Comprised of over 1,100 VFX shots, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a sprawling adventure through a wilderness of CG environments, deadly creatures, and impressive digital doubles – and all of it was reviewed through cineSync’s deep integration with production tracking platform Shotgun. We sat down with Jerome Chen, VFX Supervisor for Sony Imageworks and the Overall VFX Supervisor on Jumanji, to tour through the production processes that powered this epic standalone sequel.
When the original Jumanji charged to cinematic success – grossing over $260m in 1995 – visual effects remained in their infancy. But a great deal has changed between then and now.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle doesn’t bring the game’s wild environments to the player, but instead plunges the player into an all-new lush, organic world. Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and, of course, The Rock himself, awaken below the canopy of Jumanji’s primeval verdure. It’s a sight to behold. Sony Imageworks’ VFX bring life to a bestiary of oversized creatures and gorgeous but perilous environments. This is as close to Jumanji as the viewer can get.
Jerome Chen has said in previous interviews that he relies on the the combination of Shotgun and cineSync as “the backbone of my production pipeline”. So how did that work on Jumanji?
“I was on the project from pre-production, through practical photography on location and until the very last day of post-production,” begins Chen.
“Shotgun was the first thing I requested to be installed as the foundation for our production infrastructure, and cineSync almost immediately after. It was used to ingest reviews, from our earliest previs to our very last approved hi-res shot, and it really helped to make Jumanji the visual safari that it is.”
To meet a massive shot tally, while maintaining quality and respect for the original’s groundbreaking visuals, several hand-picked vendors were brought on board from around the globe. With activities primarily based in Australia and Canada, successful remote collaboration was vital – and that collaboration took place across cineSync sessions.
First and foremost, facilities were cast with an eye towards their specialities and quality of past work. Given their previous efforts on The Legend of Tarzan, Rodeo FX was brought on board to create many of Jumanji’s larger-than-life beasts; including hippos, crocodiles, tarantulas, scorpions and centipedes.
MPC was also added to the team, having ably demonstrated its environment ability in The Jungle Book, along with its knack for photorealistic CG animals. In the case of Jumanji, the studio applied this skill set to an elephant and several jaguars.
For Chen, cineSync was like a machete, helping him to cut through the tangle of reviews on a daily basis and clear a path through the production’s undergrowth.
“When working with artists across multiple time zones, and working to set production cycles, cineSync and Shotgun were instrumental in helping me to monitor all of the moving parts and accomplish such a large scale production.”
The machete of video review
“cineSync is really the industry go-to for video review,” continues Chen. “It’s just perfect that it integrates so seamlessly with Shotgun, as we use that to manage all incoming and outgoing media, enabling me to view and comment on iterations as soon as they are submitted by the various facilities working on the show.”
One such shot pays homage to the original Jumanji, but with a modern VFX upgrade. The 1995 film sees Alan Parrish sucked into the titular board game in the film’s opening sequence, his hands and face contorted as he’s pulled into a swirling portal to the dark jungle beyond.
Chen and team worked to create a similar effect using augmented technology: “Our version uses particle simulations and fluid dynamics to contort the characters,” he explains. “This gives a sense of volume to the humans as they are disassembled and absorbed into the video game console, which replaces the board game in this version.
“It took a lot of cineSync reviews to make sure we were striking that parallel to the first film, but we got there in the end thanks to the back and forth.”
Another challenging shot saw Karen Gillan’s character compress into a ball of flesh and explode – one of the film’s many outrageous death scenes that occur when the protagonists use up their game lives.
“We spent a lot of time experimenting with color and texture for that shot, talking through the logistics in cineSync,” recalls Jerome. “We wanted to get the balance right, making sure it looked suitably organic and realistic – but not disturbing to the audience!”
Shotgun integration greatly enhanced the ease of creative iterations on shots such as these, and beyond: “cineSync’s Shotgun integration has dramatically eased the setup required to carry out these reviews,” says Chen. “We can increase the amount of desired media required for a review session, including previous versions of shots, reference images and other material, with no impact to set-up time in terms of preparing for a review.”
Shedding light with annotations
Another key vendor on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was Australia’s prolific VFX studio Iloura, who were selected for their stunning environment work in the chaotic Mad Max: Fury Road and across Game of Thrones’ Westeros.
Iloura brought all of its experience to bear on one of the Jumanji’s most challenging sequences: the ‘Rhino Helicopter’ chase.
On stage, the green screen shoot was relatively simple, involving five actors sitting inside a gimbal-mounted Huey helicopter. However, its post-production process was one of the film’s most iteration heavy, requiring the CG creation of an exterior canyon environment and a stampeding horde of jostling ungulates.
cineSync’s drawing and annotation tools proved vital here, largely with regards to matching the environment’s CG lighting to the on-set stage.
“I rely heavily on annotations as a way of communicating to artists, especially when it comes to discussing something disembodied and intangible like lighting,” says Chen.
“Using Shotgun in tandem with cineSync is really helpful in providing an integrated workflow here. I can make general comments on a shot in Shotgun, but can then dive into it in cineSync, elaborating with specific annotations at a per-frame level and really communicating to vendors exactly what needs to be achieved.”
A well-tended garden
With Shotgun and cineSync comprising the backbone of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s production workflow, Chen and his team of global vendors were well positioned to work as a single unit. From the simplest of shots to the most challenging – which would often feature a complex choreography of CG animals, elaborate simulations, and extensive environment work – this core integration truly tamed the jungle.