Summer Blockbusters: <i>Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows</i>
Issue: July 1, 2016

Summer Blockbusters: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Everybody’s favorite heroes on the half-shell are back, and they’re facing multiple threats as they strive to safeguard the world. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Shredder has returned and joined forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop (a warthog) and Rocksteady (a rhino). Complicating things is the notorious Krang, who’s leading an alien invasion in the skies over New York City. 

“We knew this picture would be double the size of the first movie [in 2014],” notes Pablo Helman, VFX supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM); who assumed the same role on the original feature.

As the lead VFX house ILM ( divided up 1,385 VFX shots among its San Francisco, Vancouver, London and Singapore locations. ILM also supervised Quebec-based VFX house Hybride; additional VFX vendors included Ghost VFX in Denmark, Base FX in Beijing, Whiskytree in San Rafael, CA, and Atomic Fiction in Oakland, CA.

ILM upped the ante for this sequel with motion capture. In development at the time of the first picture, ILM’s proprietary Muse 2.0 is now a full-blown, high-resolution performance capture system that places 138 markers on the actor’s face and body. It even tracks pupils to show eye movement. Using Muse for the TMNT sequel enabled ILM “to get an incredible amount of fidelity and a lot of nuances in the performances” of the four Turtles, Helman says.

Comedic performances are built from the best of a number of takes, so it was crucial for Muse to assist in that process. 

In contrast to the Turtles, the non-anthropomorphic Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang were basically keyframed. 

“The actors gave performances in ADR with facial performance capture recorded as reference,” says Helman. Autodesk’s Maya enhanced the action integrated into both the keyframed and motion-captured animation.

Audiences will notice that Out of the Shadows takes its title quite literally. “This film is about two stops brighter than the first movie,” says Helman. “We now see more of the characters. The design changed to soften some lines in the assets, and the animation changed to make the characters more appealing.”

Out of the Shadows marks the first time that ILM was tasked with creating river rapids. “We’ve done lots of oceans and waves but no rapids,” notes Helman. Live-action aerials and boat work were shot in Brazil. ILM created the rapids, water splashes, mist and their interaction with the characters. “It was very complex,” he says.

Animators used the fluid sims tool in ILM’s proprietary Zeno package, matched the reddish clay color of the real rapids and married the fluid sims with plates of a tank, half of a C17 aircraft, the Turtles and Bebop and Rocksteady.  

Out of the Shadows was distributed to theaters in both 2D and 3D. The 3D stereo conversion was performed by Prime Focus World, which worked with ILM’s Nuke compositing scripts.