Disney's Mulan, the new edition of the beloved story, will be released on major digital retail platforms from October 6th. It has deleted never-before-seen bonus material and deleted scenes exclusively in digital Ultra HD quality and Dolby Audio on compatible devices. Mulan is directed by the well-known filmmaker Niki Caro. In Disney's new live-action adaptation of Mulan, a fearless young woman risks everything for the love of her family and her land to become one of China's greatest warriors.
When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the imperial army to defend the country from invaders from the north, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, takes the place of her ailing father. Masked as a man, Hua Jun, she is put to the test every step of the way and must use her inner strength and succeed. It's an epic journey that ends in a complex battle to save the emperor on the new palace construction site between Mulan and Böri Khan. The story also features the witch Xianniang using her magic to transform herself in the service of Böri Khan.
Yifei Liu as Mulan
Weta Digital was the lead visual effects facility in the film, and Anders Langlands was the visual effects supervisor and Sean Andrew Faden was the production manager. Much of Weta's work was concentrated in the final act, or the third of the film, in scenes relating to the imperial city and the battle on the palace construction site. Weta shot 434 shots for the film. Anders Langlands will speak in detail about Weta's work at the upcoming View Conference. His lecture will take place on Monday, October 19 from 9:00 a.m. CET (Central European Time).
In the run-up to the View Conference and coinciding with the release of Mulan this week, we sat down with Anders Langlands to discuss some of the complex issues in environments and staging that Weta has faced.
Main photography started on August 13, 2018 at locations in New Zealand + China and was packaged on November 25, 2018. Weta sent a second team to China to collect background plates and reference material. Her work focused on the imperial city before Chang & # 39; an in China. The team took intensive photos and scanned LIDAR. This is the largest LIDAR-scanned project Weta has done. One of the problems the team faced was gathering references before the main photography was done. Therefore, they had to assess what background might be required once the main New Zealand unit started filming.
Today, over a million people live in Chang. In the movie version, Weta had to cover about 90 square kilometers of the city. Fortunately, a lot of research has been done on this ancient area by an academic team in Singapore, particularly much archeology. Weta referred to this and relied on other historical accounts to create a plausible majestic city. Chang'an is made up of 9 districts arranged in 3 × 3 grids and then divided into walled areas. To build the huge imperial city, the team used Houdini. The team has taken some liberties with some elements of the film from a historical perspective, as the film is clearly not conceived as a historical retelling of events. “We built in Houdini so that we could procedurally build the entire city,” comments Langlands. "So we wouldn't I have to hand-place each building and still do something that looks appropriate. “The team mapped the urban space into different regions using a series of rules. Some rooms therefore became markets or denser living quarters, others were built on the assumption that they were intended for dignitaries, with a higher concentration of homes of wealthy people and more space. Houdini responded to a modular process that was supposed to be stacked and merged in plausible but not repetitive ways. This set of rules was complex and allowed for variations in the terrain that may indicate watercourses and the natural development of a city.
The city was rendered in Manuka, the in-house renderer in Weta. Langlands, who has a very strong personal background in shaders and 3D, thinks the Manuka spectral renderer is “really nice because you don't have to worry about whether your colors match or not – in theory … it's really interesting that there is a number of different techniques to try and then find out what is best. The rendering team we have here at Weta are on the cutting edge of research and on the cutting edge of rendering possibilities. It's really exciting to be here. "Manuka is a fully calibrated system that enables a very precise reproduction of many complex materials such as gold and at the same time goes very well with filmed live-action elements. The film was shot on an Alexa 65, which, according to Langlands," is a beautiful camera with a very large sensor and a beautiful depth of field. ”The DOP Mandy Walker used an older 85mm lens quite often because of its rich and complex bokeh. However, as Langlands points out, technology has worked for the past 50 years to making the images sharper and cleaner so the team had to work. It's hard to digitally adjust the “rich and creamy distorted bokeh on the outside of the frame to match the wonderful halo that has wrapped around the actors.” The lens was called the Qi lens. "That's all anyone has ever said, and I've forgotten what it actually was!" Langlands W itze related to Mulan's inner qi strength. The costumes and prop references were taken with a handheld 120 calibrated DSLR photogrammetry device to reconstruct geometry and sample textures.
The team also used a new ray traced version of Weta's Gazebo real-time rendering using RTX cards. "Which was really cool because one of the problems you have with the traditional graphics card rasterization pipeline is that it's problematic when you're dealing with large amounts of geometry like an entire city." It can be very time consuming to do a full Manuka rendering to get a preview, ”explains Langlands. The new RTX pavilion filled the gap to get a quick ray of light on the entire city.
The main characters were filmed on a green screen for the construction site and Mulan's Dachrun to save the emperor. In New Zealand, three sub-sets of the construction site were built: “Since the tower you are standing on is obviously quite tall, they dance around it. This has certain practical implications for the instrument if you want to shoot it safely, ”he explains. This was built as two separate sections. The lower part was on the backlot so much of these shots could essentially be done in the camera with some cleanup in front of white silk. The upper part, where much of the fight takes place, was on the main sound stage. There was a third set for wide-angle shots.
Because the set was made of bamboo, the live action pieces were difficult to cast. There was also a lot of greenscreens but not really enough space outside of the sets for proper separation, and it all contributed to the work of Weta's talented nuke compositing team.
Xianniang's magical transformation or shapeshifting can only be seen strongly visually in one scene, as the director did not want to rely on the effects or make the visual the center of the narrative. The main transition is early in the movie when Xianniang transforms back from soldier and turns into a bird and flies away. This was also heavily dependent on the comp team as it was shot on location and not on a green screen in a studio. Since the recording was in an alley, there was no room for motion control. As a result, the team had to shoot several passes and try to sync the records so that the composer could mingle from male soldier to witch, which is what happens when the audience focuses on her legs and costume. The result was an elegant transformation that the director wanted, rather than the usual solution that the director wanted to avoid.
Li Gong as Xianniang
To match the plate photography, digital versions of the soldier and the witch were created so that the animation of their costumes could bridge the visual divide. Much of the witch costume is completely digital during this recording so the timing works. “Beck Veitch took the shot, she was one of the comp leads and she did an incredible job of bringing it all together. She put it all together, figured out what the restrictions were, where we had to go to CG, and what parts of the plate photography would work, ”Langlands recalls. “And as soon as we had this template, we could show it to Niki (Caro) and Sean (Andrew Faden) and unsubscribe. Then go back and do the hard work of digitally matching all the live actions in order to schedule the digital to run. "
The production had a live hawk on set, Gretel, who was used for a lot of in-camera shoots, but Weta had to do a CG version and Gretel lost a lot of feathers after filming when the Weta team returned to Wellington. In the end, they had to shoot a texture reference for feathers with & # 39; Fern & # 39 ;, the falcon, and redesign Gretel.
Note that while we were speaking with Weta Digital, Sony Imageworks was also working on the attack / avalanche in the mountains. Framestore provided the Phoenix animation, and Image Engine did some surrounding work too, especially around Mulan's house.