How ILM made some neat webs, and more.
This weekend sees the release of an extended cut of Spider-Man: Far From Home. It includes 4 minutes of new footage, including a scene in which Spidey takes on some baddies in a restaurant and wraps them up in web cocoons.
Interestingly, the scene was featured in a trailer for the film, but cut from the final movie. ILM’s VFX supervisor Julian Foddy and CG supervisor Steve Ellis share some details about how the scene was filmed, what was involved in dealing with the CG ‘Iron Spider’ suit and how the cocoons were crafted with some new techniques in Houdini.
This interview originally appeared as an exclusive as part of the befores & afters Patreon campaign.
Shooting the scene
Julian Foddy: 99% of that scene is actually performed by a stunt performer called Greg Townley, who is a British tumbling champion This guy is amazing. He’s about as close to like a real life Spider-Man as you can get. He’ll do three or four back flips and then land on a table in a perfect spider pose. He’s got the kind of physicality nailed.
Julian Foddy: An awful lot of those shots were just a little trumpet just off camera or a wire pull or something and then he summersault into the ceiling and lands and does all these crazy action moves. We actually shot an awful lot of that sequence with him performing those moves and then performed match-animation to map that onto the Iron Spider rig. There are inevitably though, quite a few things which even Tom couldn’t do for real, so this was a real challenge for our animation supervisor Chris Lentz and the animation team to flex their creative muscles again and come up with cool little stunt things and extra fight moves to take these mafia dudes down.
Julian Foddy: We did a lot of development here with the web shooting. As the sequence plays out, Spider-Man takes out about 10 or 15 dudes and he uses various different settings in the Iron Spider web tech to shoot them down from the more standard webs and splats that we’ve seen. And then some more interesting kind of heat-seeking web bombs and what I refer to as the web cocoon where these people get wrapped up entirely in almost a sleeping bag of web and hiked up to the ceiling, where they hang for the rest of the sequence.
That required a fair but of development in Houdini, picking up the suit that Iron Man had built in Captain America: Civil War and then extrapolating that to give us all these various web scenarios. That was all done in Houdini and it was normally done using a kind of simulation proxy to represent the main body of the web which then drove a whole network of thousands and thousands of individual curves to represent the strands of web. And then in turn that was a bit of challenge for lighting and lookdev to maintain this feeling of this translucent, sticky, glistening liquid.
We found that we almost had to do a lot of per-shot tweaks so that the shaders and lighting for the webs would look really wet and sticky from one angle in exactly the same light, which would change as soon as you moved the camera and would suddenly look really grey and matte. Hats off to our layout tracking department. Your eye picks up even on the slightest movement of disparity between what the web is doing and what the person it’s stuck to is doing.
Steve Ellis: Tim Marinov, who is our senior effects guy, was largely responsible for the development of the web. He developed the web using Vellum, which was actually in beta when we started the project. Houdini 17 was still in beta at the beginning, but we all felt the strengths of the new Vellum tool was going to give us lots of performance and feature improvements, so we decided to stick with it. And then like Julian said, we adapted or we started with a setup from Captain America, the web from Captain America. But we actually took our setup quite a few stages further and we added simulation to it so there would be the goons reacting to it and pulling on it and tension and all this kind of stuff.