Twilight Special FX: An Insider Look at Creating Bella’s Belly and Removing Kristen’s Wrist Injury for Breaking Dawn
They aimed for a seamless experience that fools the eye completely, and if they did their job we won’t be able to notice computer graphics are even there. Modus FX created stylized effects to emphasize the more-than-human capabilities of the main characters without being too gimmicky.
It took six weeks for a team of 12 artists to work on the film. Shots include-
- A belly for Kristen Stewart, who plays a pregnant Bella
- Removing a wrist brace Kristen was wearing due to an injury
- A variety of subtle cosmetic refinements
Yanick Wilisky, visual effects supervisor and co-founder of Modus FX noted of the organic CG, “We are all so used to seeing organic objects and surfaces. If something is just slightly off, you know it’s fake—even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what the problem is.”
Creating Bella’s Belly
The challenge of Bella’s pregnancy was a new one for Modus. “They wanted the baby to kick move around inside her belly. We had to match the camera moves, the lighting, even the film grain, along with the subtleties of her skin,”
CG supervisor Martin Pelletier notes “the two hardest things to work with in CG are water and skin.”
“For this project, we had to be really quick in terms of turn around. We made use of very complex lighting from the set, adding 3D layers, and a matchmove of her stomach, to make her look pregnant. We took our time at the start to get the recipe right and that paid off in efficiency once we got going. We were soon able to turn around several shots each day.”
Modus FX also worked on “hand-crafted” visual effects. During the wedding, the camera pans around Edwarn Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart.) Due to a minor wrist injury Kristen had, she was wearing a brace during the day of the shoot.
“Matchmoving a close-up is a good example of the challenges of organic CG,” Pelletier noted. “We started with a CG model of the hand and then carefully crafting the rig to create natural motions. Once we had that, every minute movement of the hand had to be matched exactly.”
The rotational panning shot totals 300 frames and called for elaborate camera and object tracking. Modus used subsurface scattering to accurately capture the partial translucence of her skin to make it look more authentic.
Pelletier explained that “tracking was particularly challenging, because when they were shooting it, they weren’t thinking about it as an effects shot. There was no camera metadata for the sequence,”
“The solution was to do a series of careful manual adjustments until we had correctly replicated the light sources on the set. For work like this, it really takes the eye of a skilled artist to get it right.”
Willinksy hopes for the best with the end-product. “Bella is moving in the shot as the camera circles around her. She’s holding Edward’s hand, so we needed to recreate parts of his hand, along with some of the background. It was a highly technical and complex shot, but no one will see any of that when they watch the movie.”
[Thanks for the photo, Pilottage!]