Week 3 into the project was a week filled with frustrations which also means a steep learning curve. I began the week trying to repose my character & this is when everything began to get complicated.
I tried doing it using the masking & transpose tool. This ended up distorting the model beyond repair. Next I tried to create a rig for the character using Zspheres. But since the mesh was highly dense, the lagging on my laptop made it nearly impossible to work with. I then went back to the original method of using masking & transpose on lower subdivision levels & even though the model got distorted I began redoing those portions. But since my knowledge on anatomy is not very vast & I was unable to visualize the stretch & squashes happening it was proving difficult to rectify. Not getting very good references to my exact pose was an added disadvantage. Trying to pose into an extreme dynamic position was not helping either & the fact that by now I had tried & abandoned this process 2 times already & a good 3 days of work was down the drain, pressure was beginning to build. Finally my professor showed me his workflow & I realized posing is a patient task. It needs to be done step by step with small changes at a time, rectifying the distortions before moving ahead. I was making all the changes before beginning to fix it. I finally took a deep breath & began all over again.
This time I followed my professor’s technique along with using muscle anatomy reference of just those small portions & making small squash & stretch changes as I went along. Finally the model is coming along much better & I am hopeful & keeping my fingers crossed this time around.
Since I was going through this process of learning to keep patience & attention to detail, I looked up on Weta workshops, my aspirational dream company to be able to work with someday, on what makes them so special & this is what I came up with.
- Weta Workshop provides the design, fabrication and on set operation of Miniatures, Armour, Weapons, Props, Prosthetics, Creatures, Costumes, Special Make-up and Suit effects to the screen industry. It is comprised of a group of artists united in their love of art and film. The workshop is unique because of its great variety of disciplines – from armourers to leatherworkers, skilled prosthetic technicians, miniature makers, painters to wigmakers, casting and moulding experts, articulation engineers and swordsmiths (Weta Workshop, 2002)
- They believe it attention to detail. This is such an ingrained important part of who they are & also one of the key reasons for their success. For example, the costumes that were created for Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) series, actually have inscriptions in Elvish on the inside even though it would never be seen on camera. These small but very important details helped the workers, actors & also the viewers believe the Middle-earth actually existed & was alive.
- For LOTR, they ended up creating 1200 suits of hand-made armour, more than 2,000 rubber and safety weapons, more than 100 special, hand-made weapons, more than 10,000 body and facial prosthetics and more than 1,600 pairs of prosthetic feet and ears, individually sized and shaped, all handmade by artisans. And to make them as real as possible, amongst other things they created them using methods that would’ve actually existed in the 14th Century.
- Traditional methods were used to enhance the current digital & newer technology. This is one of the unique aspects of Weta. Weta Digital provides multidisciplinary expertise in conceptualization, creation and technical know-how. They provide compositing, blue screen and background plates, miniature stop motion footage, motion control sequencing, 35mm film scanning, recording and screenings, full design maquette and 3D scanning services. But on the other hand they also have artists creating Wigs & bodysuits etc by hande. For example they had ten people working for three and a half years just making wigs, that’s one hair at a time, 10 thousand hairs per head, three and half weeks per wig. The management of this aspect alone, just the logistical problem of bring the yak hair here from America is an issue in its own right and that’s one requiring huge amounts of negotiation and is one tiny little element. 2000 Hobbit feet were made for 4 Hobbits, 10,000 prosthetics for the orcs, and 2000 full bodysuits.
- Weta’s multi-dimentionality is also something that sets them apart. Their primary disciplines include the design, make-up and prosthetic effects, armour and weaponry, miniatures of all scales, and creatures, which includes all suit and animatronic work as well as scannable maquettes which are becoming increasingly required nowadays as computers are evolving to play such an important role in the effects industry. Then on top of all that, they cover the range of prop effects, physical effects gags, rigging, and gore or injury rigs, and so on and so forth. This gives them the edge of being able to service almost an end to end production line.
- Richard Taylor, the founder of Weta, is also a big contributor to the success of Weta. He is known to be very charismatic & a great Leader. People are devoted to him & this is what shows in their work (Walsh and Jackson, 2002). Taylor himself says that ‘we are only as good as the environment in which we work in and the people in which we hire’ (Campbell-Hunt and Finlay, 2002). To create a 500 year old Middle earth set with such care & attention to detail, started with Taylor first understanding himself as a passionate and dedicated artist and technician, and then seeking similar qualities in those around him: ‘a big thing is that you originally hire young and enthusiastic people like yourself. What we find in the people around us is that they have one rare quality, which is, the love of making. They want to make things, they just want to have things grow’ (Campbell-Hunt and Finlay, 2002).
- The film industry is one where there can be long gaps between projects. It is duting this time that keeping the core team busy is critical. Hence, developing smaller streams of revenue such as merchandising is critical as it helps keep the teams busy to tide over this period.
Hence, the success of a studio / artist is not just being good at what they do but has so many non-tangible aspects to it. This insight into Weta’s working, ethos & culture has made my resolve stronger to be in tune with my passions & not let the rut of the rat race of the world around get to me to the point that I lose out on enjoying the journey. Afterall, as Taylor says “You are as good as the environment in which you work & the people you hire”.