How did you come to be involved with the John Carter project? What was your role in the production?
I was recruited by Double Negative Visual Effects in London from Los Angeles to head up the modeling effort on this major Character piece. To date, it was the largest project they'd tackled. While in California, I first tried out ZBrush while working on Ghost Rider. I expanded its use to build the sixteen Zombie creatures for I Am Legend. I then used it to sculpt Dr. Manhattan for Watchman. But with over forty characters, John Carter was going to be the largest scale ZBrush character project that I'd ever attempted. It was also going to be Andrew Stanton's first foray into live action filmmaking, which meant we had to do an outstanding job.
My main role was taking the concept sculpts that came from Legacy Effects and expand upon them to create the production models and their corresponding displacement maps.
How large was the team? How did their strengths and skills come into play?
We had a Character Modeling team of about thirteen people. Some had a lot of background in character creation, while some had only worked in ZBrush a little bit and had to be brought up to speed. We had a couple of amazing character sculptors that brought their backgrounds to the project. Others brought a strong knowledge of anatomy that proved useful as we moved further into the project and began redesigning a lot of the anatomy of the characters. A solid knowledge of anatomy and a sculptor's eye are tantamount to success in this field. A couple artists had a good grasp of the character engineering aspects and helped in the ongoing development of the topology used in the characters.
What were your personal goals for John Carter? How did you set out to challenge yourself?
My biggest goal was to take a group of people who hadn't worked that much in ZBrush, get them up to speed quickly. Then to create more characters than I'd ever attempted in a relatively compressed period of time. All for clients that hadn't ever done a live action film and an effects company that hadn't done this large a quantity of characters and therefore had a largely undeveloped character pipeline at that time.
How many characters were created? How did that challenge you?
We did four primary speaking characters, nine outrageous creatures, as well as a large number of secondary characters and variations.
The biggest challenge was the scope. There were so many characters to do that we needed to hit the ground running and get right into it. Luckily, I'd done a large number of zombie characters for I Am Legend, so I was used to taking a primary concept sculpt, extrapolating it out to large numbers of characters, and then maintaining them throughout a production. This was just going to prove to be larger and more challenging.