As THE TROLL HUNTER is released in the USA, CGSociety revisits the making of this Norwegian classic VFX milestone.
On the eve of its debut in the USA, we revisit the creators in Norway.
Check out the international trailer here, but be careful, it is full of spoilers
CGSociety :: Production Focus
28 October 2010, by Paul Hellard
No doubt about it, The Troll Hunter is a horror mocumentary. This is also the first film made in Norway to feature photo-real creature animation. The film premieres in the country at the end of October, but it had an international sneak-preview at Fantastic Fest in September, staged in Austin, Texas.
The Troll Hunter mixes the horror formula for The Blair Witch Project and covers the story like Cloverfield. Presented in ‘found footage’ style, the story evolves from a mis-adventuring group of college students doing a school project about bears. They unearth a government conspiracy about Trolls in modern Norway and eventually find the real thing.
Skin tests on Jotne.
Three companies were hired to create the different trolls for the film. Rune Spaans represented the smallest company, Superrune! “I was responsible for one entire troll sequence myself, but I ended up hiring an animator to help me out. So, two guys did around 2,000 frames of a photo-real creature, eating a sheep, hitting a virtual stuntman with plenty of gory effects!”
There were three main vendors on the show. Superrune, Gimpville, Storm Studios as well as some work being done in-house at Filmkameratene and at Storyline Studios.
Lars Erik Hansen was VFX Producer/Supervisor at Gimpville, on the Jotne sequence in The Troll Hunters. Gimpville is a relatively small VFX workshop with 12 employees. “Ever since we were teenagers and saw Jurassic Park we’ve been fascinated by VFX and creating fantastical creatures on the screen,” says Hansen. “We have done a lot of more simple characters for television series and commercials but never before for this high-end creature. The Troll Hunter has been one of our most challenging projects ever and we are very excited about this film.”
When it comes to the production of The Troll Hunter, there were several challenging aspects,” says the VFX Supervisor of the show, Øystein Larsen. “This was a very low budget film too, with perhaps a quarter of the three million US dollars going on VFX.”
The design process had been going on for a while in pre-production. “Some of the trolls proved a bit trickier to get from the 2D stage into 3D,” Larsen continues. “We had good concepts, maquettes etc. which gave us a good start.”
Norwegians are very well versed in the story of trolls. They were the children’s boogiemen, who, fables had it, would reach into any house and eat the children who were still away late at night. “We have all read the fairy tales as children,” Øystein explains, “and it was very important to us that we kept that in mind when designing them. This was also the first time we were going to show trolls in motion and we did do a lot of testing to get a good feel for how they would behave.”
The crew started early with previs for some of the bigger scenes involving the Trolls. The script was very fluid throughout production. The format of the film proved very challenging indeed for the prep work. Being shot as a documentary things kept changing and evolving throughout the whole production.
Gimpville also did a lot of camera tests with DOP (Director of Photography) Hallvard Bræin. Knowing that all shots would involve quick pans, running and be handheld throughout, the VFX Supervisor wanted to avoid using a CMOS based camera, to dodge known issues with rolling shutter. They ended up shooting with the Panasonic HPX3700 and recording 4:4:4 to an HDSR recorder. This gave spectacular results with clean dynamic range plates for later ‘Troll composites’.
“We were very happy with the results it gave us. We were shooting in a lot of dark places, in the woods and in caves,” explains Larsen. “We ended up using a combination of small bicycle lights and reflective markers with a small penlight on the camera, which ultimately gave us good points to track.”
Tracking of the Trolls was fairly straight forward, as the DOP kept zoom work to a minimum.
While shooting in the unpredictable countryside of Norway, the weather would interfere quite a bit, especially the mountain scenes. “One day we had beautiful weather and perfect conditions,” says Larsen. “The next shoot day, the ground was covered in 15-inches of snow. Some days we had nearly no background visibility and ended up tracking in skies and mountain ranges to match shots we had done earlier. In one of the sequences we were half a kilometer inside a mountain and a very limited light package. For a lot of these shots, we shot with night-vision equipment and matched the look of that in post.”
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