Iron Man Mk Z - Questions and Answers
Q - where did the concept come from?
A - I'm a big Iron Man fan and always wanted to do a little Iron Man animation but i wanted to do something different.. what makes iron man for me is the tech Tony Stark makes to get himself out of a situation. We know his suits work, fly, shoot etc.. but what makes it exciting is seeing how they deploy... who doesn't love the mk5 suitcase for example?! Originally i was going to a sequence involving some skydiving as im a keen skydiver myself, so thought it might be fun to try and do a backpack that turns into the suit. Then some way thru working on the suit model, Avengers Assemble came out, and i thought "drat!" when his suit chases him out the building heh!
On the drive home from the cinema my wife (who is as much a geek and Marvel/sci-fi fanatic as i am!) an i were talking and we come up with the idea of a suit in a car. at first i thought "eeeek!" but then sat home with a cuppa and thought "With the right shots and edit that could work quite well".
Another thing that was nice was that Stark is nearly killed in a car in the first film so it stands to reason he might develop a suit for his car as he likes to drive alot and we see him in numerous supercars. i'm a big petrolhead myself so this was perfect for me.
Q - Why Mk Z and not a number?
A - I wasn't sure how many numbers would be in IM3 and didn't want to say pick mark 21 then find they did it in the movies. i figured i would pick a letter and simply chose the letter Z because the car is a Zenvo.
Q - What car is it and why?
A - Zenvo ST1 - big power car that i really like. It also makes a change from the Audi's :)
Q - How did you approach work on this sequence?
A - I did a really rough animatic of that sequence to test the high level idea, edited it together and it right away worked quite well. it grew from there. You can find the early animatics on my youtube page...
Once happy with the rough sequence that very quickly let me know what assets i'd need.. shots like the arms popping out the steering cowling, or the legs needed lots of work. Also i had to figure out how the seat might work. I did a couple of sketches to try and figure it out in my mind and see if the general volume of meshes would fit in the seat.
|preliminary sketch working out some seat and pedal details|
The interior shots went through alot of iteration. Most importantly it gave me an idea of the intensity of the sequence, and it was quickly apparent that it would be quite cool! I took inspiration from the cinematography in the films.. the walking shot at the end or flying shot for example.. even the slightest camera change can completely change Tony Stark in the head shots. with that i started working into shots. animating.. pushing the animation.. have guys crit it.. then tweak. render.. add detail.. change lighting. it was lots of test renders of animation shots.
It took a long time - about 18 months to do the full sequence, but right around starting this animation short, my wife gave birth to my son, then on top of that i was doing long hours to finish work for #Driveclub for Playstation4 so its been squeezed in between full time job and nappy changes hehe! I actually did have it done about 6 months before that, but i'd only re-rendered to 1280x720 pixels so i decided to re-render for 1080p. Also Mark Cushley was busy putting RDJ together for me as a 3d model so that also required a bit more time, but i think its really been worth the wait for me personally at least.
Animation was done using Maya and Render passes were done using a combination of MentalRay and Vray. I used Adobe After Effects to composite the shots together which allowed me to add motion blur and depth of field in post production along with particle effects, debris and backgrounds and lens effects.
Q - Its a little short why is that?
A - In a word.. time! It takes a long time - especially amidst crunching on #Driveclub for Playstation4, and becoming a dad for the first time not long after i started this piece. Time is the one thing i have none of any more! I'm amazed it got to this state. i never wanted to show him fight the plane.. everyone has seen that in the first film.. the piece was always about the deploy sequence and it is as long as it needs to be i think personally.. a dogfight is another scene entirely, and i thought it nice to end it up in the sky amidst the clouds... i think i'm missing my skydiving heh!
Q - What was the most challenging aspect of this animation?
A - Definitely animating Tony Stark. That took a good few iterations to get right. Sometimes it would be facial poses, or lighting or just a slight Change in camera position can radically alter it. Mark Cushley's animation rig for Tony tho was really cool, and did some subtle blendshape animation along with muscle movement to really help bring it to life. Alot of times i found less was more... Mark definitely took the difficulty out of animating him with his setup.
|earlier version of the HUD shot versus the final version|
A - I read that when they were retired some were bought by Iranian military. I thought it might be fun to hint at one having been stolen by the Ten Rings Terrorist group, hence the logo on the plane wings. Also the main reason.. i absolutely love the F14.. its still an incredible jet to me.
|F14 with Ten Rings logo on the wing|
Q - The CGI is good but not very real?
A - I'm one man with a bit of help. I'm not the best modeller or shader artist or rendering/lighting artist but i had a cool idea (to me it was cool) and wanted to realise it to the best of my ability, with what i had to hand and what little time i had spare. I had some good friends helping me with animation crit, and Mark Cushley batted Tony Stark right out the park with his incredible modelling/rigging of Tony Stark and lighting/rendering/shader knowledge. i kept telling him his RDJ model would completely transform the piece and it did! I'm so happy we got him in there.. hopefully Marvel and RDJ don't mind either!
Another thing that slowed it down - most of it was rendered, animated and composited on a 6yr old laptop with 256mb gfx card lol. At least till the last few months once Tony Stark's head was completed. Mark was also working on #Driveclub along with me and set aside his personal time to finish Tony Stark to a level he was satisfied with.
Q - Iron Man is red and gold yours isn't?
A - I went for materials that are popular in modern cars.. carbon fibre and brushed aluminium and magnesium. there is splashes of red in there on the legs, arms and chest but i never went crazy with it.
Q - The sound isn't very good?
A - I don't have access to 4tb of sound effects and foley.. I'm one guy able to rip sound clips off YouTube and free wav sites. i hope it still helped telling a story regardless. However if you want to hear a better version, check out Sneaky Zebras audio build put together by their own Gary Scullion.. Its really cool and has music too which gives it a whole new feel..
Q - What's that ant & leaf all about at the start?
A - One man carrying alot of weight :) ..and an intro shot lol!
Q - Is there anything you'd like to have added?
A - Yes! A little miniature wing chun wooden dummy on the dashboard!! like RDJ im a huge wing chun fan and have practised it for 6+ years now. right near the end i thought "oooh that'd be good to add on the dashboard bobbling about" but ran out of time sadly.
I did really consider adding the fight sequence between the jet and Iron Man Mk Z but we've seen him take on jets in the first film and i wanted to keep the piece purely about the deployment sequence which was painstaking enough to put together. Perhaps down the line i'll do a part two if there is enough interest.
Q - Do you have plans to do anything else like this in the future?
A - I have numerous plans for all sorts of personal projects..but whether time allows is another matter. I do have one sequence lined up that, for me, is probably the one moment in Marvel history that we all want to see on the big screen, but whether i can do it justice is another thing ;) One guy online guessed right tho ;)
I know doing this kind of thing full time would be possibly the most awesome job, so i envy the guys who get to do that :) I'm forever thinking up new ideas and often no sooner have i finished one than i get onto another.
Q - Anything else you want to add?
A - To everyone who has an interest in 3d animation or is an aspiring artist, i say have a go at doing something like this.. you'll learn so much along the way and progress massively and see just how tough it is to endure, let alone actually get the visuals up to any level of quality. You'll learn alot about yourself as much as technical know-how, and a strong concept and/or idea will carry any shortcomings every time, as it always has done with animation i feel.
Lastly thanks to my totally supportive wife who put up with me obsessing on this for over a year!