‘I Am Groot’: How VFX Supe Used a Kiddie Pool and Motion Capture for ‘Groot Takes a Bath’ Episode

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There has never been a better time to be a VFX vendor. With so much content coming from streaming, high-quality television, feature films and commercials, the demand for visual effects and VFX
artists continues to grow.

Santa Monica-based visual effects studio Luma Pictures, which celebrates its 20-year anniversary this month, has seen an increase in everything from creature effects to animation to set extensions to full sequences.

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To keep up with all the additional work, Luma expanded to Vancouver in January, after establishing an office in Melbourne in 2012 to take advantage of the emerging market there. A staff of more than 200 works for the company across all three locations, providing effects for a client list that includes Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Disney and Warner Bros., and films such as “Elvis,” “Dr. Strange 2” and “Once
Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

Vincent Cirelli, VP and head of digital production, notes that one way this growth has impacted the industry is that more filmmakers ask VFX studios for help at the start of a project.

“Filmmakers are looking to the tools that we develop to creatively help visualize films from
infancy to final picture,” he says. “We are no longer post; we’re previsualization.”

Shauna Bryan, executive producer of VFX and head of business development, adds that being involved from the beginning results in better decisions down the line, thus improving delivery time and, ultimately,
what audiences get to experience. “It helps us know what the process is going to be and how we can
best fit into it, and how we cast our best artists, supervisors and producers,” she says.

Most recently, the team worked on the new Disney+ series “I Am Groot.” Luma animation director
Raphael Pimentel explains that for the episode “Groot Takes a Bath,” working with the show’s creator and director Kirsten Lepore from the start gave him the ability to think outside the box.

As part of his animation previz, he got into a children’s swimming pool with motion-capture dots
and wore a Groot face mask so that the team could have an idea of what Lepore was after when it
came to lighting and animating the character.

Also helpful for the “Groot” creatives: Luma had the motion-capture technology on-site, as well as a volume LCD screen, so processing the data and animation effects could be done locally.

In short, it was a case of everyone into the pool.

Raphael Pimentel in motion capture as he works on Groot’s VFX
Raphael Pimentel in motion capture as he works on Groot’s VFX

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