How 'Shape of Water' mixes digital effects with monster makeup

CNET | 3/9/2018 | Richard Trenholm
bluelilly (Posted by) Level 3
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Digital animation augments the performance of actor Doug Jones, who wore an amphibian creature costume to act in "The Shape of Water".

There's something rather old-school about multi-Oscar winner "The Shape of Water", and not just because it harks back to classic monster movies. Writer and director Guillermo del Toro also insisted on a traditional approach of shooting the film's fantastical elements for real rather than leaning on modern digital effects.

Throwback - Ethos - Sets - Makeup - Film

That throwback ethos of building real sets and using makeup for the film's bizarre fish creature paid off, earning del Toro's movie 13 Academy Award nominations and four wins, including Best Picture and Best Production Design.

Rewinding to before the Oscars, I caught up earlier with the film's digital effects supervisor, Trey Harrell of Toronto-based special effects company Mr X, to find out how much of the film was done for real and how much was computer graphics.

Harrell - Percent - Result - In-camera - Set

Harrell estimated that as much as 80 percent of the finished result was actually captured in-camera on the set before being augmented by CG. This despite what he described as a "really, really modest" budget -- somewhere around the cost of "two episodes of 'Game of Thrones'", he joked.

To play the amphibious creature at the heart of the film, actor Doug Jones donned a fish-man costume and heavy makeup designed by prosthetics company Legacy Effects. That's unusual these days, as fantastical characters like Paddington, Snoke or Caesar in CG extravaganzas such as the Star Wars or Planet of the Apes movies are rarely played by actors in costume. But having an actual fish-man wandering around in front of the camera helped del Toro and the other filmmakers in various ways.

Doug - Jones - Costume - Makeup - On-set

Doug Jones in costume and makeup as he appeared on-set without CG enhancements. Note the little red dots used as tracking markers for the digital...
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