From the invading alien race that threatens life on Earth as we know it, to the Autobots that rise up to protect humanity, the scope of the visual effects work for Transformers: Age of Extinction was both wide-ranging and technically challenging. Each film in the franchise has presented a series of challenges that eclipse those faced on the previous film by an order of magnitude and Age of Extinction is no different. The film, the most difficult and complicated so far, and the hardest film of my career, represented a new beginning for the franchise in virtually every way – new cast, new locations and a host of new characters to be realized by the visual effects team.
The ILM crew played a pivotal role in defining and creating this highly designed world, producing a scope and scale suitable for a science fiction epic. The film contains over 1200 visual effects shots supervised by Scott Farrar and his team and some 550 visual effects artists and numerous special effects technicians collaborated to bring the effects in Age of Extinction to life.
To capture everything director Michael Bay wanted to feature in the film - and this is where it got complicated - cinematography utilized eight different formats including: IMAX film, stereo IMAX, stereo HD, 35mm film, anamorphic, spherical, crash cams and HD video. The film was exhibited in traditional stereo 3D and stereo 3D IMAX.
The film also presented new challenges with regard to animation. For the first time in the series we introduce the Dinobots. These incredible alien robots were created from thousands of small metal parts and maintain an organic look regardless of the form they take. They transform in a unique manner changing from robot to dinosaur form, as opposed to robot to vehicle as the other characters. Some Transformers’ facial performances also took a leap forward becoming more human-like, driven by a modified set of traditional face shapes beneath their sculpted metallic features.
Transformations, the hallmark of any Transformers film, also got an upgrade for Age of Extinction with the introduction of the Hypno-transform. This new type of transformation proved to be one of the most complex transformation types to date being driven by complex directable fluid simulations rather than traditional key frame animation.
The film features more fully CG sequences than in any Transformers film. The Knightship interior was one such virtual environment. It was immense and extremely complex in terms of architecture. Director Michael Bay captured many of the sequences himself operating a virtual camera in a motion capture volume with ILM’s real-time render engine. This system provided immediate feedback for the Transformers, whose motion was driven live by stunt performers and the environment itself. This not only sped up the workflow, but it ensured that Michael Bay’s vision for each shot would be carried from initial capture though to the final render.