experience was deployed to create these tiny creatures that start dissolving once they've been in contact with the Earth's atmosphere. During their transformation, the squids needed to still be identifiable and preserve certain proprieties like viscosity, texture, density and transparency.
Since each of them needed to dynamically interact with one another and their surrounding environments, several object resolutions were established to manage the high volume of squid and the varying distances between them in each frame.
Later in the show, audiences are catapulted onto Europa - one of Jupiter's moons-where Adrian Veidt has been exiled by Doctor Manhattan as punishment for releasing the giant squid.
In the early stages of the project, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Erik Henry spoke to a mission scientist from Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Clipper mission, which is actually scheduled to land on Europa this decade, who was able to describe the planet's temperature and luminance, as well as it's surface.
This allowed Hybride artists to create the environment as accurately as possible and recreate its unique atmosphere. The team also created various digi-doubles of the Crookshanks and Philips characters, each with three or four variations of clothing and used ragdoll simulations to generate frozen dead bodies falling to the ground. Thousands of bodies were then scattered across the moon's surface to form the words "save me".
Additional visual effects produced by Hybride for the show include:
- The creation of a complex set extensions, monitor content inserts (motion graphics) and baby squids for the Squid Room where the squid are created;
- Crowds of digital soldiers, airplane, propaganda flyers falling from the sky for the WW1 flashback scene;
- Face replacements, photo-real 3D CG fire, smoke and embers for the box enclosure located on a stage where Veidt burn his victims during a play he puts on to the story of Doctor Manhattan's origins.
Both fans and critics alike acclaimed the Watchmen series, which scored 95% on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. It is unsure, however, if there are plans for Dr. Manhattan to return. Fingers crossed!
Season 1 (9 episodes)
Aired from October 20 to December 15, 2019, on Home Box Office (HBO),
produced by DC Comics. Now available on Amazon Prime.
Directors: Steph Green, Nicole Kassell, Adrij Parekh and Stephen Williams
Senior Visual Effects Supervisor: Erik Henry
VFX Workload: 265 shots
Cumulative Duration: 24.5 minutes
Project Timeframe: 17 months (July 2018 to November 2019)
VFX Description: Design, tracking, layout, lighting, texture, modeling, animation, compositing.
LAYOUT / TRACKING
Steve Pelchat, (lead layout/tracking)
TEXTURE & LIGHTING
Christophe Damiano, (lead textures/lighting)
Maryse Bouchard, (lead textures/lighting)
Danny Levesque (Lead FX Animator)
Dang Vy Nguyen
Richard Clément Tam
Patrick Piche, (lead technical director)
John Mark Gibbons
DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT ARTIST
Marco Tremblay, (Environment Supervisor)
Miguel Berube Ouellet
Robert De La Cruz
PRESIDENT AND HEAD OF PRODUCTION
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
PRODUCTION VICE PRESIDENT
HEAD OF PRODUCTION MONTREAL STUDIO
VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR
VISUAL EFFECT PRODUCERS
COMPUTER GRAPHICS SUPERVISORS
VISUAL EFFECT COORDINATORS
Jérôme Foucout (Lead Digital Compositor)
Martin Lipmann (Lead Digital Compositor)
PAINT & ROTO
Juliette Compignie (Lead Paint & Roto )
James Daniel Haines
Mélissa Laframboise Maillé
Mark Masson, (lead character rigging)