[Interview] Sean Konrad for MONARCH: LEGACY OF MONSTERS

Following the thunderous battle between Godzilla and the Titans that leveled San Francisco and the shocking revelation that monsters are real, MONARCH: THE LEGACY OF MONSTERS tracks two siblings following in their father’s footsteps to uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch.

Clues lead them into the world of monsters and ultimately down the rabbit hole to Army officer Lee Shaw (played by Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell), taking place in the 1950s and half a century later when Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows. The dramatic saga – spanning three generations – reveals buried secrets and how epic, earth-shattering events can reverberate through our lives.

For the release of AppleTV+’s MONARCH: THE LEGACY OF MONSTERS, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with VFX supervisor Sean Konrad. During the interview, they discussed everything from what new technologies were used to bring the kaiju of the series to life, how they went about executing those epic battle sequences, and which kaiju is his favorite.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Sean. What were some of the new technologies or techniques that were used to bring these monsters to life? 

Sean Konrad: A lot of the technology that we use right now is very similar to what we used in 2014 when I was an artist on the first Godzilla legendary movie. So a lot of it is really similar, but it’s just more refined. Things are moving faster, and it’s easier to simulate things that are complicated. You can do denser geometry. All of those things are advancing at a really rapid pace. For the viewer, it sometimes doesn’t feel that different, but the reality is that technology is changing, and it’s allowing us to do more and more and more. It’s a force multiplier rather than suddenly seeing something that fundamentally looks different.

Rendering and shading had a big turning point [around] 2015, 2016, where you had a more realistic tracing model that didn’t have to be crazy expensive to render. One of the big things that changed between 2014 and 2019 is one of the companies that did a majority of the Godzilla work for 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters changed renders between those two processes. Suddenly their backend rendering was more realistic out of the box. So it was like, well, you don’t have to cheat so much, and it becomes a lot easier for the artists to work on.

One of the reasons so many of us tune in to Godzilla movies is because of the incredible battle sequences between the monsters. How do you approach designing and executing these battles to ensure they are visually stunning? 

Sean Konrad: You start the same way that you start with a lot of conventional action sequences. You start with storyboards, and you try to find iconic shots, and you do previs on top of that so that you can then be like, okay, that works, and that doesn’t work. A lot of the undergirding philosophy of how Matt Shakman and Jess Hall conceptualized the pilot is they wanted the point of view to be subjective from the human perspective.

So, you sell the scale by keeping the camera with the people for 90 percent of things. Then, if you go wide or big, you already have the context of what that scale is from being down on the ground with them. Jess Hall had a quote that he was using that during the early stages of this you should be so close to the action that you can smell it. I think that was from a war photographer that he was quoting, but that was how we wanted to approach the action scenes and make it feel consequential.

Lastly, among the MonsterVerse creatures, which monster stands out as your favorite?

Sean Konrad: I love that Rodan design from King of the Monsters. I think that is such a terrific design, and we’ve only got to see it a little bit here and there. Maybe they’ll be more stuff of it in the future but it’s such a great design.

MONARCH: THE LEGACY OF MONSTERS airs new episodes every Friday exclusively on AppleTV+.

Shannon McGrew
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