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July 26
2022

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

GOING BIGGER TO HONOR THE FRANCHISE DNA WITH JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Universal Studios.

The chase involving the Velociraptors combined plate photography from Malta and Chris Pratt riding a stationary motorbike on a massive rolling road in the U.K.

The chase involving the Velociraptors combined plate photography from Malta and Chris Pratt riding a stationary motorbike on a massive rolling road in the U.K.

Prehistoric beasts have had a constant presence in the life of David Vickery, who served as Visual Effects Supervisor on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World: Dominion.  “I’m still working on dinosaurs! Not the film ones, but for promotional media, advertisements and public relations related stuff.” Any concerns of repeating himself were alleviated by working with a different director, crew and script. “There are always new challenges.” About 1,450 visual effects shots were created, with ILM being responsible for 1,000 shots while the rest were handled by Lola VFX and Hybride. “[Director] Colin Trevorrow had a one-on-one relationship with the storyboard artist, and those storyboards were handed over to us to create animatics. I worked closely with the previs and postvis teams [provided by Proof].” Collaborating with Production Designer Kevin Jenkins was easy as he is a former art director at ILM. “Kevin clearly understands visual effects and worked a lot in 3D, so he could hand those designs over to us,” Vickery observes. “Because of our previous working relationship, Kevin trusted me to take incomplete designs to ILM and to continue their evolution.”

“There are probably more animatronics in Jurassic World: Dominion than in Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World combined. … [T]he digital dinosaurs we had were an exact match for the physical animatronic dinosaurs that we had on set. It didn’t matter where they positioned the rig because the range of motion was exactly the same as the range of motion in the digital dinosaur. The goal being to get a plate that gave us practical animatronics that could move and perform on set and be digitally extended without us having to replace it.”

—David Vickery, Visual Effects Supervisor

'Digital archeology' was conducted to return the original T-Rex from Jurassic Park to her former glory.

‘Digital archeology’ was conducted to return the original T-Rex from Jurassic Park to her former glory.

1,450 visual effects shots were created, with ILM being responsible for 1,000 shots while the rest were handled by Lola VFX and Hybride.

1,450 visual effects shots were created, with ILM being responsible for 1,000 shots while the rest were handled by Lola VFX and Hybride.

An entirely new feather system was constructed in Houdini by ILM to deal with creatures such as the Pyroraptor.

An entirely new feather system was constructed in Houdini by ILM to deal with creatures such as the Pyroraptor.

Chris Pratt reprises his role of Owen Grady in Jurassic World: Dominion.

Chris Pratt reprises his role of Owen Grady in Jurassic World: Dominion.

Jurassic World: Dominion was the first Hollywood production to recommence shooting during the pandemic.

Jurassic World: Dominion was the first Hollywood production to recommence shooting during the pandemic.

Five weeks into principal photography for Jurassic World: Dominion, the pandemic caused a global lockdown. “Nobody knew what was going to happen when COVID-19 hit and we had to start shooting again during the pandemic,” Vickery states. “It was hard to understand how we were going to be able to communicate with each other, because suddenly we had to stay distant, were all wearing masks and couldn’t all cluster around the director’s monitors. We had tech scouts where the DP, John Schwartzman, was still isolating before he was able to come back onto set. We were deploying all sorts of new techniques such as wearing Bolero headsets rather than the usual walkie system.” Travel restrictions caused a few key scenes to be reimagined, such as Velociraptors chasing a motorcycle driven by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) through the streets of Malta. “We had array photography and LiDAR data from location, which was then projected and manipulated rather than being a fully CG environment. Once we got back in the U.K., Chris rode a stationary motorbike that was placed on a massive rolling road that was 25 feet wide. The bike was rigged so it could weave left and right.”

“There was a cool bit of what I called ‘digital archeology.’ We had 3D SoftImage files but didn’t even have the software. However, we managed to get those NURBS files into Maya and convert them into polygon meshes. We also referenced all of Stan Winston’s photography. It’s a beautiful piece of recreation of that original T-Rex model.”

—David Vickery, Visual Effects Supervisor

A different approach was adopted for Mosasaurus attacking the crab boat. “Our editors scoured through 16 seasons of The Deadliest Catch program, correlated and created an edit from outtakes,” Vickery reveals. “The goal was to use the natural aesthetic of the footage that we had and integrate the CGI elements into it. The crab pod is something that we added in as well as the Mosasaurus and a bunch of spray.” Shifting weather patterns had to be accommodated. “When we were shooting at a lumber yard and had to put two huge Apatosaurus in the background, the whole sequence was shot in the morning in bright sunlight and no snow,” Vickery says. “Then it started snowing at lunchtime and we had to reshoot the entire scene again because the snow was going to change the look of our plates. We had a huge team of effects artists at ILM whose job was adding digital snow and dust.” An entirely new feather system was constructed in Houdini by ILM to deal with creatures such as the Pyroraptor. “It relied on the geometry of the feathers being described as a curve for the quill and a flat piece of polygonal geometry for the feather itself,” Vickery explains. “The feathers had to be able to interact with environmental elements. “On set we had the special effects team with air movers, some snow and atmospheric effects, but we had to recreate the same effect in post to be able to integrate the Pyroraptor.”

When designing dinosaurs the first point of reference is the holotype.

When designing dinosaurs the first point of reference is the holotype.

A massive animatronic was constructed for the Giganotosaurus.

A massive animatronic was constructed for the Giganotosaurus.

There are probably more animatronics in Jurassic World: Dominion than in Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World combined.

There are probably more animatronics in Jurassic World: Dominion than in Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World combined.

“There was a moment on set where Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and DaWanda Wise are with the biggest animatronic that I’ve ever seen in my life. Bringing all of those things together was amazing!”

—David Vickery, Visual Effects Supervisor

There was a close collaboration between the art department, visual effects and creature effects to make sure that there was seamless integration of CG and practical elements.

There was a close collaboration between the art department, visual effects and creature effects to make sure that there was seamless integration of CG and practical elements.

The goal was to get a plate where the practical animatronics could move and perform on set and be digitally extended without it being replaced.

The goal was to get a plate where the practical animatronics could move and perform on set and be digitally extended without it being replaced.

Production Designer Kevin Jenkins created clay maquettes that were scanned and given to ILM to make sure that the models were anatomically correct before being 3D printed by John Nolan and the creature effects team.

Production Designer Kevin Jenkins created clay maquettes that were scanned and given to ILM to make sure that the models were anatomically correct before being 3D printed by John Nolan and the creature effects team.

Each instalment of the franchise introduces new dinosaurs. “The Giganotosaurus was a real dinosaur,” Vickery remarks. “You look for the holotype, which is often a partial specimen so scientific that experts have to guess the rest. Some of the dinosaurs look so bizarre, like the Therizinosaurus, which is this huge theropod that is covered in feathers and has one-meter-long baseball bat-like claws on the edge of its fingers.” A massive animatronic was built for the Giganotosaurus. “There are probably more animatronics in Jurassic World: Dominion than in Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World combined.” Jenkins collaborated with Trevorrow and paleontologist consultant Steve Brusatte to develop concepts that were turned into clay maquettes and then scanned. The scans were given to ILM which made sure the model was anatomically correct before handing them off to John Nolan, the head of the creature effects team, for 3D printing. “This meant that the digital dinosaurs we had were an exact match for the physical animatronic dinosaurs that we had on set,” Vickery notes. The process helped to minimize the amount of CG. “It didn’t matter where they positioned the rig because the range of motion was exactly the same as the range of motion in the digital dinosaur. The goal being to get a plate that gave us practical animatronics that could move and perform on set and be digitally extended without us having to replace it.”

“From a simulation perspective, [with feathers] you’re dealing with a huge amount of geometry that is deforming and moving on a frame-by-frame basis, and is reacting to external forces like the wind, but also to the way that the creature is moving. Creatively, ever since Jurassic Park, fans and paleontologists have been crying out to see feathers on dinosaurs, and we will deliver this time.”

—David Vickery, Visual Effects Supervisor

Restored to her former glory is the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. “There was a cool bit of what I called ‘digital archeology,’” Vickery recalls. “We had 3D SoftImage files but didn’t even have the software. However, we managed to get those NURBS files into Maya and convert them into polygon meshes. We also referenced all of Stan Winston’s photography. It’s a beautiful piece of recreation of that original T-Rex model.”

Feathers proved to be the biggest creative and technical challenge. “From a simulation perspective,” Vickery comments, “you’re dealing with a huge amount of geometry that is deforming and moving on a frame-by-frame basis, and is reacting to external forces like the wind, but also to the way that the creature is moving. Creatively, ever since Jurassic Park, fans and paleontologists have been crying out to see feathers on dinosaurs, and we will deliver this time.”

The on-set special effects team deployed air movers, snow and atmospheric effects so the feathers of the Pyroraptor interacted with environmental elements.

The on-set special effects team deployed air movers, snow and atmospheric effects so the feathers of the Pyroraptor interacted with environmental elements.

All of Stan Winston’s photography was referenced in the recreation of the original T-Rex model from Jurassic Park.

All of Stan Winston’s photography was referenced in the recreation of the original T-Rex model from Jurassic Park.

Seeing the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchises come together was a career highlight for Vickery. “There was a moment on set where Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and DaWanda Wise are with the biggest animatronic that I’ve ever seen in my life. Bringing all of those things together was amazing!”


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