Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 hit Ted resonated highly with film audiences, who not only witnessed a story about a real live – and subversive – teddy bear, but also one that featured a completely computer generated, albeit infused with the often motion captured performance of MacFarlane himself. The CG bear in the first film was realized also thanks to the combined efforts of Tippett Studio and Iloura, overseen by visual effects supervisor Blair Clark. For Ted 2, in which Ted and his new bride Tami-Lynn want to have a baby but must first prove he’s a person, that same visual effects team returned to once again bring the character to life.
fxguide covered Ted back in 2012 – read our article here about the motion capture, shooting and animation approach to the film. That workflow largely stayed the same on Ted 2, including the use of a stuffie teddy bear or a stick with eyeballs to help with blocking scenes and eyelines. However, the production did see some new approaches to mocap, and the visual effects teams from Iloura and Tippett Studio were able to incorporate advancements in their own pipelines into their creature shots.
The MO in mocap
While MacFarlane performed a significant amount of Ted motion capture – in an Xsens MVN suit – on the first film on set with realtime playback, this time around a greater proportion of mocap was done after principal photography. Tasked with mocap integration was postvis supervisor Webster Colcord, also a veteran of the 2012 film. He says that having the director deliver Ted’s performance in the Xsens suit was vital, despite the obvious disparities in physique.
“It just makes sense to have Seth in the suit because it really comes through,” notes Colcord. “I mean, it’s funny, Ted has such a large head and that has become a part of his character. I always thought if we only mocap’d his head it would still be incredibly valuable, because there’s so much nuance of the spacing of how Seth gets in and out of his poses that is critical to making the comedy work. So the motion of the head is more apparent, because you’re basically taking the core rotations and you’re expanding them with this bigger piece of geometry.”
Colcord oversaw the workflow to re-target MacFarlane’s mocap, so that it could be used by editorial and also passed onto the VFX facilities. “We record the mocap at 120fps,” he says. “We re-target it down to 23.976 and I do a little bit of math with timecode to sync up the takes with the on-set recorded, or pre-recorded, dialogue. Then we pass it through Motion Builder for the re-targeting and I do the sync’ing in Maya. I deliver it as a stripped down rig with just geo for Ted and the skeleton.
“For postvis,” adds Colcord, “we have an in-house rig slightly updated for this movie, especially for face shapes, because we didn’t really know at the start of the first movie what Ted’s expressions were going to look like – Tippett and Iloura discovered that during the process. Before animation, mocap was usually edited with an offset rig, which is a rig that has three skeletons, one for the motion capture, one for animation and a third that the final skin is constrained to. You can blend between motion capture and keyframe and it’s very fast.”
This time MacFarlane was not the only person to don the motion capture suit. For the film’s spectacular opening titles, a Broadway number that takes place during Ted’s wedding, dancers wore wireless Xsens MVN link suits to help bring the complicated dance moves to life (Iloura crafted the final shots). “When you see an actor’s motion in its purest form, it really speaks to who they are,” states Colcord, on whether having different performer in the suit altered Ted’s performance. “It can become inauthentic to what Seth would do. But it didn’t matter so much because it’s a dance number. That was a really interesting challenge to have a different style of motion for Ted.”
New VFX tools (but not too new)
Since the release of Ted, both Tippett Studio and Iloura have of course made several developments in their pipelines – from implementing physically plausible lighting and rendering to changes in cloth and fur simulation techniques. But ultimately Ted, the character, had to stay largely the same in this new film. “Everyone knows what Ted looks like,” says Tippett Studio visual effects supervisor Eric Leven. “It’s great you’re using a whole bunch of new shaders and tools, but he still has to look exactly the same, he can’t look like a fancier version of a bear.”
Still, Tippett Studio was able to take advantage of its move to Katana for lighting, and utilize shaders re-built inside RenderMan for plausible rendering. “The nice thing about that was that moving to the plausible rendering gives you a nicer, more realistic look,” states Leven. “We were able to get Ted looking more like Ted right out of the box. On the last show, you got what you got from the renderer and then there were a hundred NUKE nodes to make it look like Ted. We had done all kinds of comp tricks to make him look right. On the last show if Ted looked maybe 60% of what he needed to out of the renderer then he was 90 or 95% on this show.”
Iloura, too, under visual effects supervisor Glenn Melenhorst, made only minor adjustments to its CG Ted model, with rendering handled by a hybrid of V-Ray and 3Delight. However, the studio did enhance Ted’s groom and fur and moved to cloth building and simulation via Marvelous Designer. “That really came in handy for the dance scene where Ted’s wearing a tailored suit,” explains Iloura CG supervisor Avi Goodman. “We cut the suit how we thought it would look good in MD, and it did a great job. It’s all stitched together with real stitching, it has tension where it belongs. If there’s an area that’s loose or under tension, that’s the same properties from a real world piece of clothing where it’s likely to buckle and crease like real clothing.”
With so many Ted shots in the film, we asked Iloura and Tippett Studio to outline just a few of their favorites.
Opening number – Iloura
“We had the mocap from the professional dancers for the scene,” states Goodman. “Some of the moves were quite elaborate and Ted of course has these pudgy arms and legs. We were wondering if Ted was going to be able to do all these things. He’s doing backflips and swinging his arms wildly – it’s so dynamic! But Seth gave us such great notes – and every single one made it noticeably much better.”
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Tippett Studio
“This is a scene of Ted and John (Mark Wahlberg) and Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) driving along where the filmmakers wanted to re-create the famous sequence in Planes, Trains and Automobiles with John Candy and Steve Martin driving and a Ray Charles song comes on,” recounts Leven. “John Candy starts pantomiming and playing the instruments and doing all kinds of funny stuff. Here we’ve got Ted driving, John is asleep, and Samantha is asleep in the back. They wanted to do it shot for shot.”
“It was challenging because you’re shooting in a car driving down a road that’s lit primarily from street lights, and there’s all this interactive light playing over the car and on the dashboard. What’s funny for John Candy to convey being a giant guy in a car, becomes very different when you have a tiny teddy bear that has to stand up to see through the windshield. It sounds easy to make it look like the scene but it turned out to be trickier than you think. The interactive lighting was a fun challenge, and the performance of how you convey these John Candyisms – all he needed was a small smirk, but Ted might need a bigger gag.”
Universal logo push in – Iloura
“We had done a similar shot for the first film,” says Goodman, “but here the logo was slightly different and it had to go all the way into a church in central Boston right into the wedding scene. “Initially we blocked that out and it was working, but restricting ourselves to marrying with the live action camera and picking up the CG and live action again – well, it became counter-productive to making a smooth move. So we ended up going fully digital except for the live action component once we’re in the church interior. We used the live action footage as a basis for our hi-res build, using projections from the plate to reconstruct the close-ups.”
Break-in at Brady’s – Tippett Studio
“Ted and John break into Tom Brady’s mansion while he’s asleep – they need a sperm donor,” describes Leven. “Ted’s wearing a raincoat to look like Paddington Bear. There’s these two shadowy figures, a man and a bear, climbing a ladder, and then all of a sudden – boom – he’s wearing raincoat. We had to put him in this sloppy raincoat with giant boots and a giant hat which required a bunch of cloth sims. Ted’s legs are really short and basically go from his hips to his feet in the span of one foot, so getting the rain coat to play in that was tricky.”