Tintin and The VFX Costume Designer

I went to see The Adventures of Tintin with Jr C this week. 
It was a rollicking good fun adventure movie, I recommend it, and costume geeks like me will love it. There was so much attention in the clothes that I oohed! and aahed! throughout the whole film. It's the first time I felt that fabric moved properly in an animation film and if you go see it, you'll be very impressed by the Castafiore scene where you can feel the light warm breeze moving the virtual silk gown she wears. (I couldn't find a screen shot, sorry, you'll have to see the movie!) 
I was so impressed, that I stayed through the credits and, in a very uncharacteristic move, I hunted down the VFX Costume Designer, Ms Lesley Burke-Harding, wrote her a gushing fan letter (without forgetting to mention that her Lords of The Rings costumes were awesome!) and asked her how she and her crew did it. 

I asked questions like : Did they motion capture silk? Do they make actual costumes? Is there a wool tweed animation specialist? How do they figure out wearing ease? Did they make the costumes and then filmed them and then animated them of is it the other way around? 
Guess what? She did take the time to answer, which I think is extraordinary. Unfortunately, she is under confidentiality clauses and can't talk about it. 

Photo Curtesy of the NYTimes

So still in the dark about how an actor dressed in a motion-capture suit like this can come out looking fully clothed on film, I asked Mr Gunnar Hansen (it wasn't difficult as I am related to him) to tell me more about VFX (visual effects) costumes.
"Cloth in CG (computer generated imagery) is super complex. They still have to create the surface models the same way as any other model, but they have to respect the dynamics and physics of cloth. This means they run physics simulations to react to the motion of the character or other forces like wind and gravity. They have to "tell" the surface where other objects are so that it does not penetrate or deform any other object nearby. They have to place "pins", "starch"  and "springs" to simulate stiffness and fold points. Then they run the simulations again and continually adjust the parameters.
They scan or paint the textures and colour, but then have to add a fur simulator to create "fuzz". The patterning is quite similar making real clothes (...), but once the modellers get it, they spend a lot of time "fitting" to the CG world around it. 
Apart from hair (in which every hair is a discreet object), cloth is really tough to make convincing. It's all about how it moves and reacts to forces and light that sells it in CG."
It's sounds like such a cool job! 

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