SPONSORED BY: ASC Master Class
About the Project
Sony Pictures Animation's Academy Award–winning animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tells the story of Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a Brooklyn teenager who’s gifted with great powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, then burdened with great responsibility when he’s drafted into a team of alternate-reality Spidey-people to save New York City from the villainous Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber).
The brainchild of producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie), Into the Spider-Verse is the result of the labor of nearly 800 animators, effects artists and technicians all working under the guidance of directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman. (Many of these artists and technicians hail from Sony Pictures Imageworks, the visual effects facility that provides computer-generated effects for both animated and live-action productions.)
Two of these artists reached out to American Cinematographer to talk about the film’s production: Danny Dimian, the film’s visual effects supervisor, and Michael Lasker, the film’s CG supervisor for look of picture. Dimian guided the production based on his visual development reviews with the directors. Lasker reported directly to Dimian, supervised the look development and texture paint departments and oversaw back-end tool development and everything look-of-picture-related, including effects, lighting and compositing.
One frame is all it takes to demonstrate that Into the Spider-Verse is not a conventional animated film, and it wouldn’t look like anything you’d expect to see in a movie. The colors, lighting, composition, line work and texture are all reminiscent of something more like a comic book, but it still feels like a movie, with a tangible atmosphere and depth of field. In motion, it exhibits an offbeat rhythm and a bold, kinetic style.
The Spider-Verse animators worked primarily in Autodesk Maya and Foundry Katana and Nuke, and developed a number of in-house applications to suit the film’s particular needs, guided by an “if it ain’t broke, then break it” methodology.
“When you do these types of movies, you typically rely on principles, how you render eyes, skin and hair; how you do lens flares and motion blur,” says Lasker. For Spider-Verse, “we had to do everything different.”
“Chris and Phil wanted this to look like something people had not seen before,” Dimian recalls. “We definitely reconsidered cinematography from a comic book point of view.”
Examples of final work:
About the Filmmakers
Visual effects supervisor Danny Dimian most recently supervised The Angry Birds Movie for Rovio Entertainment. Previously, Dimian served as CG supervisor on Oz The Great And Powerful, Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, where he was responsible for the look development, rendering, color pipeline and sequence supervision of lighting and compositing. While at Imageworks, Dimian also worked in various capacities on numerous Academy Award–nominated films, including Surf's Up (CG supervisor), Monster House (shader writer), The Polar Express (lead shader writer), Spider-Man (shader writer), Stuart Little 2 (lighter) and Hollowman (shader writer). Dimian is a graduate of the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
CG supervisor Michael Lasker previously served as a computer graphics supervisor on Smurfs: The Lost Village, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania. He began his computer graphics career in New York City working on commercials for leading advertising agencies. Lasker received a BFA in computer graphics from Syracuse University.
Artwork and photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks
American Cinematographer interviews cinematographers, directors and other filmmakers to take you behind the scenes on major studio movies, independent films and popular television series.Subscribe on iTunes