Published on 13 Feb 2014 | over 2 years ago
As with the previous Transformers installments, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was the main visual effects company for Dark of the Moon. ILM had been working on the pre-visualization for six months before principal photography started, resulting in 20 minutes worth of footage. Digital Domain also rendered 350 shots, including the characters Laserbeak, Brains, Wheelie and the Decepticon protoforms concealed on the moon, the space bridge, and a skydiving sequence.
ILM's visual effects supervisor, Scott Farrar, said that "not only were the film's effects ambitious, they also had to be designed for 3-D", and explained the company's solutions for the new perspective: "We did make sure things are as bright as possible; Michael called up theatre owners to make sure they keep the lamps bright in the theatres... make everything a little sharper, because we know that through the steps, no matter what, when you get to the final screening things tend to go less sharp." On the last weekend of ILM's work on Dark of the Moon, the company's entire render farm was being used for the film, giving ILM more than 200,000 hours of rendering power a day—or equivalent to 22.8 years of rendering time in a 24-hour period. Farrar embraced the detail in creating giant robots for 3-D, making sure that in close-ups of the Transformers' faces "you see all the details in the nooks and crannies of these pieces. It's totally unlike a plain surface subject like a human head or an animated head." The supervisor said that Bay's style of cinematography helped integrate the robots into the scenes, as "Michael is keen on having foreground/midground/background depth in his shots, even in normal live-action shots. He'll say, 'Put some stuff hanging here!' It could be women's stockings or forks and knives dangling from a string out of focus -- it doesn't matter, but it gives you depth, and focus depth, and makes it more interesting."
In a city full of skyscrapers, a robot wearing jet thrusters on his back holding a cannon flies toward a large snake-like robot. A tentacle of the larger robot is exploding.
The most complicated effects involved the "Driller", a giant snake-like creature with an eel-like body and spinning rotator blades, knives and teeth. In Revenge of the Fallen, it took 72 hours per frame to fully render Devastator for the IMAX format, which is approximately a frame amount of 4,000. For the Driller, which required the entire render farm, it was up to 122 hours per frame. The most complex scene involved the Driller destroying a computer-generated skyscraper, which took 288 hours per frame. For said sequence, ILM relied on its internal proprietary physics simulation engine to depict the destruction of the building, which included breaking concrete floors and walls, windows, columns and pieces of office furnishings. ILM digital production supervisor Nigel Sumner explained: "We did a lot of tests early on to figure out how to break the building apart exploring a lot of the procedural options. A building that's 70 feet tall -- to go in and hand-score the geometry so when it fractures or falls apart -- would be a time consuming laborious process. The floor of a building may be made of concrete. How does concrete fracture when it tears apart? The pillars would be made of a similar material but made of rebar or other engineering components. We'd look at how a building would blow apart and then choose the best tool to help achieve the properties of that during a simulation."
Since Bay shoots all his films in anamorphic format, Dark of the Moon's representation would be "squeezed in" to distort the image, and ILM would add in the robots and "un-distort" the image. The ample variety of filming formats used - single camera, 3-D stereo rigs with two cameras, anamorphic and spherical lenses - proved a challenge, specially as ILM had a deadline to deliver the 2-D plates to the companies responsible for the 3-D conversion. ILM made 600 3-D shots, and Digital Domain had under 200, while Legend3-D, the lead 3-D conversion company of the film, completed 78 minutes of work on the film and finalized the work of approximately 40 minutes of challenging non-visual effects and 38 minutes of visual effects shots.