by Lash

The thrill of watching Jurassic Park when it first opened in 1993 is seeing how life-like the animals were in the movie. Back then, the dinosaurs were brought to life using a combination of full-scale models, costumes and CGI. The movie marked the first time that human actors interacted with computer-generated creatures, although we could hardly tell at that time. Everything looked so realistic. It was also a time where CGI was rarely used in movies.

Jurassic Park

The movie went on to win the 1994 Oscar for visual effects and established CGI as a dependable tool for movie special effects.

Fast forward 25 years later. CGI is now a critical component in most action-adventure movies, and more so relied on when your movie requires bringing to life creatures that have been extinct for centuries. In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, CGI is responsible for conjuring all the realistic-looking dinosaurs that send our hearts racing. But not all. Here’s a look at how the three main stars of the show are created.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The Making of T-Rex

The majestic T-Rex may be CGI in some of the shots, but not all. There’s one scene where director Colin Trevorrow ups the ante in delivering an extremely life-like T-Rex. Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) needed to get blood for Blue, and find themselves in a cage with a tranquilised T-Rex. The scene has extreme close-ups with the T-Rex, and with Claire and Owen interacting with it. The T-Rex was heaving, breathing, drooling and when awoken, roaring, very much like how a real animal would act. Instead of relying on CGI, Trevorrow went old-school, constructing a gigantic animatronic puppet so that the interactions between the actors and the dinosaur would be realistic.

In all, the animatronic weighed a few tonnes and took eight puppeteers working simultaneously to operate it. One person is required to lift the body, while two operate the neck, with two more to move the head using radio control. Then one person is needed to move the eyes, one to control the breathing and flaring of nostrils, with one last person to handle the jaw movement.

Here’s a closer look at how it’s done:

The Making of Blue

One of the main stars of the show is Blue, the Velociraptor who is highly intelligent. For close-up shots with Blue, such as when she’s resting, the filmmakers constructed a full-scale animatronic so that puppeteers could perform it. But that’s not all, Blue is then further enhanced with CGI to create a layer of texture to her. Industrial Light & Magic’s Jance Rubinchik, who supervised animation for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom shares with Animation World Network, “We augmented her [in post] to add a complexity of motion.” He added, “Heavy breathing, muscle firing, the motion in her throat accompanying guttural sounds. Those things are difficult for animatronics. So, she is a hybrid. You can’t tell where the animatronic begins and the CG Blue starts.”

The artists at ILM would track Blue’s CG head to match the animatronic and add special touches, like augmenting her nostrils, eyes, and around and lips. The artists likened it to applying CG “makeup” to Blue to make her more attractive, or in this case, more realistic. Rubinchik stresses that although CGI is involved, the contact between Blue and Owen is completely real, “the eye lines are accurate. But, the CG augmentation makes the performance more believable.”

The Making of the Indoraptor

Similarly, the Indoraptor is a combination of animatronics and CGI. The dinosaur itself is a hybrid based on Blue’s DNA, but three times Blue’s size. This time around, the team didn’t need to create a full-sized animatronics but just zoomed in on its head. Its head, claws and hands are in full animatronics mode and performed by puppeteers for close-up scenes.

When crafting his expressions and movements, the filmmakers also factored in the Indoraptor’s personality. Rubinchik says, “He’s mentally broken, devoid of empathy and compassion. He’s just a killing machine. We wanted to express that in the way he moves. He’s very twitchy. We drove that in animation with controls that would inform the creature dev team. They would use what we were driving with those specialized controls to drive their simulations.”

One challenge, according to Rubinchik, was his neck movements, “When he’s a quadruped, he really had to crane his neck up, and the hard shells down his back had to slide over one another.” He elaborated, “We needed to control that line, how the angle at the top of his head would play, and how the movement worked as it entered his collarbone and torso.”

The end result is a menacing but magnificent dinosaur that sends chills down our spine.