Breaking Dawn Part 2: How Did They Do the Special Effects? [Corrected]

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Home / Breaking Dawn Part 2: How Did They Do the Special Effects? [Corrected]

A real wolf wasn’t used, so how did they do it? Image by Dennis from Alberta

Breaking Dawn Part 2 has reached movie theaters around the world.

While you may love or hate the film and the book, the effects, at least, are entertaining.

Throughout the whole franchise, there has been a need to use CGI for many of the effects, including using werewolves, allowing vampires to travel at super-speed and for the shimmer effect.

But how did they do it?

Last Twilight Movie: CGI Werewolves

The Twilight movies absolutely required computer graphics for the werewolves – that’s the only way fans would get the same feeling of awe when seeing the wolves onscreen, and the only way to get the ‘wolves’ to do everything needed safely. The problem for the filmmakers is that it wasn’t just wolves in the background that they had to think about – they needed 3D wolves!

So, how did they do it? The visual effects teams for Breaking Dawn Part 2 used California-based Tippett Studios; the same company used for New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn 1. It took between six and eight weeks to create a shot that would only last two to three seconds! But to actually create the wolves and figure out how they would move took between two and four months. Several people worked on one shot at a time using a mixture of off-the-shelf technology and the company’s own software. For the compositing, the team used Shake, which is a program available for anybody to download and is popular within the animation industry. To keep the composition unique, Tippett Studios had specific plugins that they created to use with the Shake software.

Ken Kokka, the Visual Effects Producer on this project, told Decoded Science that six new wolves were added to Breaking Dawn, which brought the total number of wolves to 16, and that they used in-house software called TipFurator to create the fur and make the wolves unique. This fur tool was adapted from the earlier movies to help the wolves look more realistic and work with new lighting techniques.

Tippett Studio used an in-house fur tool to make the wolves look unique. Image by Laenulfean

When asked how the wolves were developed in Breaking Dawn to look more realistic, Visual Effects Supervisor, Eric Leven told us, “Look-wise, we were able to refine the look of the fur to make it more realistic from movie to movie. The biggest leap was moving away from traditional point-based (spot) lights towards area lighting. Area lighting is a much more realistic way of lighting an object in CG, allowing for softer and more real looking hairs, but at a great rendering cost.

A different company was used for Eclipse’s historical wolves, which is why they look slightly different. Canada-based Image Engine created and animated the wolves from the past, and completed everything on the computer, including finding images to match the textures of the wolves’ fur and colors to match those described in the book. On top of that, the animation team spent time watching real wolves to see how they moved, to make the results as realistic as possible.

The historical wolves had to do a lot of moving around and to make sure the movements were as realistic as possible, the animators added more fur and muscle to create more weight so that the movements were clear.

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