Fuel looked after all 180 visual effects shots for Rogue, including 120 CG crocodile shots. Director Greg Mclean’s brief was very clear – this is not a super crocodile, it is just a large member of the species doing only what it usually does – swim, attack, eat, sleep. In fact, the size of the Rogue croc is based on Bert, a huge saltwater crocodile that was actually found in the Northern Territory.
It was only natural then that the best way to start preparing to create this animal in CG was to send the 3D team to Darwin to study some real crocodiles face to face. Armed with some dead chickens, cameras, and a “she’ll be right attitude” from the gamekeepers at Darwin Crocodile Farm, the 3D team and producer Matt Hearn soon found themselves inside the reptiles’ pens.
“We filmed them bursting out of the water, chasing animals, swallowing things, and we also noticed that they don’t move a lot of the time too,” says VFX supervisor Andrew Hellen. “We then made a pre-viz of how our CG croc would move based on these observations. It was a pretty involving gig and it was good to be involved right from the start.”
Fellow VFX supervisor Dave Morley recalls, “we get really close to the croc in the film so we had to have very accurate detail, which involved observing how they shifted their weight and paying close attention to their scales and markings. They also move completely differently in the water compared to how they move on land.”
“Fuel were given the opportunities of seeing the storyboard for about 90% of the film before it was made and they created a film animatic for the entire end sequence, which is shot in a lair, Greg explains. “Essentially I directed the lair scene in 3D, which included models of the hero guy and creature fighting, which was made months before we even got on set.”
“I had it playing on my laptop so that I could show the cast and crew. It helped them to get a sense of the scale of the creature and see how the scene should work out. Andrew and Dave were also on set, so they were there for all of the shooting where we had CGI elements interacting with the live action. They advised myself, the DOP and the team on what to look out for and how to frame it correctly so that we knew what we could do with the space of the lair.”
“We tested the lighting on set with a real scale light crocodile head,” says Andrew. ” It gave us an idea of how the colour would look with lights on it. We walked it through 50% of the shots to see what the light would do. This was also key in terms of helping us understand how light would reflect off an animal of that size. Even after we shot the sequence on set, we spent a couple of days with the 2nd unit camera team, shooting water action on a blacked out set. We filmed a number of different splashes, with people doing dive bombs and stuff to create splashes that we mixed in with the CGI.”
The result is a fantastically realistic crocodile that has been widely praised. Fuel was awarded an Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for Rogue’s visual effects.
In the Press: “The gigantic killer crocodile of the title is an outstanding feat of animatronics and CGI”… “The creature is incredibly realistic, moves convincingly and fills the screen with a commanding presence.” The Hollywood Reporter – Megan Lehmann