VFX supervisor of ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ shares insights on the movie

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms can be counted as one of the perfect movies for the holiday season because of its amazing enchanting visuals. Each frame in the movie has the richness of stunning visual effects which allows the viewer to enter the world of wonder and fantasy.  MPC film led the VFX on Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, with the overall VFX supervisor Max Wood and MPC VFX Supervisor Richard Clegg. The MPC’s artists have crafted more than 1000 shots and the scope of the work was wide-ranging, from CG environments including palaces, forests and rivers to large-scale FX work, to extensive digital character builds and animation. Recently MPC Film has been shortlisted for Best Visual Effects at the 2019 Oscars for Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Speaking with Animation Xpress the overall VFX Supervisor Max Wood shared how the team managed to showcase the enchanting charisma of the movie on the screen.  How long did the post production take? There were roughly 1150 VFX shots, meaning that VFX touched 85 per cent of the movie, with MPC doing around 1000 shots. The post production took 20 months. Could you share a little about what the unique techniques and trends used by your team in the movie The Nutcrackers and the Four Realms were? One of the biggest challenges was producing the entire Kingdom consisting of four realms with their own unique towns and vegetation, crafting the palace, the huge waterfalls, rivers and background Mountains. We see all of these elements together in single shots and so we needed to be able to render it all together. Building everything to be as optimised as possible was critical to make rendering possible. We took advantage of PRMAN’s great bump mapping, displacement and instancing to achieve this. We split the world into small modules and also did a little bit of custom development on top of our in-house Asset Management tools to handle the large dataset and allow artists to work efficiently in parallel and share back and forth easily. What were the pressure points for the team in creating the enchanting appearance of the movie? Making a world that is a fantasy land feel like a real, physical place was a huge challenge. As soon as we received the concept art, I knew we were in for a challenge. For every aspect of the fantasy world, we found real-world photography to base it on. For example, the rolling hills of New Zealand for the Land of Sweets, Niagara Falls for our huge waterfalls and the Kremlin for our palace. Even our dramatic, beautiful skies, which look like fantastical paintings, are real-world HDRIs. How many team members of your VFX studios were involved in the making of the movie? Over 400 MPC artists and production crew were involved in making the Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Have you outsourced any of the VFX content from any other studios for ease in the post-production workflow? If yes please share the insight story? If not then what are the reasons behind that? The work was split between MPC, Rodeo, Luma and One of Us. MPC Film worked on around 1000 of the shots and the remaining shots were split equally between the other vendors. Can you share some of the marvellous VFX breakdowns of the movie describing the technical aspect of it? Our technical breakdown reel will be available very soon 🙂 What were the required VFX shots asked by the director for the movie? How did you and your team take it forward? The VFX team did a huge variety of work throughout the movie. Many different environments were created, from the opening shot of the movie (by Rodeo) we fly over a fully CG London (across the frozen river Thames and past Big Ben), our expansive realms, a huge Victorian engine room and the inside of a grandfather clock. We also had a variety of CG characters to give life to. We had digital doubles of the entire main cast, an army of tin soldiers, a 12m tall marionette, who battles the tin soldiers, Mouserinks the lovable sidekick and the Mouseking, a 3m tall character made out of 60,000 mice! The character that was the most fun to create was the Mouseking, the director’s brief described him as “a concept rather than a creature” he needed to change and morph in every shot. He doesn’t use his limbs as a regular character would, as he can send more mice wherever they’re needed. If he carries something then more mice move up the body to make his arms stronger, he can pass straight through trees and his volume swells to account for the volume of the tree. Any special sequence of the movie would you would like to share with us? The scene in which Mother Ginger’s marionette fights the Tin Soldiers was probably the most fun to work on. Not only did it provide huge challenges in terms of the interaction of the tin soldiers climbing the marionette’s giant circus tent skirt but how the tin soldier’s move and attack. Watching the movie, it really feels like you are in the battle, especially in 3D! What’s next can we expect from the studio after The Nutcrackers and the Four Realms?MPC Films is currently working on: Sonic the Hedgehog Artemis Fowl The One and Only Ivan The New Mutants The Lion King Godzilla: King of the Monsters Pokemon: Detective Pikachu The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle Shazam! Dumbo X-Men: Dark Phoenix Ad Astra Underwater