The video above gives a visual demonstration of the scale of the work MPC did across the 550 shots it produced for the movie – which primarily focussed on creating CG landscapes, animals and Comanches. See below for two videos on ILM's work on the movie
While the film aimed to offer a summer ‘blockbuster’ experience with larger-than-life characters and action on a grand scale, director Gore Verbinski wanted to keep the film within the boundaries of what’s physically possible and what exists in the real world – as the film harks back to the cowboy films of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
"The Lone Ranger needed to bring the epic scope of the classic cowboy film but made with the tools and perspective of a modern filmmaker,” says MPC VFX supervisor Gary Brozenich. "At the core of it is a phrase that GV used continuously which was to keep everything ‘honest’. He wanted the possibilities VFX brings and to push the visual as far as they could be, but without tipping into anything fantastical that may take you out of what is a very rooted and aesthetically earthy film.”
The most complex CG scene is where a group of Comanches on horseback are slaughtered by Gatling guns. While some of the horses and riders are real – filmed using a team of Native American stunt riders and specially trained horses – much of the scene is CG, due in part to the restrictions rightly placed on the stunts filmmakers can get real horses to do when filming to avoid injuries to them.
MPC motion-captured horses and, mixed with rigid-body simulations, used this to created CG animals and riders that jump and fall realistically – even in front of the camera. The VFX team also spiced up the scene by shattering trees with ricocheting bullets.
Other CG animals created by MPC include scorpions that crawl over the faces of The Lone Ranger (Arnie Hammer) and Tonto (Jonny Depp), before being licked away by the horse Silver. The scorpions are full CG, as are the parts of the horse’s head that come into contact with them.
Landscape elements created by MPC include extending the canyon where The Lone Ranger awakes after being ambushed at the beginning of the film, a full CG version of the valley of Dead Horse Point in Utah, Anasazi ruins, and a full CG cave – which, of course, explodes while the Lone Ranger and Tonto leap out of it (above). The cave was based on photos of the Carlsbad Cavern.
MPC is currently working on Godzilla, directed by ex-BBC VFX artist Gareth Edwards. Watch the trailer below.
ILM has released two videos showing both the obvious and 'invisible' VFX it created for The Lone Ranger.