EYE OF THE STORM featuring Lovett
We had about twelve weeks to do the work, with two to three artists working at any given time. Wes Ball supervised the effort with the help of Brad Hawkins, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Barber, Mark Molnar, and Joy Horvath. We used this project as a test bed for implementing some new tools and workflows into our normal pipeline. All of the compositing was done in After Effects using a 16bit linear workflow in full HD. We spent a lot of time up front developing a complex overall grade that got us close to final images very quickly. Fortunately, the super stylized look we were going for helped us out considerably. We used Modo exclusively for the final cg renders, something a bit out of the norm for us. The process wasn’t without it’s headaches, but working with it’s incredibly fast preview renderer meant we could light and compose shots very quickly. Typically we’d try to nail the look in the render, along with a few helpful passes like Ambient Occlusion and a Depth Pass.
Animation was the big challenge with Modo, as this isn’t exactly the program’s strong suit. We ended up using MDDs exported out of both Maya and Lightwave for our various dynamics and character animation needs. MDDs are native to Lightwave, but we used David Stripinis’ modomotion3 script to get MDDs out of Maya.
For almost every shot, we transferred the 3D camera out of modo into a 3D After Effects environment. That allowed us quick placement of 2D assets into the 3D shots. This helped with building the cloud environments. We mostly used still images of clouds, but occasionally we were able to slip in some custom cloudtank footage shot on RED by Brad Hawkins. He’ll be making those assets available as downloadable VFX assets, so we’ll keep you posted on that.
By the end, we were able to work very efficiently for a project this complex in such a tight turnaround. Surprisingly, a big reason it worked was our use of Dropbox. It really simplified the management; making sure everyone was working with current assets, not to mention the peace-of-mind knowing we had multiple backups for safety. Be sure to take a look at the vfx progression reel below, along with a nifty little behind-the-scenes video cut by the guys at Soap Box. Enjoy!
>VFX Progression Reel
The dragon represents the character’s inner demons. While it only shows up in a few shots, we had a very short time to execute with all the other needs of the project. It started with a concept sketch by Mark Molnar. Once everyone was happy with the design, Joy Horvath stepped in to model the creature in zbrush. Rigging and animation was done inside Lightwave 10 using a fairly standard IK setup along with some soft-dynamics for the wings. Once animation was finished, MDDs were exported and imported into Modo for final texturing and rendering. We used a big family of apps for this one!
>Bluescreen vs Final
In the end, we created 60 shots totaling over 6 minutes of vfx and animation. It all started with the footage shot by cinematographer Craig Kief on RED MX. American Cinematographer ran a great article in the January 2011 issue detailing his process. Below is a side by side comparison of the original bluescreen footage and the final fx work we provided. Use the full screen button to watch in HD.