Computer Graphics World

April-May-June 2021

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30 cgw a p r i l • m ay • j u n e 2 0 2 1 U sually when a person hears the words "visual effects," what comes to mind are splashy, extreme, in-your-face visuals. Not so for the film Mank. The movie, presented in black-and-white, takes us back to the 1930s/early 1940, a time when the rising director Orson Welles was given full creative control of his films, and he calls on the shunned alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz to pen a screenplay, which would become the critically acclaimed movie Citizen Kane. Mank is filled with backstory scenes from the writer's past, particularly focusing on his friendship with actress Marion Davies, who is in a long-term romantic relationship with the rich and powerful, albeit unscru- pulous, William Randolph Hearst. The businessman, newspaper publisher, and politician becomes the main inspiration for Mankiewicz's lead character in the screen- play Citizen Kane. Mank, from Netflix International Pictures, is directed by David Fincher, who is also the overall de facto VFX supervisor, though uncredited. Peter Mavromates is a co-pro- ducer and overall VFX producer. The film contains a number of compelling VFX sequences (see "Not Simply Black- and-White," page 28). One VFX sequence in particular, which takes place at the private zoo on the grounds of Hearst Castle, had Fincher working especially closely with Industrial Light & Magic, which created the CG animals and zoo park. According to Pablo Helman, ILM VFX supervisor, Fincher approached this work from a storytelling perspective whereby the animal encounters with Mank (Gary Oldman) and Davies (Amanda Seyfried) as they stroll through the zoo have a three-act structure. First, audiences are introduced to the animals, followed by a bit of story, then there's an interaction between the animals and the characters as the species react each in their own natural way to the humans while they are conversing. The scene was filmed at multiple locations centered around Huntington gardens in Pasadena, California. ILM digitally constructed the Victorian cages as well as the animals: elephants, giraffes, and Capuchin monkeys. "David Fincher was very specific about the performances he wanted from those animals," says Helman. The ILM team pro- vided him with references of all the various behaviors those animals exhibit, and then he chose certain behaviors for specific parts of the shots. This film marks the first time that Helman had worked with the legendary Fincher, who long ago had briefly been employed at ILM as an assistant camera operator and matte photographer on Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the company's legendary matte painting department. "He was very detail-oriented and had a very clear, fantastic vision for this film. He's able to see what the shot will be, as opposed to what it is. I can present to him and in 15 minutes he has sent his feedback," says Helman. The Animals While the sequence is only a few minutes in length, the work was quite extensive, span- ning approximately five months of modeling and animating the animals, including creat- ing the muscle simulations and hair/fur sims, as well as the textures, and more. Mathew Cowie was animation supervisor. All the animals are computer-generated, this for a number of reasons, the most ob- vious being to achieve the specific perfor- mances Fincher required. Using real animals as reference, the artists created an animal library for the director, who then provided detailed notes for Helman's team – from animal motion to the lenses, lighting, and much more. "It is a lot easier to explain what you want the animal to do – sometimes Fincher would A Walk in the Park CREATING A DIGITAL 1930S ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN FOR MANK BY KAREN MOLTENBREY

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