"The complexity of shots in visual effects is often based on the number of elements involved in the composite or in the visual effects shot
"The complexity of shots in visual effects is often based
on the number of elements involved in the composite or in the
visual effects shot. What we had in this project was a lot of
performances dependent on visual effects work. We had the creature
and various elements, and they all interacted within the photography.
So timing was crucial if the illusion was to be achieved,"
Clotiaux explains. "In Godzilla, we dealt with a
lot more stuff that was in-camera and very critical-the creature,
smoke, rain, debris. All those elements were not separate pieces
that could be composited together later. They had to interact
together just right, at exactly the same moment."
Clotiaux notes that many times, the visual effects shot was completed
"without the benefit of our star." In fact, Godzilla
was almost the last thing to be added to many sequences because
he was the result of several different disciplines. As in Independence
Day, the film team employed animatronic models in varying
sizes, from a 6th-scale model to a 24th-scale. These mechanized
representations, their facial and body movements powered by remote
control, were 1/6 and 1/24 the size of the actual creature. The
6th-scale and 24th-scale Godzillas corresponded with proportionally
scaled miniature buildings. In fact, it was this miniature cityscape
and the choppers that dictated the various scales of the animatronic
"For interaction with the models, we built a 6th-scale head,
torso and arms, for close-ups of the creature," Patrick Tatopoulos
The 24th-scale incarnation of the creature was not the lumbering
monster of the past, but an agile predator brought to life by
trained puppeteers, many of whom had backgrounds in dance or performing
and were veterans of such sci-fi films as Alien Resurrection
and Mimic. Both the 24th-scale and 6th-scale creatures
were used primarily for Godzilla's disastrous physical encounters
with the urban landscape.
Even so, Bill Fay notes, the effects team married much more computer
work to the classic model effects than expected; indeed, the film
ended up featuring almost 400 digital shots.
"Even in those cases that would seem to be a natural for
animatronics, we sometimes used CG. There was one scene where
Godzilla's chin scoops down and smashes into a roadway. We did
part of it in CG because the motion of that swooping down was
something we couldn't really get with animatronics. We even added
digital rain to the practical rain. We discovered that a combination
of the two really works best and gives it a consistent look."
Volker Engel adds that Godzilla features much more computer
animation because of the creature's new abilities.
"This Godzilla is a very animal-like, fast-moving, fierce
creature. With key frame animation, you're 100% free; we can
have the creature really move. To give it that really strange
creature-feel in terms of motion, you really have to use key frame.
We discovered that in the CG realm, for example, we can go a
lot closer to the creature than we'd anticipated and it looks
really good... really detailed."
Tatopoulos worked closely with the computer wizards at Centropolis
Effects early in the process to exactly establish the creature's
movements and to synchronize them with those of the animatronic
"At that point, there was nothing in the computer yet, just
a scan of the creature based on the
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