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Transforming The Masks
Nevertheless, Rorschach has one of the most striking attributes of all the costumed superheroes: his mask of shifting inkblots. "The evolution of Rorschach's mask was a long and complex one,” remarks Wilkinson. "We developed a printing process onto a fantastic four-way Lycra that enabled us to create a rough, canvas-like texture but also had a stretchy quality, so we could achieve that smooth, egg-like silhouette. And then the digital effects team created these beautiful moving inkblots on top of the fabric. It was a great collaboration between costumes and visual effects.”

In order to complete the effect of the perpetually morphing inkblot mask—which Rorschach calls his "face”—the lycra was embedded with motion capture markers. "It was covered in tracking dots, except for my eyes,” describes Haley, who dubbed his mask "the sock.” "Even though Rorschach's eyes aren't visible under the mask, I was able to see what I was doing. So, the material and the blots move; it's just absolutely awesome.”

through this medium,” comments Deborah Snyder. "The patterns were designed as a reflection of his performance, and it was amazing how much complexity Jackie brought to Rorschach through his voice and body…how the mask became part of him.”

The visual effects team, under the supervision of John "DJ” DesJardin, animated the transitions between the inkblot patterns at different speeds, according to what Snyder wanted for the given scene. "We tried to model his expressions after the ones Dave Gibbons drew for the graphic novel,” DesJardin reveals. "The inkblots are not just black and white; the edges are grey and animated in a way that makes it look like the ink is coming out of the cloth and sinking back in again.”

Snyder and DesJardin engendered a natural collaboration in ensuring the tone of the visual effects would align with the vision the director was creating on the live sets. "The visual effects are a partner in the movie,” says Snyder. "Whether it was extending practical sets or inserting floating blimps in the skyline, or rendering Rorschach's mask or Dr. Manhattan's body—those are all things that have to go into the pipeline. And DJ did an amazing job of keeping this massive endeavor down to a very personal, shot-by-shot approach to the movie.”

Beyond visual effects, the embodiment of Dr. Manhattan hinged primarily on the actor playing him. "Dr. Manhattan was the biggest challenge for us,” says Deborah Snyder, "because we had to figure out how to create this god on earth that glows blue light, who can be 100-feet-tall, then shrink down to human size. At the same time, there was a real person playing Dr. Manhattan, through the medium of performance capture. It takes a really disciplined actor to pull that off, and Billy did such a great job.”

Billy Crudup's performance would provide both the physical and the emotional anchor for the superbeing. Notes Levin, "Manhattan is an amazing, fascinating character, yet I never made the kind of emotional connection to the character in the book as I did watching Billy play him. It was deeply moving. There are so many moments in the film where the material coupled with the cast's performances resulted in the kind of alchemy that only great actors are able to conjure when bringing a character to life.”

In addition to his physical embodiment, Manhattan has an effect on the environment around him: a blue glow that emanates from his body. "When I read the graphic novel, Manhattan was the only element that made me think, ‘How do we do this?'” recalls cinematographer Larry Fong.

Together, DesJardin and Fong found a creative solution. "We ultimately made a suit that had all the tracking markers we needed for motion capture but also thousands of LEDs that put out this nice, diffuse, blue light,” DesJardin explains. "Zack's idea was that w

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