The second biggest action sequence: Jasper teaches the wolves how to fight the Newborns
The second big action scene involves Jasper teaching his family, and the wolves, how to fight the newborns. "I think that the training clearing sequence is this movie's baseball sequence. It's a full display of vampire abilities.
There's serious stuff coming, but it's not there yet, so there's a bit of swagger to the Cullens as they're trying to show off to the wolves," says Godfrey. "The way we designed it was we wanted that to be the mini preview of what we are going to see later in the final battle sequence."
"Since his old life was training newborns, Jasper is now teaching his vampire family to vampire combat, while some big old wolves watch in the background," explains Jackson Rathbone. "It's the art of dodging and using someone else's energy against them. We're trying to stay away from a lot of the martial arts elements and make them look a little more street brawler. It's just basically a whole bunch of family getting together and tossing each other around - a good time. I get in a nice little fight with Alice. Fun."
Rob Pattinson also enjoyed filming the sequence where the family members spar with each other. "It was funny because Peter and I had learned all the choreography and it's very, very intense and we were serious when doing it in rehearsals. Then on the day, I realized that this would look very bizarre for us as father and son to actually be trying to kill each other. So in this fight with Peter, I thought it was very funny doing it and realized that works. So, I ended up laughing in the scene," admits Pattinson. "In the same way that me having a fight with Peter in reality, I'd be laughing quite a lot. That was a fun scene to do."
Facinelli adds, "I always made fun of Rob on Twilight because he wasn't the most athletic guy when we were doing the baseball stuff, because he had never played before. Although he looked great in the final product, it was very awkward for him. But we got into the fight training and Rob blew me away! He's gotten so much more athletic and I had a great time shooting the bit with him."
Tippett Studios, founded by visual effects pioneer Phil Tippett, created the onscreen wolves for The Twilight Saga: New Moon and refined them for their return in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
Haug says, "Tippett Studios is certainly the best boutique size animation house that you could possibly hire. They have fabulous animators. The main issue with the wolves is all this interaction they have to do on this show. On the last one, they pretty much interacted a little bit with themselves, a little bit with the environment, and not very much with people. Now there's many more of them, they're fighting, and tearing vampires apart."
"The Tippet guys are amazing," agrees Tichner. "They've got a really nice workflow set up. We have pre-vised the majority of the wolf shots, so we already know going in basically what the camera needs to do. Working with Phil Tippett is just amazing.
He's just a legend, so working on the werewolves has been fabulous."
Since the wolves are created in the computer during post-production, filmmakers use several techniques to help the actors and crew "see" the wolves, who are essentially invisible on set. "Cows" - or large cardboard standees - are set up in the camera frame on set for scale, blocking, and eye-line. "It takes a lot of the guess work out of what it is you're doing… it's a clever idea for solving a real basic problem," explains Haug.
"We're also using what we call the potato, which is this big stand-in object that's about the same size as a wolf and the actors can fight with it, wrestle with it and be hit by it," adds Tichner. "In post, Phil and the guys will basically replace the potato and put in their CG wolf."
"Also, we often will have a wolf actor off-camera. If it's Jacob wolf, Taylor will act opposite Kristen so that she can still connect to him as an individual," explains Godfrey.
"The hardest part is really just making sure that you've got a beat on what it's going to look like at the end."
"Kristen seems to like having Taylor be there in the gray suit, so that they can actually play out a scene together as opposed to her just acting to a stick or a laser pointer dot," adds Haug.
"Eclipse has its own very unique challenges because of the fighting and because of the sheer scale. What they had to accomplish with wolves on the last movie, it pales by comparison to what they need to do on this one. It changes the rules," comments Haug. "The level of interaction is two orders of magnitude greater than the last one, where basically you had to get an eye line. Now the wolves actually jump on each other, bite, roll over and kill vampires. It's much more difficult to figure out how to do that."
Making the wolves as real as trees
"I wanted the wolves to be as real as the trees," says Slade. "I always say look at the number of leaves on the trees, and look at the number of hairs on the wolves' body--you need to feel like they belong in the same world. To me, reading the book, there were these great things about how Bella would be really comfortable with Jacob in wolf form - the way she would lay against him. I wanted to capture that great tactile nature to him, so if she's going to pat him on the head, he's got to be as real as she is.
"We tried to make the wolves much more realistic looking. They were already going be heroic by nature of the story," adds Slade. "I wanted her to be able to touch him so that people go 'oh, that's really nice.' I think we achieved that with Phil Tippet and his crew - we worked them really very hard, but I think they did some amazing work.
Also Image Engine did some great work on the flashback wolves. It was a directorial decision that I didn't want the wolves to stand out with a big spotlight on them. I wanted to let the emotion tell the story."
The Final Action sequence
The finale action sequence takes place simultaneously on a mountaintop and in a distant field. For the mountaintop campsite, filmmakers used a combination of the top of the real Mt. Seymour and a re-creation of that peak built on stage.
"In the third act of the story, we have two extremely diverse action beats happening at these very unique venues - one being on top of a mountain peak where Edward is fending off Victoria and Riley, of which you have to have a snow element involved, which geographically forces you to think a certain way; and two, the main newborn battle happening in a remote field, which we found at a local gun range in view of the mountains," explains Bannerman.
"You're also dealing with the concept of a marriage between main unit and 2nd unit, who are doing the predominant amount of action work. The tough challenge is to somehow synchronize and do all the work with the same signature weather, over the course of potentially three weeks time. So how do you get consistent weather? In the case of the Twilight franchise, 'Cullen weather' is dismal, foggy, overcast, rainy days. If you're shooting high in the clouds on a real mountain, you're in a snow blizzard when it's cold and during the warmer time of the year, you're potentially in a rainstorm. So how do you find the balance? That was a challenge. So, for the mountaintop work, we found ourselves split between on location and on a stage, with the challenge of blending the two to create continuity."
Just getting to the actual mountain location proved to be a big challenge for the cast and crew.
In the story, Jacob carries Bella to the mountaintop campsite to mask her scent from the enemy vampires. "We had an amazing guy in our special effect supervisor Alex Burdett, who set up practical rigs for us that worked 99.999% of the time. We needed this cowering rig to support Kristen's weight, so that Taylor could just concentrate on his performance and not have to hold somebody and keep his balance while going through the woods. But, this rig just didn't work out. It wasn't anybody's fault, it worked perfectly, but it just didn't feel right. When Taylor started to walk it just doesn't have the natural bounce and rhythm and swing that you would have if you were carrying somebody. So Taylor just actually carried her. But it wasn't just for one shot, it was for every shot."
Stewart was appreciative of her co-star's dedication. "Taylor's really able to carry me through the woods for long hours. I literally went and got my rear end molded to make this day easier on Taylor, but the rig just didn't look as real as when he did it. The entire scene is a good four pages - a long dialogue scene and he carried me the entire time. Very impressive."
"Taylor's very strong, but if you've got to carry somebody all day long, even someone who is as light as Kristen, your arms start to ache," adds Slade. "We had to shoot over and over again, even though we didn't really even do that many takes, because he knew the lines and performed beautifully. It was just a really long scene.
So, after about four takes, he's exhausted and, of course it's raining too. Taylor couldn't even sign his name the next day, his arms were just like jello."
Shooting in remote locations and building an entire mountain top on stage
In reality, the shooting crew used a combination of 4X4s, Humvees, an old ski lift, and plain old-fashioned foot power on hiking trails to maneuver to the remote location.
"You could compare it to troop movements, getting the crew from a urban environment to that rural location. Mt. Seymour is a local ski resort, so there was a chairlift to help enable the crew, the infrastructure, and the equipment to get up to a certain point on the hill. Then we had to deal with the old Sherpa approach, which is everybody grab a case and start hiking. A few people were out of breath when they got to the top, but they got to it and you realize that it wasn't that bad. The vista from up there is amazing and you can see why we went to all the effort," comments Bannerman.
"We were able to get there reasonably quickly because of the chairlift, so we executed a plan to utilize that. Of course, this is during the off-season, and most of the lifts are disassembled for summer maintenance. So, we had to reactivate that element to accommodate getting 200 people up on that mountain. We were able to get the entire company up to the top of the mountain and then back down again with a turnaround of only about an hour and a half both directions, considering it takes about 4 hours if you were to just hike it all. We know because 4 hours after the cast arrived, security spotted a lot of paparazzi snooping around in the bushes above us, getting up there as generic hikers or 'bird watchers,' as they called themselves," laughs Bannerman.
Stephenie Meyer also made the journey to the mountaintop, where her favorite scene takes place inside the tent. "As we were driving to the ski resort, there's part of the cliff face that curved along the side of the road and you could just imagine Jacob Black running past that," shares Meyer. "There's one line in the book that fit it perfectly and you really do feel like you're 'just above everything.' It's not exactly what you would have seen from that cliff, although the view is great because you can see actually Vancouver below. It's so beautiful up here and you just feel like you're just away from everything. It's really surreal and very cool."
"You get to go to amazing places on movies, places nobody else gets to go, and some of these places are just incredibly beautiful, and somehow they can mess up the filmmaking plan. On one of those crystal blue, gorgeous days, we spent the whole day complaining about the sun, because we couldn't shoot. This is the only show I've ever been sunned-out twice," laughs Haug. "Making the continuity of the weather work in the final film is going to be one of the big visual effects challenges, because the weather doesn't stand still for you on these sets."
"The Twilight books take place in the Pacific Northwest rain forest, so it's a very different experience making a movie like this. Normally you go inside to a cover set for rainy days. We go to cover for sunny days," laughs Godfrey "If it's sunny and beautiful and a perfect time to be outside, we go shoot on stage and wait for torrential down pours so we can all go shoot outside in the misery of the wet outdoors. But the fun thing about it is that you do get to see the stuff that most people don't get to see. We were shooting near the mountains and walked over to a bridge and the salmon were spawning up the river and there was a bear eating the salmon. Just beautiful. What a great job to be able to work and get to see that beauty in nature."
"When we did the original scout to the real mountain location, we had to find a place that would enable us to cheat a section of it on a stage," explains Bannerman. "You want to avoid putting yourself basically at the top of a hypothetically pyramid, because you would see the real world for 360 degrees around. Now, if we cut the top of the pyramid off and bore out a little hole and put ourselves in the middle, we could see off the top of the peak and still be surrounded by the infrastructure of the location. This is how we came up with the concept of the tent pitched in the bowl of a mountain peak where it is sheltered, which is naturally where human instinct would drive you to place a tent in order to avoid the winds and the extreme climate changes that would happen overnight at that altitude."
"We did an intricate digital scan of that real area and then rebuild that to a scale representation of the contours of the rock faces and the topography, so that it matched," says Bannerman. "Then, of course, we brought in trees, grass, moss, and all the indigenous plants that are unique to that area to try and sell the match. Then it snows."
Bannerman adds, "We're at the practical location, pre-storm. We go into the tent and we play out the scenes. When we come out of the tent, and we are actually poststorm, and that is actually the entire stage set, where we can control the snow, the light, and the weather. We could then spend three weeks shooting the final conflict between Victoria and Edward, which required extensive amount of stunt and wire work and enabled that to be done efficiently in an environment where we could give the biggest bang for the buck. Otherwise you would not be able to pull off the exciting sequence shooting only on the top of a real mountain."
"This is the biggest set that I've seen on these films so far and really shows the scope of this film," comments Godfrey. "The issue is we wanted the scale of shooting on this amazing real mountain top, but we're shooting in the fall, there's obviously no snow up there. It's also a national park so you can't put fake snow up there. So the scene in which Jacob arrives with Bella is before the storm has hit. So we could shoot that real and show the scale. Then we needed to have the entire sequence where she comes out in the morning and the snow has fallen and we couldn't possibly accomplish that up there."
"Our production designer Paul Austerberry, who was David's designer on 30 Days of Night, has in his career already made several huge exterior sets on stage working with a lot of fake snow. So we built the entire mountain top on stage and dressed it with the snow," explains Godfrey.
Filmmakers only had five weeks to strike the Bella's house interior sets that occupied the stage, and then build and dress the massive mountaintop. "The limited time frame was a difficult scenario," admits Austerberry. "We had probably 50 people working on construction, painters and greens men during that time. The snow effects guys had to come in and snow everything over in the last three days. So it was quite a challenge, we were really pressed for time. But actually everyone pulled together and managed to get it done. I think it's a pretty impressive set in the end."
Austerberry adds, "The most challenging thing was getting the right trees. If you get nursery trees, they look like Christmas trees. The high alpine trees are all scraggly and scrawny and bent and wind blown. They are quite specific looking and people don't really think about it, but it's really hard to get a hold of those."
In addition to using storyboards, filmmakers used computer pre-vis on several of the action sequences, including the mountaintop campsite fight, where everyone could see character avatars running around inside the virtual set to scale.
"We completely pre-vised the campsite and used it to evolve the fight beats, but basically that taught us how to move around in that space and make sense out of it, and to not constantly run off the set. The fight beats have been modified within the confines of the space," explains Haug. "Seth wolf is in that scene and you have to be able to tell how many times you're going to deal with him because he's an expensive item. Pre-vis takes a long time to get it set up in the computer, but once you get it running, you can make changes very quickly and very accurately, but it takes a while to get there."
"The hard part is making sure that the actors in the scenes understand what the action is going to be and pre-vis helps with that, so that they get a sense of where the wolves are going go and what's happening in the scene so they know what to react to," adds Godfrey.
The tool helps everyone understand what they are trying to accomplish on any given day. "I'm a big believer that the production designer and costume designer and myself are all in the same exact position of trying to interpret the space in which the movie takes place, and we have to be correct about that together," says Haug. "That integration to me is part of what the story telling aspect of digital effects is - to be sure that we're all working on the same movie together, we're all getting the same type of direction from the director, and we're all working together in the same way to get what he wants to see on screen."