Part 2 of our Sony Imageworks visit continues with a look at the CG magic behind Spider-Man 3 villain Sandman, and the processes that took years to perfect!
The villains of Spider-Man 3 were tricky CG monsters. To create Venom (played by Topher Grace), Sony Imageworks used variations of existing computer software but Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) was a creature they had to build from scratch. Special Projects Computer Graphics Supervisor Jonathan Cohen gave us a preview.
About the special effects, Cohen said, “In the beginning, Sam Raimi was always insistent that it has to make sense. It can’t be magical. So it was very important that anything we did made some kind of physical sense. For that to work, we had to start at the beginning with physical reality.”
Cohen’s team read textbooks and physics papers about sand, then built the animation software that would control it. “The very first thing we did, two years before the movie came out, was we developed a number of different physical simulation engines which would simulate different properties of sand. These are some different techniques we developed. That one simulated sand as kind of a terrain with erosion. This was another model that that simulates sand as lots of these little spheres.”
With the grains of sand working together as in our world, Cohen’s team ultimately created scenes where Sandman forms, dissolves and reforms for different emotional and thrilling effects. “This is the process where we would layer sand on top of it. We’d start with these large sand grains; we’d add all the flow and anything that falls off. We transfer that animation onto these finer sand grains and then finally this is the integration.”
The coolest video in the preview was a test of real sand blasting over a human body. One lucky stuntman received the brunt of that. “This was a pretty cool practical shoot where they built a cannon of sand and shot it at the stunt guy. This is why CG is good. We tried to do was the same thing with 20 times more sand. We tried to bury the poor stunt guy digitally.”
Spider-Man 3 comes out on DVD October 30.