A look behind the moment with Method Studios
One of the more gruesome sequences – and there’s a few! – in Andy Muschietti’s It: Chapter Two is a moment when the grown-up childhood companions of the story are confronted by one of their friends, Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), now a disembodied head that suddenly sprouts spider-like limbs.
Still in child form, Stanley’s head attacks the group, even latching onto Bill Hader’s Richie character ‘face hugger’ style, before the creature is eventually stabbed into submission. Method Studios handled these shots, and if they didn’t already sound challenging enough, the studio was also called upon to ‘de-age’ both the live-action actor and CG version of the character.
The team from Method recounted this VFX work, and for other sequences they worked on at the film, at SIGGRAPH Asia in Brisbane. They also sat down with befores & afters to explain how they pulled it off.
Stanley the spider
Josh Simmonds, visual effects supervisor, Method Studios: The scene was very much a homage to John Carpenter films, especially the sprouting of the legs. When we got the plates, there was a bunch of laser pointers of roughly where they wanted Stanley to be. They did have a stuffie for a couple of shots and the actor was on set doing some of the performance as well. They cut a hole in the floor for when he’s there talking back to them, prior to the legs bursting out of he’s head.
Nicholas Tripodi, animation supervisor, Method Studios: We started working on that really early, even tracking our own plates in animation just to kind of get the jump on it, just off QuickTimes in the rough cut. We had, first, what we call a chess piece in a standing spider pose. We’d just move him through the space and get a bit of flow to the scene. When are the big action pieces? When is there going to be a slight lull? And we’d iterate with the client on that.
We also did a whole bunch of R&D motion tests and looked at lots of reference, too. It was small spiders, the way they moved, that strangely enough was the look we were going for. We initially went down the path of, well, the head would be the weight of a bowling ball and so it’s going to be a really heavy creature, and so let’s look at heavy spiders. But the way they move, it’s very ponderous and almost a slow-mo feel. Whereas the twitchy little spiders, the way they stab their feet into the ground – it was bang-on what we wanted.
A surprise de-aging
Josh Simmonds: We had really good CG digi-double of the head which was working really nicely, but getting some of the subtleties of the performance meant that we could just pull certain little sections of the plate through and layer it up. It would have been more straightforward up until the point where they decided that, since the actor was now aged two years from the last film and had gone through puberty in the process, that they wanted us to de-age both the live action version of his plate and the already rigged facial model of him as well. So we were putting in corrective shapes to soften his jaw line a little and do whatever we could to de-age him.
Clear Angle did a whole lot of FACS poses, different facial expressions for Wyatt Oleff as Stanley. We got the scans for those and then fed that into our internal rigging set-up. Unfortunately it was on the 2018 and not the 2016 Stanley. While his bone structure has changed quite a bit, the way he moves his mouth and the expressiveness of his faces is very similar. So we could still really draw on a lot of that work.
Attack on Bill Hader
Nicholas Tripodi: With the stuffie, there was one really good move they made where they were doing the ‘face hugger’ part of the Stanley sequence where they actually tied the stuffie head onto Bill Hader’s face with bungie cords. They had the actor pulling it away while there was all that tension there. It just created this great tension and this great base to work off of.
Alex Halstead, FX supervisor, Method Studios: Bill Hader’s performance was so good, and they had some practical goo and liquid leaking from under his face, which was helpful for us in FX. We simulated that goo earlier too for when the legs are popping and bursting out. We went into all the detail of the skin fascia and a fluid-like meniscus that gets birthed as well.
Josh Simmonds: We used to call it ‘the poutine’ – it was kind of like cheese curds. And, oh man, the research for that was insane. I didn’t know that people have such a fetish for popping pimples.
Alex Halstead: Yeah, once the director was disturbed then we knew that was just the right amount of goo.