Frantic Films VFX Takes On 'Dragonball: Evolution'

Award-winning VFX studio Frantic Films VFX, a division of Prime Focus Group, has contributed 334 shots to the forthcoming feature film "Dragonball: Evolution" from Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by James Wong, the movie releases in the U.S. nationwide on April 10, 2009 and stars Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, and Chow Yun-Fat in the live-action film adaptation of the popular Japanese manga comic book series.

"Dragonball: Evolution" is based on the popular Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama, whose work spawned best selling graphic novels, video games and a phenomenally successful television series. The live action adventure centers on a team of warriors, each of whom possesses special abilities. Together, they protect Earth from a force bent on dominating the Universe and controlling the mystical objects from which the film takes its name.

Frantic's Vancouver and Winnipeg facilities handled the bulk of the VFX shots, with VFX Supervisors Chad Wiebe and Mike Shand overseeing the work from Vancouver and Winnipeg, respectively. Ken Nakada, one of the industry's leading matte painters, oversaw about 30 matte painting shots from Frantic's Hollywood studio, while additional rotoscoping and paint work was completed at sister company Prime Focus in Mumbai. Prime Focus Group company Machine FX in London also contributed plate treatment to about 35 shots. Frantic and its partner studios worked directly with the film's VFX Supervisor Ariel Velasco-Shaw and VFX Producer Janet Muswell Hamilton.

"Because the movie is based on a very popular animé series-and because fans tend to scrutinize comic book adaptations much more than regular films-Mike Shand and I acknowledged that this was sacred material," shared Chad Wiebe, co-VFX supervisor, Frantic Films VFX.

Added Mike Shand, co-VFX supervisor, Frantic Films, "This meant we had to be extremely careful and thoughtful in the crafting of the visual effects, particularly regarding the look and development of the energy effects used by Goku and Picollo."

In addition to assisting with overall look development for the film and color treating plates throughout the movie, Frantic handled two primary scenes in the movie: an extremely technically challenging lava lake sequence in which Goku battles an army of virtually indestructible demon warriors called the Fulum Assassins, and a climactic fight sequence between Goku and his enemy, the evil Lord Piccolo.

For the lava lake sequence, Frantic provided on-set VFX supervision in Durango, Mexico. Artists at Frantic's Vancouver facility designed a digital environment, including mountainscapes and a molten lava lake complete with lava falls and crust, rocks and debris swirling about, that all had to interact fully with Goku and the Fulum Assassins.


The Lava Lake - before


The Lava Lake - after

Frantic created full digital versions of these Fulum Assassins that had to match up seamlessly with shots of the actors in costume. During one dailies review, the Frantic team actually had to remind the producers which characters were real and which were digital replacements. Additional work done by Frantic on this scene included extensive sky replacement and the scripting of custom tools for Frantic's in-house fluid simulation toolset Flood to generate the photo-real lava.

Frantic Films VFX's Technical Director and Science Advisor Marcus Steeds oversaw the development of new architecture for the Flood fluid simulator, which gave full scripting access to the TDs. It also gave Frantic an integrated pipeline for voxel and particle-based simulations using an enhanced meshing technology. Frantic also made a custom direct-to-renderer mesh loader. The new architecture, scripting access and tools gave the studio's artists an integrated simulation pipeline workflow that was more efficient and allowed it to tackle bigger problems with more speed.

For the climactic fight scene, Frantic's artists in Winnipeg did complete set extension of the film's practical set of a stone temple that forms out of the ground, and also did full sky replacement as well as creating the "energy ball" effects generated by Goku and Piccolo during the battle.

"I'm very proud of the work that we completed for 'Dragonball Evolution,'" commented Michael Fink, CEO, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Frantic Films. "The sheer number of shots we completed in such a short timeframe is pretty phenomenal. It's a true testament to the collaborative workflow we have between our global network of facilities-Frantic Films VFX in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Los Angeles, and our parent company Prime Focus Group in Mumbai and sister shop Machine FX in London."

About Frantic Films VFX

Headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, with offices in Vancouver and Los Angeles, Calif., Frantic Films VFX has been operating divisions that provide visual effects for film and television, and VFX software development since 1997. Frantic Films' VFX award-winning visual effects teams have worked on films including Dragonball Evolution, Red Cliff, W., Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, Grindhouse, Superman Returns, X-Men 3, Poseidon and many others. The company's software tools were developed to solve complex production challenges on in-house feature effects projects, and are also in use at many leading 3D animation and effects facilities worldwide. In November of 2007 Frantic Films VFX became a division of international post and VFX leader Prime Focus Group. For more information, visit http://www.franticfilms.com.

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Member Opinions:
By: DemonMage on 4/26/09
Well, like so many movies, the best I can say about this movie is that the SFX didn't completely s*ck.

Interesting article. Thanks.


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