“Making of The Superpunch” by Wachowski and Wachowski

  • ©Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski  ESC Entertainment



    Making of The Superpunch




Company / Institution / Agency:

  • ESC Entertainment


    The Superpunch shows Neo’s super-powerful last punch landing on Smith’s face and deforming it in a surreal, anime-like fashion. In the spring of 2003, when we had gained confidence that our three-year- long R&D effort in realistic human face rendering technology could pull off a full-frame, slow-motion close-up of a familiar actor, we decided to create the shot entirely in the CG world.

    With our powerful image-based facial animation technique (Universal Capture) we couldn’t directly capture the extreme facial deformation depicted in the storyboards, but we processed a performance from Hugo Weaving and then had an artist layer additional facial deformations.

    We deployed various techniques to construct the water elements that needed to interact with the virtual actors. For the water on and around Neo’s fist and Smith’s face, we used particle simulations and a custom implicit blobby surface software to construct meshes.

    Even though the shot’s animation was not based on physics, the appearance had to be. The shot didn’t have to feel real, but it had to look real! All elements were rendered together in mental ray with full ray-tracing including an efficient and realistic subsurface-scattering approximation for skin and proper 3D depth of field.


    HARDWARE: PC/Intel dual 1.3 GHz CPU, 2 GB RAM. Rendering farm: 100 CPUs.


    SOFTWARE DEVELOPER: Modeling: Paraform, Maya 4.5. Animation and dynamics: Maya 4.5. Rendering: mental ray 3.2. Compositing: Shake 2.51. Custom soft- ware: Universal Capture for facial animation, water-surface effects, and wet appearance created through custom Maya plug-ins and custom mental ray shaders. OS: Windows 2000.

Additional Contributors:

    Producer: Joel Silver
    Shot Supervisor/Technology Supervisor: George Borshukov
    Shot Design/Animation Lead, Facial Deformation: Kody Sabourin
    Wet Appearance and Water Look Development: Masuo Suzuki
    Water Effects Animation: Oystein Larsen
    Rendering Lead: Tadao Mihashi
    Universal Capture Performance Processing: Ken Faiman
    Water Effects Software: Scot Schinderman
    3-D Depth of Field Shader: Oliver James
    Texture Paint: Rene Garcia
    Wet Hair Software: Christina Tempelaar-Lietz
    Compositing: Matt McDonald
    Virtual Backround Construction: Carina Ohlund
    Cloth Simulation and Modeling: Tristan Ikuta, Nathan Fok
    Head Model Surfacing: Brian Freisinger
    Shot Producer: John Jack
    VFX Supervisor: Kim Libreri
    Senior VFX Supervisor: John Gaeta
    Conceptual Design: Geofrey Darrow, Steve Skroce

Additional Information:

    Modeling: Subdivision surfaces and polygons. Universal Capture (see SIGGRAPH 2003 sketch) was used to capture facial expressions. Universal Capture facial performance was augmented with additional deformations by an animator. Rendering technique used most: Raytracing in mental ray. Average CPU time for rendering per frame: 20 hours. Total production time: 120 days.

Animation / Video Overview: