Australian Effects and Animation Festival - Tue
On my way to the event in the morning I was reading my Machinima for Dummies book, which I felt was quite appriopriate given some of the sessions that were coming our way throughout the day. Even though the budgets for the films we would see represented all count in the many many millions instead.
I will cover a few points on each of the presentations and find the common threads and anecdotes that flavour the event for me.
Richard Frances-Moore : Weta Digital
To start things off we had Richards lovely NZ accent talking about the CG work on The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. It isnt out yet, but features the Loch Ness Monster and how it grows up befreinded bu little Angus. Richard talked about the benefit of being able to work with the character from previs/design right through the film.
Armed with lots of reference material of dogs and birds and seals etc they prevised up all manner of swim motions and shot sequences. Richard talked quite a bit about the animation of the monster, making sure to keep him an animal and not introduce humanistic qualities. Plus the concept of allowing him to 'fail heroically', much in the vain of Indiana Jones. This drives his character and helps us relate to him. Particularly when they focus on the points where the character needs to make a decision.
They used Maya for all the animation work with a heap of custom tools for muscle, bones, faces, shaders for Renderman, path nailing and more. The pipeline was basically: Model up; slice for the animator rig; animate the shot; publish skeleton (every half second per shot); to the creature dept to animate muscle and skin; bake out just the skin and onto lighting. Some of the animation sequences shown and covered were very clever.
The most striking feature of what we were shown was the stunning realisation of the skin, muscle, sinew and bone on the monster. The way the skin slides over deforming skeleton and musculature with its beautiful texture and translucency was truly inspired. Check the trailer for some brief examples.
Michael Elson : Moving Picture Company
Another super accent, this time from London, Michael walked us through a range of films that MPC had worked on through the year.
Michael showed us some sneak footage of 10,000 BC and the mammoths that needed a heap of work and proprietry systems for fur etc (each has 1 million hairs and there are herds of them). I liked that they CG'ed out all the grass from the camera shots and replaced it with CG grass instead (with the exception of a small patch around the live action humans).
Elizabeth the Golden Age was done much faster and with a much lower budget. They modelled the ships in Maya and compositied them onto shots with all the water effects and a host of other layers. They used specific simulation tools to handle sails and ropes for which they had so many. I liked his comment from the director who was asking them to create "operatic realism"
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix they isued baked in matt paintings into environments and composites to save time. They prevised sequences like the fireworks to allow them to have computer controlled lighting rigs during filming to get the coloured lights on their actors. He broke down a handful of the shots and the effects work required in bits like the duel betwix'd Voldemort and Dumbledore. They are already working on the next HP movie - cool.
Fred Clause got a look in for all those elves - lots of CGed and mocaped ones to be seen, plus more projected matt paintings.
Sunshine was what Michael was most proud of, with its 750 CG/Effects shots and being a UK film. The spacecraft model had a staggering 2GB of geometry data - that is insane in so many ways. They had to write up special ways to handle that data size and Maya cant do it. He showed us plenty of examples of the lighting issues they had to work through with the extreme lighting conditions.
There was coverage of DI (Digital Intermediate) Grading for a film like this.
Duncan Brinsmead : AutoDesk
Showing off the fun and games of ncloth and the other simulation bits of Maya is always entertaining. Seeing Duncan do it added some depth as we got to see some stunning real-time examples both as video and live in Maya. Some of the coolest bits were his slinky, phone cord, book, flag, shrink wrap, parachute and finally his paper planes.
Duncan has all this stuff on his blog over at AutoDesk - plenty to inspire and I will definately have to check it all out in more detail soon!!
[some images from the tutes on Duncan's blog]
Lindsay Adams : Animal Logic
Lindsay spent his hour giving us a close look at the work Animal Logic did to create the look of 300 in all its glory. Seeing the energy they put into making it all so stylised and deliberately non-realistic was great. How they used their blood references, created new skies to create things - particularly 'the Frank shots' was revealing. This film warraned some more discussion on colour grading and how they 'half crushed' things to get closer to the finished look, while also leaving enough room for the final grade.
Lindsay's crew 'temped' up 150 shots in 5 weeks to get a rough (but still very good) comp blocking done to feed that back into the full creation process. They used Shake for their comp needs and mentioned quite often the need to share with other vendors on the project.
Dominique Pouliquen : REALVIZ
A French accent this time as we saw the quite stunning work that RealViz is allowing now by automating multiple camera matches and then video motion capture.
The software must be expensive, but things like the nokia tattoo advert show what can be done with much reduced effort.
Greg Yepes & Phil Barrenger : Rising Sun Pictures
Bringing some fun to things were Greg and Phil from RSP who talked through the creation of the CG work for The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (I looked at this on Day275). Each shot went through the storyboards, reference, tests, build and then composite phases.
They showed us the footage they used as reference for the effect on the water sign, it is on Youtube as well featuring NASA and their bubbles (check the end).
I noted that most of the presenters had Mac hardware (laptops to be precise). There were 4 presenters on Mac and 2 on Windows laptops (one xp and one Vista). That is enough for today - more tomorrow!!
Back into WoW
I also couldnt help myself when I got back, and had a little venture into WoW. I havent done this for ages and just pottered around with new characters trying to get a feel for how much (if any) creative freedome the game allows to actually roleplay something. I am not sure - finding a character that will hold seems hard.