Running Wild: Tangerine Apps & The Jungle Book
All images © Tangerine Apps
All images © Tangerine Apps
Tangerine Apps co-founder Joe Farrell talks about their involvement in creating some of the FX shots for The Jungle Book...
After being a visual effects supervisor with Digital Domain and Scanline VFX, Joe Farrell co-founded Tangerine Apps with Dogan Köslü. "Rob Legato [Production VFX Supervisor] and I have a good relationship coming out of The Wolf of Wall Street, so when I told him that I was starting up a little business he asked if we could help him out on The Jungle Book. We setup a ninja group of artists here in Los Angeles to work on the 600 to 700 shots of Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli. We married the footage shot at Los Angeles Center Studios with the digital assets from the previs, and gave it back in sequences to the Editorial Department."
"I approached the postvis like an end result VFX pipeline,” explains Joe Farrell. "So we used V-Ray for lighting, Nuke for compositing, and did proper tracks using SynthEyes. Assets were made and handed over to MPC and Weta Digital; they put all of the finishing assets in, rendered it through, did the refinements, and reanimated characters under the guidance of Animation Director Andy Jones."
Farrell was able to gain the confidence of the production team resulting in the couple weeks of work expanding into a year and a half project. "What we did initially was to bang through the Jungle Run in the beginning, and there's a Honey Sequence where Baloo teaches Mowgli. Within those two sequences were 180 shots and they wanted us to fix 27 of them. We decided to redo every single shot so it looked consistent all the way through, and that helped when they went to screen The Jungle Book as the select groups could respond to the whole movie.”
Tangerine Apps created more than the postvis for The Jungle Book. "Rob asked me to help out with the opening titles,” states Joe Farrell. "If you recall watching any Disney movie, it starts off looking at the sky with a star twinkling, pulls down through the clouds and you see Disneyland with the river; it pulls back over the castle and the word Disney appears. The way we have it, it actually keeps going past the castle, comes into the jungle and the film starts with some photo-realism."
"Rob tasked a couple of traditional artists who worked with him, me, and Michael Legato to design the opening, but with it all being hand-painted. Rob was keen on replicating the original optical printers from the early Walt Disney days. They'd have seven or eight glass planes, and would have complex moves photographing multiple passes and then combining them later on. Bill Perkins produced the paintings and then in Nuke I went about laying and designing them all out. Michael photographed the paintings using red, green and blue photographic filters. We recombined them to give the kind of colour depth you would have gained using tricolour.”
A virtual jungle
A virtual reality experience was produced to promote The Jungle Book and to allow audience members to personally witness the world inhabited by Mowgli. "We developed a VR pipeline while we were there,” explains Joe Farrell, who worked two sequences with one involving Kaa and the other dealing with King Louie and Baloo. "We showed our real-time VR engine to Jon Favreau and he told us to show it to the marketing guys who flipped over it and immediately approved us to do the real-time game engine of meeting Kaa in the film. MPC handed us their finished assets and helped us out for a week or two with the animation because the rig of Kaa was quite extreme. Then we set about taking all of these assets running it at 180 frames a second for the real-time game engine, which has been travelling across the country and being shown to people in IMAX.”
"There were multiple challenges,” observes Joe Farrell. "The most exhilarating was the virtual reality Kaa piece that we did that nobody was expecting to be done, and I had a lot of fun helping Jon and Mark Livolski [editor] redesign 57 shots at the end of the film involving the confrontation between Shere Khan and Mowgli. The opening titles we saw through to completion so that will go down as a memorable moment for me."
"I also had a memorable moment the other day when this lovely lady was doing the virtual reality experience in the foyer, came over and gave me a hug afterwards. I've never had that sort of personal contact with the audience before and that was great!” Farrell adds, "Jon and Rob were incredibly open to ideas. Just sitting with us and Mark, and asking, ‘How do we solve this?' I'd say, ‘How about this?' And they'd remark, ‘I like that idea. Let's do that.' It was awesome filmmaking.”