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3dsMax in Motion Pictures
Blade: Trinity

In this latest iteration of the popular motion picture series, Blade is confronted by the original vampire and his minions, who are out for more blood and Blade’s unique abilities. While excited by the project, CG Supervisor Jason Crosby described it as “massive”. “The majority of the 145 shots we were awarded centered on the “ashing” shots where the vampires are destroyed. And since Blade is a take-no-prisoners kind of guy, there would be lots of destruction”. This meant finding a particle system that was robust enough to handle the complexity that was requested by director David Goyer, which wasn’t easy. “We tried other out-of-the-box solutions but found that as soon as we needed rigid body simulation within the particles system and specific map based control of the particles they failed.”

Eventually, their search led to cebas’ new rule-based particle system called ThinkingParticles 2, and what they discovered was somewhat unexpected. “The biggest benefit we found was how the plug-in allowed us to create new tools within it. It’s rare that someone writes a tool that does exactly what we need out of the box for any given shot. So the usefulness of the tool becomes based on how customizable it is.”, described Crosby. “Since ThinkingParticles 2 uses small building blocks instead of large canned effects, it made it possible to design customized tests for our very specific production needs.” And this discovery in turn allowed them to begin the daunting task of creating major disintegration effects.

As is always the case in film work, the animation and look were absolutely critical. “ We needed to get the skeletons to fragment based on animated maps and then have those fragments be part of a rigid body simulation within the same particle system. The traditional method of dynamics within particle systems doesn’t take into account the actual shape of the particle so it wouldn’t work for our needs. Getting a bone fragment to bounce and roll realistically along the ground required a more sophisticated edge detection system for the dynamics, and we found that ThinkingParticles 2 is the only commercially available particle system with this capability” he exclaimed.

Furthermore, Jason’s team was pressed for time, so being able to repurpose the effects was essential. “While developing techniques to destroy the vampires, it was critical that it be quickly and easily reproducible,” Crosby explained, “With so many complex shots and a relatively short time frame of roughly five months to complete them; a true procedural approach that could quickly be applied to all vampires was the only option. With ThinkingParticles 2, not only could we deliver all of the shots in our short production cycle, it also ensured consistency and a look that the director loved. It was absolutely essential for the successful completion of the job.”

What’s more, cebas was there every step of the way. “cebas listened to all our requests” Jason stated, “this partnership helped create a powerful, production-proven tool; and it helped our studio’s quest to keep pushing the CG envelope in motion picture projects.” With dedicated DCP developers working in concert with one of Hollywood’s finest visual effects companies, it’s no surprise that ThinkingParticles 2 has received such high praise so early in its life.

Source article: Cebas PR article

"I just wanted to say thanks for all the hard work you did on Blade: Trinity. As those entrusted with the lion's share of effects, your efforts were really appreciated. The ashing shots were all spectacular and the green-screen tunnel sequence was flawless.

I look forward to working with you in the future"

David S. Goyer
Writer/Director - Blade Trinity

Source: Digital Dimension Site

The Incredibles

"One member of that A-team was Rick Sayre, supervising technical director for The Incredibles, his fourth film at Pixar. "Brad's storyboard was more like a live-action storyboard," says Sayre. "It was 2D, but it was created in [Adobe's] After Effects—it had the timing, the pacing, the camera moves."

The crew borrowed other tricks from live-action filmmaking as well. When characters performing inside a building did not react to action outside a window, for example, the equivalent of a first unit crew (the animators) worked on the characters' performances and a second unit worked separately on the outside scene. "It was as if the characters were on a greenscreen stage," says Sayre.

For some of those backgrounds, the crew even used 2½D matte paintings. "The second unit created 'digimattes' using 3ds max and Brazil," says Sayre, referring to Discreet's 3D software program and SplutterFish's rendering software. "It was great fun, ... liberating."

Virtually every type of natural phenomena appears in the film at least once, according to Sayre, from fire to fog. Most were created with computer graphics, but not all. One example: "When the baby is in the sink, we used a live-action water splash filmed in a kiddy pool," he says. "

Source: CGW Aricle

Exorcist: The Beginning

“The amount of work done in the short amount of time was quite astounding,” said Ben Girard, founder and president of Digital Dimension studios. “The Exorcist schedule was “hellish” from the get go, we had less than eight weeks to create full CG shots from the time we received the plates to the final delivery,” said Girard.

“We decided to develop the CG crows in parallel with the other visual effects shots and live-action compositing to increase efficiency. While the 3D modeling and lighting was happening, another team developed the fur and feathers system for the eerie black crows,” continued Girard.

Stephane Barbin, CG Supervisor on Exorcist: The Beginning claims, “The open architecture in Discreet’s 3ds max constantly helps us to go beyond the limits of our creativity. We feel that we can always choose from multiple solutions within 3ds max software to overcome our day to day CG character challenges”.

Digital Dimension relied on Discreet’s broad 3ds max environment of tools and plug-ins to create, customize and deliver the 3D imagery that was composited into the live content. The 3D toolset used was 3ds max software and character studio software (Discreet), HairFX (Turbo Squid), and Morph-O-Matic (Di-O-Matic).

"Once again, we are delighted to see Discreet customers like Digital Dimension continuing to put the visual effects fingerprint of 3ds max and character studio on major motion pictures like Exorcist: The Beginning," said Martin Vann, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. "As increasingly proven over the past years, Discreet's professional 3D animation workflow delivers the breadth and productivity digital artists demand and have come to rely on," said Vann.

Source: Digital Producer Article

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
According to Rothbart, The Orphanage worked on about 70 shots in the film. “Initially one facility was going to handle the effects. But then the project became so massive and the deadline so tight that the work was farmed out to a bunch of facilities,” he says. “We wanted to work on this film because it has a cool and interesting look, and we thought we could create some cool effects for it.”

In the end, the company worked on two main sequences. The first, “Dex Returns,” was fairly straightforward. “It’s a hovercraft sequence; about 60 shots—mostly a lot of CG interiors plus some CG exteriors of a hovercraft traveling through a tunnel and landing on a landing bay,” explains Ryan Tudhope, associate visual effects supervisor.

The other sequence, “Flying Fortress Returns,” was far more complicated. It appears in the film’s finale and highlights a climactic moment between Paltrow and Law’s characters. “It’s an important sequence, so we wanted to make it look great,” Rothbart says.

At 11 shots, this sequence was much shorter than the other one, but it involved many more elements. The more challenging of these elements were photoreal water, digital environments, and hundreds of metallic pods parachuting from the sky.

Being able to create the water in using 3ds max software was a “huge relief,” according to Almassizadeh. “We tried creating the water in another program initially,” he says, “but we weren’t getting the results we wanted quickly enough. Then one of our senior artists, Michael Spaw, who previously had written a water simulation program in using 3ds max software and Brazil, mentioned he could create a solution that would work on this project. And in just two weeks, we had a powerful 3ds max water simulator up and running.”

“Another problem with the other solutions we looked at was they didn’t allow us to create the water from geometry,” says Rothbart. “It was important that the water be actual geometry because the pods splash into and then float on the water as they land. Creating the water from geometry meant we could see the motion of the splashing and rippling water in 3D and finesse it there, as opposed to having to render it first. 3ds max was huge for us in this regard.”

To create the waves, the artists relied on the deformation and procedural noise tools in 3ds max. They used Discreet’s 3ds max software shaders to attain the correct level of reflection, refraction, and transparency.

In addition, they used the 3ds max Modifier Stack to optimize the geometry so that shots closer to the camera had greater detail than shots further away. “When you’re working on a film, one of your biggest challenges is determining how you’re going to render because images are so large and you need so much information to get them through the pipe,” states Rothbart. “As a result, optimizing your geometry is an important part of your workflow.” For this project this step was crucial because Rothbart says the team couldn’t have rendered the shots at all if they didn’t optimize the geometry first. “The Modifier Stack was helpful for this step,” he notes.

As with the water simulator, the artists also tested other packages to assess their efficiency in creating the highly metallic pods and gently floating parachutes in this sequence. Again, the other packages came up short. “Once again we ran into a wall in terms of speed and efficiency and our ability to art-direct the pods,” says Tudhope. “Specifically, the parachutes’ translucency was something we had difficulty doing in other packages. But a lot of what we needed to get the look we wanted was already in the Brazil shaders and in 3ds max, which saved us a lot of time. Plus, the software’s great integration with Brazil made it so easy.”

In addition to the water and the pods, the digital environments in this film also were challenging. But again, it was a challenge Discreet’s 3ds max software handled expertly. As Tudhope explains, the artists created the environments via projection mapping. “This technique relies on the theory of matte painting from the camera’s perspective in that you’re only working on what the camera will see. We take it to a certain level with 3ds max, render a frame, and send it to a matte painter, who paints on the frame all the details that would take us way too long to do procedurally. Then we project the painting back onto the geometry and render it through the camera, and we get a very shot-specific look for the renders.”

Tudhope notes that the software’s Per-Pixel Camera Map plug-in is the workhorse behind this technique. “We developed the plug-in for our work on Hellboy and it’s now being packaged with version 7 of 3ds max,” he says. “It’s just another example of how great Discreet is at listening to its users and incorporating into 3ds max the tools and features they say will really help them.” Tudhope says the 3ds max software was indispensable in terms of creating all the digital environments in Sky Captain, as well as in a lot of other movies they’ve worked on. The artists currently are using the software to create the environments in the upcoming film Sin City, which will be released next year and is based on Frank Miller’s comic books.

Source: Discreet show & tell article

The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After Tomorrow sees human kind weathering the disastrous effects of continued global warming, with the simultaneous onset of killer tornadoes, tidal waves, floods and a new Ice Age. Artists at Dreamscape frequently tapped into the toolset in 3ds max, including its procedural texture mapping, modifiers and particle flow systems, to create necessary visual effects for the project. These tools, along with the software’s powerful array of scripting, plug-in and rendering options, enabled scenes to be completed across the team, and enhanced back and forth with the five other visual effects houses on the production“3ds max was crucial to us on this show,” said Dreamscape Lead CG Artist Brandon Davis. “No other package would have enabled us to stand up to the technical challenges this job presented in the amount of time we had.”

Those challenges included encroaching frost, which, once mapped photorealistically to surfaces using the 3ds max software UV Unwrap tool, was animated and tweaked procedurally via OpenGL to meet Emmerich’s specifications on the fly. Dreamscape was able to assert total control over the frost’s look even through to final rendering by using SplutterFish’s Brazil Rendering System.

Another impressive scene, a highly realistic 15-second shot featured prominently in the film’s teaser-trailer, reveals the metropolis of Manhattan in the clutches of a deep freeze. To complete this eerily detailed sequence, Dreamscape imported base geometry of the city (more than five million polygons and 9,000 objects) and remodeled it to include heavy snow drifts (two million polygons of finer detail) - in 3ds max. To send snow wafting off rooftops and building surfaces, the artists relied on a combination of the 3ds max software particle flow system, animated textures, and Sitni Sati’s AfterBurn volumetric particle effects plug-in for 3ds max.

“Our job was to make it look like New York had just been pummeled by the largest snowstorm ever to hit Earth,” Dreamscape Technical Lead Adam Watkins explained. “Using the Push, Noise, and Melt modifiers, as well as numerous Selection modifiers in the 3ds max Modifier Stack, we devised a technique to shrink-wrap ice to the sides of the buildings. In this way, any changes we made to experiment with the look were automatically affected downstream without extra adjustment work.”

Discreet’s 3ds max software was also put to task in populating crowd scenes with thousands of digital extras. Creating variations by mapping unique clothing and accessories to 50 CG humans, Dreamscape animated each according to their physiology using a combination of motion capture data and the character studio Mixer tool.
The city crowd scene was further populated with cars, helicopters, tents, and other structures, using the particle flow tool in 3ds max and extending it via a 3D matte painting. Tricky lighting and rendering of the twilight-set shot was accomplished, again maximizing Brazil’s built-in global illumination

“We definitely plan to continue doing enormous and amazing things in 3ds max,” commented Marc Weigert, who co-owns Uncharted Territory/Dreamscape with Academy Award winner Volker Engel

Source: Article on Eutotex



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