DNEG’s VFX Supervisor Fabricio Baessa takes us through the studio’s work on the Netflix spy action comedy film.
What scenes were DNEG responsible for?
DNEG was responsible for three VFX sequences in Spy Kids: Armageddon: Redemption, New Plan and Ending Armageddon, plus all the motion graphics for the entire show, and also for the concepts at the beginning of the project.
We did some iconic scenes like the ones inside of the VR Pods Room with the entire family getting ready to jump into the “End of The World”, the kids inside a cave full of lava in the “Central Computer Room” and the grand finale with Heck Knight, and the skeletons interacting with the real family.
How many shots did you complete and how did you achieve them?
DNEG delivered a variety of work, ranging from very detailed concepts to help the director understand which direction to go, to really fun and stylistical skeleton animations and a variety of motion graphics across the entire movie.
With 3 sequences containing 216 shots, plus 273 shots for motion graphics, DNEG created some incredible looking characters and environments to help the storytelling process, which was our main goal from the beginning.
This was a truly global show, managed from DNEG Vancouver, and calling on the talents of our artists from around the world which is a showcase of the broad range of talent available in our company.
The DNEG team used a variety of tools and techniques to ensure the visual effects work was of the best quality possible. This involved many 3D sets, set extensions, painting, simulations and detailed animations, with specific choreography.
What was the biggest challenge of the process?
The biggest challenge was to create a game/world to immerse the viewer with the photography being done almost entirely in green screen and with limited space. We needed it to look like it would actually be a game kids would play. Transforming the concepts into live action required us to be creative and make artistic decisions during the entire process. We had to adapt almost everything, including camera lenses, to make it seem big enough.
Were there any particular pieces of instruction that stood out to you when achieving the VFX style?
The main goal was to deliver something spectacular and fun, but it also needed to be easy to follow for the younger audience. We’ve seen how successful it has been to adapt a particular VFX style for a project to the audience, but it can also be challenging to make sure it is developed correctly.
Were there any other visual inspirations for the project?
I spent a lot of time looking at historic Mesoamerican structures, drawings, paintings and their culture to help our team come up with something that looks fresh but grounded in history. We used all of this research and applied it to our assets and environments.
Another aspect we had to research was how lava looks and behaves, using a lot of different techniques like simulations, painting and projection.
How did your approach differ from other DNEG projects you’ve worked on?
Having done some shows like Blade Runner 2049, Black Adam and Last Night in Soho to name a few, this one required a completely different approach. It’s not about photorealism, not about invisible CG and not about the usual way of doing VFX.
Since the movie was targeted to kids, it made us try a variety of different approaches to get to a point that pleased everyone and also enhanced the storytelling.
It also helped that the majority of the scenes were done in green screen, which is great for creative freedom. That made us use every tool in our VFX arsenal to bring Robert Rodriguez and Racer’s vision to life.
What is your favourite piece of VFX in this project?
We have some amazing and iconic moments on the show, so let me pick a few.
Let me start with the “VR Pod Room”, where the family connects to the “End Of The World”. It’s big with a lot of Mesoamerican details. It was all done with a green screen and tight space, so we had to improvise to achieve the size and feeling of space required for the project and also, make sure we maintain the continuity during all the shots and sequences in the same room.
Secondly, the moment Heck Knight grabs the key. It’s quite an impressive and powerful scene which I know kids loved.
To finish this up, the cheering scene with the family, skeletons and Heck Knight at the end of the movie. We had a lot of fun animating those guys.