(Source: AWN.com) What marked 2007? Among other things, the Autobots battling the Decepticons in Transformers; The Maelstrom overtaking Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End; the web-slinging superhero taking on Sandman and Venom in Spider-Man 3; 300’s triumph in next-gen moviemaking; the marvelous daemons of The Golden Compass; Beowulf’s advancement in the performance capture hybrid; and Ratatouille’s great leap forward in vfx for animation, propelling it to Oscar consideration on the long list. Here’s a recap of our top five each from digital acting and 3D environments in this Year in Review:

Transformers -

For VFX Supervisor Scott Farrar, Transformers indeed represents a new watermark in ultra realistic hard body surfaces. “This had to be rendered and it’s terribly complicated. For instance, in addition to Optimus Prime’s 10,108 parts, there are also 1.8 million polygons and 2,000 texture maps. Which is also why ILM developed dynamic rigging so the animators could deal with the large number of parts, interacting on the fly while paying attention to certain sections that they were animating. “Let’s say you had a close-up,” Farrar says, “and the animator only had to deal with one arm, shoulders and a head. They basically identify the area and grab that to simplify it.”

Sandman from Spider-Man 3 -

Sony Pictures Imageworks began development two years ago on Sandman, a complex, shape-shifting, sand creature that evokes the pathos of the legendary golem. Sand Effects Supervisor Doug Bloom and a team of TDs came up with a pipeline and toolset.

“We figured that the more they could duplicate the physics of sand, the better off they’d be, since story and storyboards and animatics were still being worked on,” Bloom explains. “We wanted to prepare to emulate any possible behavior. We wanted the sand to look as realistic as possible and then later art direct and break away from reality of physics.”

Grendel from Beowulf -

Sony Pictures Imageworks has made a tremendous leap forward in performance captured animated humans in Beowulf, with an incredible amount of geometric and textural detail in the models and the clothes and the faces. “When we started talking about how to do Beowulf, we didn’t know that we were going to go this realistic and detailed — that evolved over time,” says VFX Supervisor Jerome Chen. “The evolution of that was predicated by the motion capture performances of the characters and how the keyframe animation was applied on top of them. As we looked at these characters, we realized that we wanted more and more detail on the faces, on the clothes, on the world. The performances of the characters were so big in scope…”

Much more: vfxworld.com

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