CGSociety :: Production Focus
19 November 2009, by Renee Dunlop
Sometimes the smallest animations can have the biggest impact. In George Clooney’s latest film, 'The Men Who Stare at Goats', he plays a character who believes he has the psychic power to control his surroundings. While the FX were nominal, they were pivotal in achieving this storyline.
The biggest challenge was creating a photorealistic goat that would cut seamlessly with a live action goat in surrounding shots. At the end of the sequence the goat collapses after Clooney’s character Lyn Cassady, seemingly stops the goat's heart using the power of his stare. It was important the CG goat was identical to the live action one, that the comedic timing was precise and believable, and that the goat fell in a way to evoke a reaction of humor rather than concern for the goat's safety. That one 140 frame shot had a lot of responsibility.
Visual Effects Supervisor Thomas J. Smith gathered reference of the live action goat while on set in Puerto Rico, collecting image data from the front, side, back, three-quarter view, and details such as hooves, ears, and facial features for close-up texture reference.
The digital goat was modeled and rigged in Maya. Explained Henke, “we posed the rig of the goat in the plate and further tweaked the model to match the live action goat. In addition we scanned the surrounding shots and lined up 3D cameras to gauge the model’s proportions from different views - we didn’t want to end up faking a part of the anatomy that matched the fore-shortening of the goat standing but became unappealing when the goat fell down.”