How Hybride turned Ewan McGregor’s camel ride into Eopie scenes

The visual effects studio delivered a range of key shots for Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Our most recent VFX Insight feature with Hybride focused on the visual effects studio’s work for The Book of Boba Fett. Now we turn to Hybride’s collab on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

Here, the studio produced a range of visual effects sequences, including scenes of Obi-Wan riding an Eopie, city set extensions on planet Daiyu, and the ominous views of Darth Vader in the Bacta tank.

Hybride visual effects supervisor Joseph Kasparian guides befores & afters behind the scenes of the making of these shots.

b&a: We’ve seen the Eopie in The Phantom Menace, so it was great to re-visit it here. What did you have to do for this creature?

Joseph Kasparian: They used a camel named Silas on set to do all the action and the animal gave us great direction but the only problem we had with this was that the camel’s joints weren’t located at the same place as an Eopie’s, and the two animal’s proportions are quite different from one another.

Our transformation work on Silas required meticulous tracking and match moving by our tracking team, concentrating on the saddle so we could have a solid base for our animation team. They also match-moved Obi-Wan to ensure proper interaction (contact shadows for example) which helped the animators dial in their animation. There were also a lot of shots where the Eopie needed to sit with Obi-Wan on top of him so his weight on the camel was a great reference for us.

We also had quite a few close-ups shots to do, so we needed to work on skin deformation and muscle systems. We also recreated the reins Obi-Wan was holding that reached all the way up to the Eopie’s muzzle. We needed to redo them in CG because the reins on the camel were not at the same distance as for the Eopie. It was also important to match-move Obi-Wan’s hands, erase the original reins, and recreate a simulation of CG reins with proper size and attach points to the Eopie.

Another challenge was foot and sand interactions for the creature. Every shot had to include FX sims to seamlessly integrate the Eopie into the shots to make everything look believable.

b&a: There’s a really nice sense, from the behind the scenes, of Ewan McGregor being shot as much as possible on partial sets. But I always think it’s tougher than people realize, to integrate fake or partial sets with something bigger. Tatooine kind of helps, because it is that stark landscape. But what were the challenges there?

Joseph Kasparian: We created desert set extensions for the canyon environment based on concept art provided by the production team. The rock structures needed to be smooth and not too busy so they would blend in seamlessly with the rock structures used on set during filming. We also recreated massive set extensions and extended backgrounds for the cliff environment, keeping as much of the foreground detail as possible.

If you take the set design and just extrapolate it, everything is going to look flat or repetitive. The formations are the same style of rocks that you would see in a desert; they don’t have a lot of bumps or a lot of texture. We also had to incorporate a lot of modeling details, so from the way that the light hits the surfaces, you couldn’t see a lot of colour but you could see a lot of shadows and self-shadowing on the surfaces.

When we started to extend what had already been built, the first iteration felt like it was just a tiling of what was on set. Once we received the concept art provided by Doug Chiang and the art department at Lucasfilm we understood what they were looking for. They sent us photographs of different desert locations with similar rock formations and that helped us define the texture details for the set extensions.

b&a: Just to continue environment work, there’s obviously a completely different kind of environment you had to work on for wide shots of the city as well as nice little alleyways. How was that built up?

Joseph Kasparian: There were a lot of virtual sets made for LED wall shooting in the Stagecraft volume and a lot of the environments had been pre-built by ILM. We worked on various locations such as the cargo port, roofscape, spaceport, ‘Times Square’ and a lot of alleys.

For the alleyways, the environment they had built for the virtual set worked for most of the shots, but whenever they felt that the set wouldn’t hold up, they would use bluescreen. One of the big differences between the Obi-Wan and The Mandalorian series is that Mando’s armor is very reflective so if you put him on bluescreen, you would have blue reflections everywhere. In that case, the virtual set was critical on The Mandalorian, but for Obi-Wan, the costumes were quite different: the characters wore clothes made of cloth, which is a lot more forgiving if you put it against a bluescreen.

Also, most of the time we would extend what had been built on set, so we asked the team at ILM to send us all the different city elements they had previously built. There was a huge collaboration in terms of sharing assets and most of them had been formatted to be used in real-time, which means the assets were not the same kind of what we would find in a regular pipeline.

We created tools to ingest the different elements produced by ILM’s virtual production software. For these types of assets, we would obtain the resolution before it was processed in real-time as well as the resolution after it had been processed (for real-time) so we ingested both. We used the baked real-time assets to quickly generate the cityscape to match the established look and used the higher resolution models for our set extension needs.

We also assembled a massive library of city props to add further detail to the shots such as specific building facades and street props, roof props, stairs, assorted wires and trash cans.

b&a: Another cool sequence you worked on was the assembly of Darth Vader, when he’s recovering in the Bacta tank. I’m curious what they could shoot for real and what Hybride added.

Joseph Kasparian: For that sequence, they filmed the actor in a very steamy environment, but we still had to reproduce a lot of the shots in CG because there were so many things that we needed to erase. Several iterations were done with the client because it was necessary to find the right look since this was the very first time we would see Anakin in his Bacta Tank.

The sequence starts with the actor wearing blue ribbons around his arms and legs (to hide them), so the first thing we did was “cut off” the actor’s hands and replaced them with a CG version and from there, we needed to build the rig that would produce the various parts that would detach the tubes from the back. These tubes were not there during filming so we needed to recreate his body in CG to ensure proper interaction and we also did a lot of tracking so we would be able to connect the tubes to the actor’s body.

Since he was in this Bacta Tank, everything we did had to interact with the steam, and we also had to add a certain depth to it as well. How do you create something mysterious, without ever revealing everything completely? Several options were considered for the steam’s appearance and behaviour where realistic interaction with all of the elements in the tank was critical. This meant we had to go full CG to get the right depth for those shots so we designed and animated CG steam and did some FX passes.

On a personal note, working on that scene was a dream come true. We couldn’t believe we were building Darth Vader! When we found out we were going to work on this huge sequence, everybody was like, ‘Whoa, this is going to be epic!’ The entire team is super proud of the work we carried out for this scene, and for the entire show!

Brought to you by Hybride:
This article is part of the befores & afters VFX Insight series. If you’d like to promote your VFX/animation/CG tech or service, you can find out more about the VFX Insight series here.

Need After Effects and other VFX plugins? Find them at Toolfarm.

Leave a Reply