Sunday, June 28, 2009

Terminator Salvation: Battle of the Machines

In Terminator Salvation, the Day of Reckoning has disappeared and the robots have taken the world. T-600 robots are hunting and capturing humans and robots, T-800, made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, are pending. And a new breed of man-machine was configured with a human heart and brain of the dead man held harvested Marcus Wright.

With the film with a large number of robots, VFX for asylum has been to create and animate the T-600 and Marcus cyborgs. Since the details necessary to create a robot realistic, Houdini was used for rigging and animation. asylum chose Houdini because of its digital pipeline to allow different people to work on the same platform, while making it easier for all the pieces together for final output.

The main platform built initially started using the Auto Rig tool included with Houdini. This tour was not to meet the personalized demands of the drivers and the physics of different elements cyborgs. Using the platform of tools for self, asylum has been able to work at their own pace and not have to call each risk as soon as possible. Therefore, it is easier to manage the development of the platform and avoid overdeveloping features that are not necessary.

"We knew we were never blocked by a specific solution," said Jeff Willett, Technical Director, Asylum VFX. "Houdini digital you can experiment with different techniques and emptying into the pipe with ease and know that you can cancel or modify later. Often, it takes a temporary position on the platform, after the test that our solution has been rapid enough for the final effect. "

Using Houdini, asylum May be required to upgrade the platforms and the world was immediately able to use new features without having to think. The team was able to make many changes to all platforms and the changes went smoothly on all vaccines. This allows each shot consistent, CG supervisors and never had to worry that someone is using an old version of the platform.

Working with the Match Move Rigs
While the rigs were under development, animation and lighting is expected to start soon. Auto-platform tools to divide the platform in an animation or a game platform or chain to move and rig endoskeleton. The party equipment can be used by leaders to begin putting in place the key, without waiting for the rigs endoskeleton be "finished". Once a team has been detailed endoskeleton then be plugged into the match and move the platform. In this way, the time for design changes to the final models is minimal.

"All of the matchmovers were new brand to Houdini, most of them had never used the software before," said WILLETTE. "There are fundamental issues which have emerged, but results for the whole team for the second day. After a few weeks, they were seasoned pros, and even taught some of the users of Houdini" .

First, the matchmovers were concerned that the workflow is different from how they were used to work in other packages, but once you get used to Houdini animation tools and Features towers, which were quickly underway. If ever there is a limitation of the digital platform can be easily upgraded to meet your needs.

Nested Assets
Because the robot is made of the rigs in different parts of the body, in May each mechanism responsible for an internal component. These have been created as nested digital assets that can be inserted and updated at any time. Initially, it was not possible to determine which parts of the robot are to see on the screen to asylum matchmoving wait until the scene in his place. Then, as the film progresses, and the shots fell, the team can decide which components are really necessary and focus on specific areas.

The use of active nests, it is easy to upgrade the platforms without compromising the animation is already completed. For example, a few blows before Marco matchmoved hands were rigged. Once you have the hand of the asylum model completed, the platform has been updated with the animation controls for the hands and fingers. The weapons were lively and organizers had to add animation to the end of the scene.

"Marcus is a creative and technically difficult, but exciting, we had to sleemlessly blend live action plate, equipment, 3D flesh and soft tissue, and a 3D sub-nano fully articulated and animated 3D metal endoskeleton.” said John Fragomeni, VFX Supervisor, VFX asylum. "Our main considerations for the use of Houdini in Terminator Salvation 3D character of our work on the T600 and Marcus is the depth and quality of our artists the flexibility of hose provided. As a VFX supervisor is comforting to know that we can make improvements Last minute intuitive, with no negative impact on workflow. "

For the T-600 and Marcus asylum used a combination of Houdini and Renderman. Houdini has a strong connection with RenderMan embedded in the team, therefore, could have everything in one package. It was a great interest and has contributed to limiting the amount of interoperability required. Houdini’s digital technology, the everyone lighting to matchmoving knew they have always been to work with most current versions and new animation was published when it is immediately available, without conversions. This streamlining of the work has made life easier for everyone and that artists focus on robots as cool as possible.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rising Sun Pictures on X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 2009)

Que: Can you give us an overview of RSP's work for the film?

----- RSP initially provided pre-visualisation services for the film, as well as some onset supervision at Fox Studios. For the visual effects sequences, RSP created:

* the juvenile CG 'Bone Claws' for young Logan as they first emerge from his hands
* the adamantium injection sequence involving the CG injection machine, gun and needles, CG bubbles and CG adamantium claws. As part of that sequence we also created a full CG door that is cut through with Wolverine's shiny new adamantium claws (the 'X' as seen in the trailer)
* additional photoreal matte paintings for the secret military base and the carnival.

Que: What was your brief for the look and feel of the effects?
----- Tom Proctor initially took a brief for the VFX in LA from the VFX Supervisor Pat McClung and Director Gavin Hood. It was great to be able to talk with them to get an idea of where they were heading. Whilst the previous X-Men films and the comics gave a good reference for the style, the sequences that Rising Sun worked on had to sit with the onset props.

For both the bone claws and the adamantium claws, we referenced footage with the claw prosthetics, to show how they would interact within the environment. This gave a good starting point. For some of the shots, we had to remove the practical claws before adding the redesigned CG claws. For the adamantium injection sequence, the machine was mostly complete onset, and the prop of the gun with needle was sent to us to use as a reference to build our CG version.

Que: What kind of reference or previz did you look to for your shots? Did you have to embark on any concept work or R&D?
-----In addition to reference that was shot with practical props with the live action plate, production also provided us with concepts, reference and previz. Renders from other vendors were provided for contextual accuracy. The bone claws went through many rounds of development before the final look was achieved, as did the adamantium claws and the injection machine. Most of these had to be approached on a case-by-case basis, to build on the RSP pipeline already in place from previous shows.

Que: How did you approach your shots technically? What techniques did you end up using? Can you talk about 1 or 2 of your main shots or sequences in particular and how they were accomplished?
-----For young James Logan's bone claws, the intention was originally to keep the practical prosthetic as seen in the original plates and reference. Unfortunately they didn't hold up in close ups. More specifically, the design of the bone claws was changed throughout, and there eventually became continuity issues that needed to be resolved through the use of CG.

On the back of James' hand, we applied a warping effect where the skin on the back of his hand is rising and moving. It was a prolonged creepy moment as the claws grew under the skin and eventually emerged out the knuckles. We rendered some 3d passes to apply the warp in 2d. That went through a few different iterations with different levels of detail - our brief was that it needed to be creepy, but not gruesome - the PG-13 rating drove that look, so there couldn't be anything overly-gory. We tried some extreme stretching of the skin in some early versions, but it was too much for the censors and had to be dialed back. Although the bone claw breaks through the skin between his knuckles, we never see any blood. They travel under the skin then slowly flay out.

For the design of the bone claws, we went through a few different styles before arriving at the final look. As far as modeling, we had a practical bone claw sent to us which we used as reference, in addition to reference shot on set of the child model. This was developed as the look and texture progressed. At first there was a smooth, waxy translucent look, then we progressed on to something which looked very much like bone. Some of the early developments involved looking at the way that bones calcify as they develop.

There was a gag we were trying to do with the translucency of the bone - to progress from a finger-nail type vein bone which transitioned to a mature calcified look as it emerged from his knuckle. The timing of the shots meant this gag could not be played out - so the bones ended up coming out with the 'mature' calcified look, and you can see some of the veins beneath the surface - we really tried to get some of the translucency of real bones in to the final design.

For the fully CG shot of him tearing his way out of a metal door with his new adamantium claws, we needed to create an entirely CG shot. We start by seeing the exterior of a rusty metal door, and the claws punch through the door then tear out an X in the door. It was originally intended to be shot practically but the design of the door was changed significantly. We went through revisions to get the look of the door just right for the fully CG shot, and that was transposed in to the subsequent live action plate where the practical door was fully replaced.

Angels & Demons: Digital Churches Interiors

Working on Rome environments was CIS Vancouver. Led by VFX Supervisor Mark Breakspear, the team created three CG church environments: Santa Maria della Vittoria, Santa Maria del Popolo and St Peter's Basilica. All three churches were off the shooting grid, so visual effects were the only way they could appear in the film.

The approach was to recreate them digitally, stitching together thousands of digital photographs taken at the real locations, and projecting them onto accurate computer models of the buildings. "We used three Canon EOS 1DS MK2 cameras, with gave fantastic quality in the low light levels of the churches" Breakspear says. "We were not able to get HDR in the truest sense, but we managed to get around that by also shooting with a stills film camera. We used Kodak 5218, which was the same film stock from the main unit shoot. By taking image on film, we were able to make use of the wider range from those images for windows, highlights and areas where we wanted to add detail into the shadow areas. We scanned our film images at 5040 × 3684 @ 240 dpi, while our digital images were captured at 4064 x 2074 @ 72 dpi."

For Santa Maria della Vittoria and Santa Maria del Popolo, the art department built one set that could work for both churches, with a little redress. For St. Peter's Basilica, the actors were shot on an entirely greenscreen set, with only the floor and a partial column to orient the vfx team. "We ended up replacing the column and the floor, but don't tell anyone," Breakspear chuckles.

"For Popolo, there were lots of issues with the practical set not lining up with the real location photography, due to creative license being heavily used in its construction. In the end, we were able to bring both locations together by duplicating areas where needed, and hiding other areas that no longer existed in the practical set. Santa Maria del Popolo was the only church we built using LightWave, everything else was built in Maya. When we worked on The Da Vinci Code, we did all our shots in LightWave, as at the time, our pipeline was more centered around this package for this type of work. Four years later, our pipeline has moved toward Maya, and although we still love what LightWave can do, it made sense to split the builds across both packages. All the churches created in Maya were rendered in mental ray. Each frame was generally broken out into 25-40 specific layers, giving the compositor great control on adjusting the look we wanted."

For Santa Maria della Vittoria, Bickerton shot a miniature of the ceiling and the resulting images were digitally projected onto a CG roof that could be placed in any of the shots. Fire, embers, heat haze and smoke enhancements were also added to the practical fire. All of the compositing was done in Shake.

For St Peter's Basilica, the task was far greater, for CIS had to create just about the entire environment, other than the actor. "Normally, you would try to avoid this, as that much CG real estate is typically very hard to pull off convincingly," Breakspears observes. "Our CG Supervisor, Karen Ansel felt that we could master all the nuances required to fool the eye, and together with 2D Supervisor, Martyn Culpitt, worked out all the required layers and approaches needed to pull it off. The end result is pretty amazing!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Need for Speed SHIFT Profile Trailer

Unlike other games in the NFS series, Need for Speed SHIFT's g-force element will heavily influence gameplay for both the player and AI. Plus, you'll have an in-depth customization mode, which even lets you add nitrious to any vehicle. Video after the break.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

P.E.R.F.E.C.T Compositing

PERFECT Compositing

Originally posted by Andrew Kramer

I have been developing a simple guideline for better compositing that is broken down to 7 key points. This is by no means a ‘complete’ guide for every scenario but it should be a good place to start. I plan on detailing many of these techniques in the future but here is a basic overview.

I call it: P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

When compositing a scene, you want to consider the perspective of your plate (raw footage) and carefully mix elements that align with your shot. A major perspective conflict can be a give-away that your shot was poorly composited.

Esthetics (aesthetics):
Make it look cool. Keep an eye on your composition and balance the elements in your scene evenly. Look at the composite as a whole and not just the area you are working on.

The world is unpredictable so you want to use variations in your compositing work. One example is when creating an army of soldiers from a small group of extras. It is important to offset the individuals by time and space so they do not look mechanically duplicated. This is also important when adding muzzle flashes and ricochets. Don’t just reuse the same muzzle fire or ricochet, use multiple clips and alter the size and rotation so that your mind doesn’t pick up on the pattern of similarity.

The way elements are blended in a scene is a top priority. Feathering is a great way to blend multiple elements together in a scene as well as performing a subtle light wrap. But don’t overuse the light wrap!

When you composite an element in your scene, ask yourself how would this affect the surrounding environment? When an explosion goes off, does it leave a hole or burn marks? Does the bright light cast on the walls around it? Be creative and think of clever ways to make your fx elements blend with the real world. You should also consider on-set action for planned visual effects. Having real interaction in your scene goes a long way to sell a shot like pillows on a couch being shot-up by a machine gun. A simple string works well to ‘toss’ the pillows around as they are blown away.

Matching color and light are essential to photo realistic compositing. Obviously you want the fx elements to match the color of the scene but you also want to match the contrast level too. Be mindful of the light direction in your scene and be sure to use elements that cooperate.

There is a rhythm to cinema and visual effects. There is action and reaction. Let your shot flow and unfold. If you force things to happen in a short amount of time, the shot may turn out mechanical and choppy.

Feel free to expand on these ideas and continue to create impressive visual effects. In the mind of an artist nothing is ever “perfect”, but I like to think of the word as an verb for a work in progress as we attempt to ‘perfect’ the art.