VFX Artist Talks Creating The Sentinels For X-Men Days Of Future Past

X-Men Days Of Future Past has plenty of memorable moments to its credit, but from a visual effects standpoint, nothing quite tops the incredible animation of the massive robots known as Sentinels. The opening of the film features a breathtaking scene where Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Drake / Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart) face off against a hoard of these mutant exterminating robots. The twist, in this dystopian future these Sentinels are now able to absorb and mimic any mutants’ powers they choose.

Visual effects supervisor Mike Seymour explains (via Wired) how VFX outfit Motion Picture Company accomplished the feat.

“In the film they use metallic scales or blades that flare, indicating Mystique’s ability and her trademark appearance transition.“, he explains. MPC were able to use procedural animation and adapt it for the scales of the Sentinels initially but needed to take things a bit further.

“After further development work they realized they needed to introduce a whole new idea, the idea of a proxy representation for each individual scale, what became known as follicles. Quite sophisticated code was written that allows MPC to design the distribution for flaring and random orientation of each of these scales or blades, or making sure no blade intersected with another. This scale animation, which caused ripples across the Sentinels body was caged out as a point cloud and then stored as a matrix with various parameters for position, orientation or blade ID.”

X-Men Days Of Future Past Iceman Death

“Ultimately the Sentinels would incorporate 100,835 such blades on screen plus another 1,019 moving parts for inside their face And while procedural animation actually did work out rather well for controlling most of these follicles or blades those 1,019 parts, which we see when their faces break open, they all had to be animated by hand. The effects team were able then to have the Sentinels fight. Sunspot with solar flares, Iceman with artic cold, all while Colossus and Blink try to make their elaborate escape. All this made the Sentinels some of the most technically and unstoppable robots in movie history, which is, of course, why the X-Men needed to go back in time in the first place.”

While the effects are no doubt some of the greatest in film history. Seymour seems to get a few of the characters in the film mixed up with one another. “Colossus and Blink try to make their elaborate escape”? Anyway, if his team created these amazing effects he could confuse Jennifer Lawrence with Jennifer Tilly for all we care.


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