Lycans of the Underworld — Underworld: Awakening
Patrick Tatopoulos and his special effects Studios did not return to provide effects for the fourth chapter of the series, Underworld: Awakening. Although the french artist was attached to the production of the 2012 Total Recall film, he managed to create designs for two of the new Lycan ‘types’ introduced in the film — the ‘Tunnel’ Lycan and the ‘Uber’ Lycan. MastersFX replaced Tatopoulos Studios in creating the new practical effects for the film; Todd Masters, the founder of the company, had precedent experiences with Werewolves in the production of Howling VI: The Freaks.
Underworld: Awakening introduces a far more considerable number of visual effects — most of the creature sequences were completely computer-generated. Luma Pictures brought the digitally generated Werewolves to the screen, remaining as the only CGI company with all four Underworld films on its track record. Fido VFX also collaborated on the scenes involving the Dr. Lane Werewolf. “The Underworld saga has a very distinct view on vfx,” said Kaj Steveman, part of the crew at Fido. “It has to feel physical, practical and real. In other words, everything that feels too much like CG is a big no-no. This legacy was very strong in this film as well, and this was a real challenge in some of our shots.” Given the predominance of visual effects, the practical work was relatively limited compared to the precedent films.
For the first time since Underworld, new sculpts for the Lycans were created — based on production photographs of maquettes and suits from the first film. The design, again, underwent some cosmetic changes: different angles and details in the facial structures were added, and the ribcage and pectoral muscles were made more pronounced. The fur on the neck was decreased in mass and length. Certain changes were also applied to the overall color scheme of the creatures, which now featured a darker nose area and different patterns. MastersFX built three Lycan suits, two of which were provided with mechanized hero heads.
Richard Cetrone and Dan Payne were the main creature performers. Due to advancements in technology, where the previous films needed three to four puppeteers to control the movements of a single Lycan head, only one was needed for each creature in Underworld: Awakening. It was also the first film for which no leg extensions were used: to increase the height of the Lycans for certain shots, MastersFX used rough stilts. Stunt models were built to portray the dead Werewolves seen in the film.
A lot of the difficulty in creating the new Lycans came from the fact Underworld: Awakening was the first film of the series to be shot using 3D filming technology: “Since this was our first major 3D project,” Masters said, “we had to discipline ourselves into a quick learning curve, while we figured out just exactly how our practical FX work was going to appear on-screen. This process involves such an amazing level of data, every detail of our work was going to be suspect—it was like looking at our work under a magnifying glass. Every detail was heightened, and we even had to modify the coloring and design of some of our creatures to satisfy the discerning eyeball of the 3D camera.”
Underworld: Awakening adds new subtypes of Lycans to the series’ mythos. The first introduced in the film are the so-called ‘Tunnel’ Lycans. “Albino and emaciated, these creatures live in the subway tunnels and are sick with disease,” said Steve Wang of the new Werewolves. Underworld: Awakening‘s storyline is set 15 years after humans discovered the existence of both Lycans and Vampires. The former were pushed to the verge of extinction, and certain groups of them tried to hide in the most obscure places.
The Tunnel Lycans are found in sewers. They are albino, and due to an unknown disease, their bodies are plagued with bladders. Steve Wang sculpted the maquette of the Tunnel Lycan — based on a Tatopoulos design — which was then digitally scanned to create the computer-generated creature. Although the monsters were brought to the screen with digital models for the most part, MastersFX built a specific practical model for the scene where Eve rips a Lycan’s head apart.
The giant ‘prototype’ Werewolf, Quint, was created with genetic engineering by Antigen as an attempt to give the species a renewed glory. Nicknamed the ‘Über’ Lycan by the filmmakers, the Monster stands 12′ tall; it heals without the need to consume more blood first, and is able to control its transformation — changing only certain parts of his body, like a hand, at will. The maquette of the Werewolf was again sculpted by Steve Wang and based on a Tatopoulos design. Left unpainted, it was used as reference for the digital Uber Lycan — which applied some modifications to the design, including different lines and angles, other than the prominent fur covering.
The ‘Lane’ Lycan (no official nickname was given to this new design) is a more humanoid Werewolf, and probably an homage to the early Lon Chaney Jr. Wolfman films. It was created by MastersFX as full make-up on a stuntman, with digital enhancements. The digital transformation, created by Fido VFX, tried to be innovative: “we wanted to avoid a classic linear transformation from A to B,” said Staffan Linder, animation supervisor, to Art of VFX, “and came up with a concept in which the character goes through a middle phase before becoming a fully developed hybrid. The general idea was to show how Stephen Rea’s human muscles first emaciated, making him shrink to a mummy looking character before the monster tissue and muscles’ growth turned him into the tall and muscular hybrid ‘man-in-suit’ shot at the set.”
The make-up shot on set was digitally altered. “They had shot the sequence with a stuntman made up as a hybrid,” said Steveman, “but had since realized that he wasn’t that scary looking. So they turned to us with an idea of adding a digital buck shot wound on the Hybrid’s face to make him more demonic. Lakeshore had asked Luma to make a concept design for the new face, and based on that Fido’s Magnus Eriksson created a suitably scary CG face. Anders Nyman and Peter Aversten then added all the gory details that made it truly convincing. As a final touch Staffan Linder added small animated flesh pieces that would dangle from the face, covered in blood.
For more images of the Lycans, visit the Monster Gallery.
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