Two of 3 spots. “Evolution” was a small team, 3 weeks, lighting and effects with Softimage and Arnold.
I love small but intense projects like this.
“Run” was primarily Maya/Vray with a touch of ICE. The studio (Royale) is only 6 years old but advancing fast, and it’s been a real pleasure working with them. For their first exploration of ICE, Royale invited in some familiar SI friends – Ciaran Moloney, Steven Caron, Leonard Kotch, Billy Morrison and yours truly doing a first gig start to finish as a CG sup (which with guys like this mostly involved saying “go for it.”)
Like the Psyop “Telstra” spot, this commercial essentially required us to create a system for knitting cloth from massive numbers of strands. Leonard Kotch wrote a system which performs many of the same tasks as the Psyop “Entwiner” tool, but he took a slightly different direction, it was fascinating to compare how the two diverged. The progressive animation required for these two shots resulted in a pretty flexible and broad system, which we are currently using for the last of the three spots, which will wrap in production soon.
Royale has been an enthusiastic and fun group to work with and it’s been great getting to show a studio as strong as they are in design some of the possibilities ICE can bring to jobs like this. Expect to see some version of Leonard’s “LKFabric” system gifted to the community before long – very cool Royale, thanks! (They also throw good parties, their 6’th birthday celebration was impressive and… unusual.)
I am a big fan of Polynoid. Ever since their first images of cybernetic snails came out I’ve been hooked on their often-dark blend of art-meets-tech imagery.
Fabian Pross of Polynoid was, for a while, maintaining a very cool blog (come on Fabian, post new stuff!) One post in particular puts into words a critical concept I and many others often try to get across to newer artists – the importance of avoiding simulation where possible.
Simulations usually don’t quite achieve what you want them to, visually. The trap people fall into is to try to force a behavior out of a simulation. You end up making endless iterations while the setup you’re using grows more and more bloated and slow. A single directoral change becomes a nightmare. You lose control and the limitations of your setup starts to dictate the look.
The solution is to create what I think of as “deterministic” solutions – setups which change over time, but in very strict ways you specify. That’s one of the things I was trying to get at with the “post simulation” tutorials, the benefit of offloading much of the look outside of what is simulated.
Even skilled vfx artists fall into this trap with some regularity. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen production scenes which have grown bloated to the point of containing hundreds of forces and collision objects just to try to achieve a simple effect. You can’t afford it. A simple directoral change blows the whole thing apart. Stop. Take a deep breath. Don’t go over that cliff. Simulate judiciously, in small doses, only where you have to.
Simple simulation + deterministic stuff for a complex look = control.
And control is what makes a VFX artist, in my mind. Anyone can pull levers until they get a nice result out of fumeFX. But to achieve brilliant results which are new or spot-on to what is needed in prodution, you have to have control – be it in fumeFX, ICE, Realflow, Houdini or whatever. And one of the best ways to achieve control is to only simulate where you have to, and keep it simple when you do.
Fabian puts this idea into words better in this post. Even if the techniques he uses here are specific to ICE, the underlying message and workflow is the same everywhere – avoid simulation to gain control and speed.
Even when you use simulation, who says that you have to stop there? Bake it and use it as an element you shape further or build on. This concept is really powerful. A good example of this idea in practice is demonstrated by a little DCC-agnostic tool called Sparta. Simulate, then shape the results.
Some early reviews for ALVH. I grew quite fond of this film while working on it, I’m hoping viewers will have a lot of fun seeing it. Ok, ok I know… It was a ridiculous premise that worked well in the novel but which may simply be ludicrous on screen. And I know, there were people who didn’t like the campy stuff, they retiming or color, etc etc ad infinitum. But it’s a vampire film, not a period drama. Have fun with it.
There is innovative atmosphere galore: this doesn’t look like much of anything we’ve seen before. Mostly, though, the overwhelming impression I’m left with is sheer delight, that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is so very much better than it has any right to be.
But the film’s title tells the whole story and sets the stage for its over the top action and freight train like pace. It’s called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…Let’s have some damn fun. There are a lot of amusing nods to historical events and characters that anyone with a high school diploma will find entertaining. But it’s the overall feel of the film that I loved most. Beside’s Walkers spot on Abe, it’s a very dark and violent film. Initially I was sure the studio would want to sell as many tickets as possible to a film that had vampire in the title and slap a PG-13 rating on it. However, Fox, trusting a successful R-rated director in Timur, held nothing back and the film is better for it. It’s incredibly violent and features vampires in the correct and demonic light with which they should be seen. It’s not overly campy but it’s just enough to smirk at and you’ll find yourself saying “Really?” only a few times. The action is far too much fun and grabs you from the first axe swing till the last twirl. Abe’s axe is the new bending bullet.
And some viewer reviews from early screenings look promising…
So I saw the first ever premier of the movie. First of all don’t let the title scare you, this movie is an action packed, fun flick. The best part of the movie is definitely the Action scenes, the special effects are awesome. There are some very innovative scenes, and great cinematography. The director used a lot of cool angles with a bunch of slow mo special effects. The plot is decent and there are no lulls, the action picks up right when the movie needs a boost. The vampires look great as well, especially Erin Wasson as Vadoma… gotta love hot evil vampire chicks.
Overall I was very impressed, having never read the book I did not really know what to expect. Acting was good, nothing Oscar worthy but no poor performances….the action was absolutely fantastic. It was over the top, fast paced, bloody, and very well done. If you don’t mind seeing vampires getting hacked, slashed, and bashed to death in a wide variety of ways, you’ll enjoy this movie.
I’m looking forward to seeing the public reaction to ALVH in the theatres: go check it out and let me know what you think. :D
I had nothing to do with the making of Tangled, but it’s a great Disney film which blew me away, and I always like “making of” breakdowns. So I took a look at this, and felt it did such a good job of showing how a successful final result comes from a steady progression of improvements. Whether you’re making a fully animated film or a live action sequence, the best results come from a back-and-forth iterative process of test images to build up the final product.
In today’s “faster/cheaper” production mentality there is often significant pressure to reduce iterations and the time spent making a shot – if you watch through this sequence and imagine cutting out a lot of the improvements you see which are made over time you can get a feel for how the extra time and effort makes all of the difference. The flip side of this, of course, is that without good artistry and good direction all the time in the world won’t make a difference.
Too many great ideas are killed by a rush to minimize costs and get stuff out fast. This may make profits for those who deal with high-volume-low-quality kinds of projects, but I note that the giants with some of the most incredible work (and full coffers) tend to follow a mentality where extra time, effort and resources are spent to make a final product which is clearly of superior quality.
In the end, quality pays, and its the result of investing in talent, tools, and organization.
In this sequence we see a lot of things being done right…
- Time taken for previsualization.
- Tools available to allow communication via painting on frames, showing thought and investment in pipeline.
- An area set aside for the artist to make reference, showing insight into artistry and the willingness to spend money to enable it.
- Many iterations, showing time was spent to get the shot right, and the production was organized with regular milestones in place (and time set aside to achieve them).
The final result, a great film which not only was a creative success but one which did well financially ($590 mil box office revenue and a new and lasting Disney heroine providing decades of continuing income.)
The February trailer is pretty cool!
FearNet has a nice post on Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Here’s my favorite bit:
– This movie puts vampires back where they belong, and that’s as bad guys and not heartthrobs; who should be beheaded with an axe and not kissed by tweens. That’s what you can expect. Badass vampires getting treated like the killers that they are.
I can’t tell you how awesome working on this one is. By far it’s the most creative and enjoyable project I’ve worked on in years. It’s a really fun film.
“Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted) bring a fresh and visceral voice to the blood-thirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history’s greatest hunter of the undead.”
Update: It’s out, but Disney marketing seems to have melted down and the result has been poor box office returns. A pity, because it’s actually quite fun and well worth a watch. Seriously, it’s a good film – watch and see for yourself. :D