How Did World War Z Make The Zombie Swarms Look So Awesome?

By Nick Venable | 7 years ago

You know Paramount Pictures really has it going on as a movie studio when the most common compliment for Marc Forster’s epic zombie flick World War Z is “Well, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be.” That’s in reference to the film’s divergence from the Max Brooks novel that inspired it, and the tumultuous production process that led to its escalated budget. While some discussion could be had over the film’s pacing and some of director Marc Forster’s choices, it’s a thrill ride and a half. (Read more about how we felt about it here.) And I don’t think anybody is saying the film is lacking in zombie-fueled action.

For all of you out there wanting to get a closer look at how those massive zombie swarn shots were created, FxGuide.com’s Mike Seymour takes us and Wired on a fast-paced behind-the-scenes chase through the film’s special effects process. London’s Moving Picture Company (MPC) was responsible for the zombie swarms, and they aren’t simply just CGI bodies slapped up on the screen. Using their in-house effects engine Alice, which Seymour points out is usually used to avoid the rampant body-crawling that occurs here, the effects team was able to give each digitally rendered A.I. zombie a set of tasks to do, and the physics engine allowed for these massive pile-ups as everyone worked towards the same goal. Or something. Not even the artists know what will happen in each animation.

MPC’s senior CG supervisor Max Wood breaks down several of World War Z‘s larger sequences, using a lot of work-in-progress footage like concept drawings and undetailed animatics, blending the process together to make the complete shot. Even when they’re not animated, seeing this many white blobbed zombies running around this quickly is still frightening.

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The most intriguing part of the whole thing is that the zombie animations are taken from a vast library of motion capture shots, giving the impression that thousands of extras were paid to climb all over each other in the hot sun. The mo-cap footage definitely gives the zombies’ ant-like motions a more realistic look than, say, a World War Z video game.

And hey, think about it. In two years or so, we might be watching a featurette for a World War Z sequel. I’ll let you guys decide if that’s a good thing or not.

In the meantime, you can still catch the movie in theaters.

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