‘Venom 2’ uses animation talent


Framestore once again enters the world of comic book heroes and villains for the latest adventures of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the alien symbiote Venom. In this high-octane sequel, Brock attempts to revive his journalism career by interviewing notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson).

Showcasing a different skill set from their signature VFX work, Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage saw Framestore deliver a carefully crafted sequence in which Kasady and Brock correspond through a series of letters. As Kasady talks about his childhood, director Andy Serkis wanted to incorporate illustrations to show the audience the events Cletus describes as he recalls them; childhood memories seen through the lens of a man who grew up to be a serial killer.

“We were very excited to tackle another one of the ‘storybook’ style projects,” says Framestore Animation Supervisor Dale Newton. “We’ve had a few over the years, starting with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sequence ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’, the
Paddington 2 pop-up book, and more recently our work on
jingle jangle.”

Dale teamed up with the talented Ben Kovar from Framestore’s art department. Together they started at the drawing board, testing different types of inks and pencils on paper, comparing textures to find a line style that matched the film’s narrative. “Strangely, the hardest thing from a design standpoint was getting the ‘artistic’ level right,” says Newton. “We knew we could get childish and naive, but simultaneously imbuing that dark sense of malevolence and violence into the line art was a big challenge.”

The unique look of the drawings and animation was a challenge. “We had nothing to base it on,” says visual effects supervisor Stuart Penn, “probably the closest thing was the tale of the three brothers from the last Harry Potter movies, but it was much more abstract.

Once the team created the right look and style, they switched to Blender and found themselves using the Grease Pencil tools. The VisDev team, led by VisDev supervisor Horacio Mendoza, was already familiar with Blender; they started by creating an animatic before pushing the development of the design elements even further.

The Framestore team sought to give a naive, almost childlike quality to the drawings that depicted Kasady’s memories. Hand-drawn 3D animatics were a low frame rate affair in its early incarnations, with early versions of assets created in Blender by Stefan Mayr (Aenior Viz-dev Generalist). The animatic was one of the first guides on how to drive animation stylistically in production. “Direction and timing were the most important critical elements in communicating our story – and particularly for the sometimes ‘comic’ or ‘cartoonish’ tone we had to set for the show,” says Newton. “Where things perhaps seemed a little too fluid, we actively removed the frames in order to tell the story as little as possible – creating a stage frame look for the movement, giving a ‘shot of fist “glittering visceral to final product.”

Working closely with Stuart Penn and VFX producer Jenny Basen, the team had to transform Dale’s sketches created in Blender, reconstructing them in Maya. “We had to find ways to make the line art look like it was still hand-drawn, which was tricky,” says Penn. “We also had to create multiple layers, adding ink blots or smudges to the paper to make it feel like part of the scene, integrating it so that two characters in different settings could read from the same card.”

CG Supe Neil Weatherly oversaw the development of a set of tools to import line art attributes into Maya, so they can be rendered in the traditional Framestore pipeline. Comp Supe Enrik Pavdeja then developed techniques that served to provide the texture of the paper environment, in which he had to integrate the drawn elements and the plate. Many additional touches were added by Enrik and his team, such as layers of visual “grime”, and created the unsettling look of layered, coagulated blood on the line art itself.

Together, the team at Framestore produced a short but visually powerful sequence that perfectly introduces the audience to Cletus Kasady and sets the stage for the rest of the film. Visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal and visual effects producer Barrie Hemsley on the production side were tasked with solving the film’s animated piece and decided to come to Framestore for the job.

“Framestore was an obvious choice for Venom: let there be carnage, especially since I admire the stellar work the studio has previously created serving ‘storybook style’ animations,” says Duggal. “It was a real pleasure to work with such a creative and talented team. I loved exploring ideas with Dale and Stuart and the team. Their animation captured not only the art style and movement we were looking for, but also the emotion of Cletus’ story incredibly well. It was very important to find a style that came convincingly from the mind of a serial killer and had a bit of a violent edge to it.”

“The complexity of creating something that looked hand-drawn but lived in three dimensions was made transparent by this inventive and clever team,” Duggal continued. “It’s a real highlight and one of my favorite sequences in the film.” “I’ve worked with Framestore many times over the years, but never on bespoke animated storytelling. The Three Brothers play by Harry Potterand the pop-up book of
Paddington are both just wonderful, so when Sheena and I started talking about an innovative animation sequence for V
enom: let there be carnage, Framestore was the clear and obvious choice to support the case,” said Hemsley. “From start to finish they did a great job.”


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