Planet X FX


Lookdev, short for Look Development, is the process during which the look and feel of a character, environment or other digital asset is determined.

Often, many iterations are needed to arrive at the final look of what ends up on the screen. For the dragon character, finding all the right characteristics and details are important, as it is featured so prominently throughout the film in many differents scenes and situations.

Different phases showing the development of the dragon with notes addressing color, texture and details such as skin characteristics.
Knowing what is required of an asset upfront is crucial: what does the character need to do in the story and are all those features provided by the design choices?

The dragon arrives with its wing broken and it is cared for by Sarah who will later apply bandage to it.

The dragon needs to breath fire.

Over the course of the film, the dragon gets more and more dirty.

We created a timeline of the narrative with important 'milestones' that affect the design of the dragon character.
Creating a reptile-like creature that looks cute,
was quite a challenge

Real life examples and references of nature depicting animals are an important part of getting up to speed: what do we find intriguing and want to take from that for your own character?

Making sure consistency and 'logic' from those references are sensibly applied to our dragon character, linking certain parts of real world examples to the digital asset, is a collaborative effort between several departments.

Amazing colours and patterns of reptiles and amphibians provided inspiration for some of the dragon's characteristics.
Proposal for 'mapping' specific features of real world reptiles (logically) onto our dragon asset.

Equally important is how the dragon's scale relates to the character of Sarah, who will be interacting with the creature a lot and even flies on its back. The dragon had to appear 'young' (baby-like), but couldn't be too small for Sarah to sit on its back.

To get a better understanding of how the dragon's scale would relate to Sarah and what the implications would be for framing and composition (using different lenses), Planet X Technologies' DeepSpace VR platform was used. DOP Trond Tønder and director Katarina Launing could visit a digital environment to further explore the dragon's future presence in the film.

With the measurements of the actor portraying Sarah known to the VFX crew pretty early on, different scaling options for the dragon could be visualised.
The crew uses DeepSpace to explore the scale of the dragon next to Sarah, whose height was known as soon as casting was complete.
An edited turntable showing the many steps and iterations the dragon went through until arriving at the final look.
Some research is of a more technical nature. Sub surface scattering (or 'SSS' in short) is a good example of this.

The amount of SSS determines the translucency of areas where the skin is thin, like ears or the wings.

Sub surface scattering can also be observed in humans when, for instance, ears are strongly backlit (by the sun) and the blood inside the ear boosts the reddish color that results.

Sub surface scattering (SSS) studies.
Close-ups revealing details and study how big the dragon can appear on screen without losing believability.
Dive deeper: other projects that have used DeepSpace