All this week, we’re featuring exclusive extracts from our brand new magazine issue, Cinefex 141, now available in both print and digital editions.
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) arrives at the climax of his adventure, leading a company of dwarves to the Lonely Mountain, where the dragon Smaug unleashes his wrath on the citizens of Lake-town, the dwarf leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) seeks the precious ancestral Arkenstone, and dark forces gather for an epic battle that threatens the future of Middle-earth. Director Peter Jackson concludes his 20-year filmmaking journey through J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy landscape, along with visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, special makeup and creature designer Richard Taylor, armies of artists at Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, and NZFX special effects supervisor Steve Ingram.
In this excerpt from Joe Fordham’s article, King Under the Mountain, Christopher White describes how Weta Digital’s new renderer, Manuka, helped create the epic scenes in which the fire-breathing dragon Smaug destroys Laketown.
Fire spraying from the dragon’s gullet required special attention to work with the creature’s aerial trajectory. “Smaug was racing over the city at around 400 kilometers an hour,” said White, “and he had to hit very specific buildings, so we engineered sims to control fire ejected at high speeds. Peter referred us to flame-throwers for how fuel was emitted and stuck to timbers. Those simulations caused other timbers to catch fire, and we ran destruction simulations on top, causing burning pieces to fall into the water, generating splashes and steam.”
Weta Digital used Pixar’s RenderMan to render fire and smoke elements, but relied on its new in-house physics-based renderer, Manuka, to streamline lighting and art direction for all other elements in these scenes. “Manuka helped minimize the amount of lights we had to set in pre-passes and caches,” said Christopher White. “That simplified the lighting process and made it easier for technical directors to work with lighting rigs. Once we set our fires, we got all the natural reflections in the water, smoke in the sky and indirect lighting effects on the geometry of the buildings in a very naturalistic response.”
Read the complete article in Cinefex 141, which also features Chappie, Jupiter Ascending and Unbroken.
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