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Thread: Lightwave-behind the scenes vfx

  1. #1
    RETROGRADER prometheus's Avatar
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    Aug 2003
    sweden stockholm

    Lightwave-behind the scenes vfx

    2004 HELLBOY...

    Starting with Hellboy since somone just posted that in the modoforum and I just wanted to share that directly as well.
    More Behind the scenes coverage may come..

    Oldies but goodies, any Behind the scenes from recent years are sought for though, this article I have to cut down a bit since the forum doesn´t allow that many characters in the text.

    Digit feels the heat with a behind-the-scenes report on the visual effects for Hellboy.
    Due for release in the UK in September, Hellboy – like Spiderman, Superman and The Hulk before it – is another example of a comic-book hero brought to cinematic life.
    Based on the Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse Comics series of the same name, Hellboy is a supernatural, action adventure directed by Guillermo del Toro of Blade II fame. The film begins back in 1944, when evil madman Grigori Rasputin and a team of Nazis attempt to open a portal to Hell and unleash the seven gods of chaos in order to turn the tide of World War II in their favour. Committee
    Thwarted in time by the Allies, one creature nonetheless appears out of this portal – an infant demon complete with horns, a tail and red-coloured skin. He is named Hellboy, and is adopted by Professor Bloom, founder of the underground operation Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Hellboy (played by Ron Perlman) grows up to be a fighter of evil, working alongside some equally unique colleagues at BPRD – merman Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the pyro-kinetic Liz Sherman (Selma Blair).

    When Rasputin resurfaces and attempts to finish what he started back in the ’40s, Hellboy and his friends must face the evil occultist in a supernatural showdown that naturally sees the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
    Enhancing the film’s fantastic use of costume and make-up, CG and visual effects were used aplenty to bring to life the comic-book characters and recreate the locations for the story. Hollywood-based visual-effects specialists, Eden FX created over 200 such shots for the film – making it the company’s biggest film project to date.
    Having made its name in episodic television with award-winning effects for show such as Star Trek Enterprise, Navy:NCIS and Jag, Eden FX was formed in 2000 by John Gross and Mark Miller. The company specializes in visual effects featuring 3D animation, 3D tracking and compositing, plate enhancements and set extensions, and full CG environments.
    Hellboy’s visual-effects supervisor Edward Irastorza invited Eden FX to pitch for a number of shots on the movie. From an initial 80 shots awarded to the company, the number quickly grew to a final count of 208. “We became the ‘go to’ company for more shots because we were able to get quick approvals and were able to move through shots,” explains John Gross, co-president of Eden FX and visual-effects supervisor for the project.

    “We would get sign-off on many of our shots at a weekly screening with Guillermo (del Toro), and then Ed (Irastorza) would talk to us about some more shots that he wanted to give us. Then we would take a look at resources and such to determine what additional shots we could comfortably take on.”
    The first batch of shots the Eden FX team worked on were several sky/snow replacements and enhancements shots, plus creating Hellboy’s tail in shots where a physical one hadn’t been used, Abe Sapien’s eye blinks and Kronen’s eyeball replacements. Of these, the sky/snow replacements were the hardest says Gross, because of the amount of roto work and tracking required.
    “As is often the case, one would never guess two of our most difficult shots from watching them in the film,” adds Steve Pugh, Eden FX’s visual-effects producer for Hellboy.

    “In one sequence, shot over several days in and around a cemetery in Prague, it snowed every day except one. We were asked to replace the barren dirt landscape and clear sky behind the actors with a snowscape and storm clouds, to match the rest of the sequence,” he explains.
    “In one of these shots, the camera pans from the front bumper of a truck driven by Agent Myers (played by Rupert Evans), around the side of the cab, and then crash-dissolves through the side of a crate being carried in the truck’s bed to reveal Hellboy sitting inside. Digital artist Mike Stetson had to rotoscope around the truck – and its antennas, windshield wipers, and various boxes – in order to replace the background, and then had to match his 3D environment to the shaking, bumping camera motion. Unfortunately for Mike, his environment is so convincing that most moviegoers will never know the weeks of pain that went into that shot,” he says.
    Irastorza was extremely well-organized when it came to managing the shots requiring visual effects work, says Gross. Each shot was provided with a description, notes and a frame count. “Storyboards were also provided by Ed and his team as a jumping-off point, says Gross. “Yet most shots were conceptualized by sitting down with Guillermo and Ed, and talking it through.”
    Shots were then distributed among the Eden FX artists based on their workload and specialities. Animatics were created for the sequences that involved animation – and were then cleaned up before being shown to the client in a ‘better than animatic’ form, says Gross.
    To complete the effects, Eden’s artists relied on the studio’s main 3D tool of choice – LightWave – along with Photoshop CS, and Maya. Digital Fusion, After Effects, and Combustion were used for compositing, and Boujou for tracking.
    Once shots were completed, QuickTime movies were generated and put on an FTP site for the client to access. These would be spliced into the latest cut of the movie for viewing by the director and film’s visual-effects supervisor.
    “Once or twice a week, we would then view the shots on film with Guillermo, Ed and others. At that point, Guillermo would either approve the shot or give some final feedback, and the process would begin again,” explains Gross.

    “The wonderful thing about working with Guillermo and Ed was that they signed off on shots quickly and so we were able to move on to more shots,” he adds. “Sometimes in film work, shots are noodled for a long time because the deadline is further off and shots are changed for the sake of making them different. When Guillermo or Ed had notes, it was to help make the shot better.”

    The seven months spent completing the 208 shots for Hellboy taught the team how to handle a major film project effectively, says Gross. “The organization of our team by Steve Pugh and Mike Tuinstra (visual-effects co-ordinator) was the key that made it work so efficiently through our existing pipeline.”
    Compared to the studio’s episodic television fare, working on a major film afforded the visual-effects artists more time, and therefore more budget, to play with in order to perfect their shots.
    “On episodic schedules, you sometimes only have a few days for a shot. When you can spend more time on a shot, you have the ability to have more eyes see it, and to test out a couple of concepts and refine them,” explains Gross. “Of course, you have to build higher-resolution models and such for film, and tracking is a bigger issue, because when something is 40 feet across, it’s easier to see mistakes, yet besides that, the same concepts exist between television and film.”
    Abe Sapien
    Abe Sapien’s character was brought to life thanks to prosthetic makeup by Spectral Motion.
    “This was beautiful and incredibly detailed – right down to flaring nostrils,” says Steve Pugh. “However, the design meshed so closely to the actor's features that it would have been too bulky to build in a mechanism to make the eyes blink the way the director wanted.”
    Instead Eden FX was asked to add digital eye blinks to Abe whenever he was onscreen for an appreciable length of time (which, says Pugh, ended up being almost 50 shots). John Teska, Eden FX’s lead digital artist on the film established a blink look using a regular eyelid and a translucent second membrane.

    Hellboy’s transformation
    One of the longest sequences Eden FX worked on occurs towards the end of the film. In this part of the story, Hellboy is forced to transform into his true self, the demon prince who can bring forth the end of the world by freeing the demons Ogdru Jahad.
    Upon uttering his demonic name, Hellboy’s horns grow out to their full size, his breath turns to hot smoke, and a crown of fire appears over his head.
    To create the transformation, Eden FX had to track in digital breath and a volumetric crown of flames, as well as steam and glowing energy being emitted from Hellboy’s stony right arm.

    John Teska, Eden FX’s lead artist on the film, developed the look of the crown and breath, and constructed a ‘kit’ for each so that the company’s other artists were able to use the same 3D assets and techniques.
    “This allowed us to ensure that all of the shots were consistent in their look and once he had fine-tuned the look of things to a point where he, Ed (Irastoza), and Guillermo (del Toro) were satisfied, we were able to complete the sequence quite rapidly,” explains Steve Pugh, Eden FX’s visual-effects producer.
    The sequence was accomplished using a combination of 3D and 2D techniques. Elements of Hellboy’s fiery crown were created in NewTek's LightWave, using several Hypervoxel layers – multiple separate flame and smoke elements explains Pugh.

    Hellboy’s smoky breath was also a Hypervoxel element, with LightWave's built-in particle system used to time the smoke to actor Ron Perlman’s breathing.
    “Inside LightWave, these voxels and particle emitters were parented to a 3D scan of Ron Perlman’s head in his Hellboy makeup, so that each artist could hand-track the crown and breath to follow his movements through the scene,” says Pugh. “Once rendered, these elements were blended together in Adobe After Effects or Eyeon’s Digital Fusion, according to an established ‘recipe’ to ensure continuity regardless of the artist’s preferred compositing package.”

    The same technique was used to replace the prop arm worn by Perlman with a smoking, glowing version that was created based on another 3D scan, again using voxels to emit smoke from the glowing cracks. The CG arm also had articulated fingers so that close-ups are more lively.
    “I would have to say that the Ogdru Jahad sequence was the most exciting part of the film for us. So many of the effects we were called upon to handle for this project were ‘invisible’ effects, which are very satisfying in their own right, but this sequence gave us the opportunity to work closely with the director to bring something fanciful and dramatic to the screen,” says Pugh.

    In the comic books, Hellboy’s feet are small and hoofed like a goat. Recreating this look proved quite a challenge for the filmmakers. For the shots of Hellboy in his room, Ron Perlman was filmed wearing greenscreen leggings, and Eden FX was charged with providing his legs and feet.

    The team went through several revisions of feet to ensure they suited the look of the character and the actor. In the end, what worked best according to John Gross, was a cow-like foot – even though this differed from the comic book illustrations.

    Under the yoke: challenges in 3D

  2. #2
    Yeah a lot has changed since 2004. The biggest thing for LW was its dark period. Had it kept going it would probably still be relevant. I mean, what was it, 2011 or so when it first had native instant it?
    Tim Parsons

  3. #3
    RETROGRADER prometheus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    sweden stockholm
    1998 TITANIC..
    San Antonio, TX — The movie “Titanic,” has wowed both audiences and critics, and recently received 14 Academy Award nominations, a tie for the most nominations for any movie in history. Much of the appeal of the hit movie lies in the scenes of the great ship sinking, and some of these elements were created by animators at Digital Domain using LightWave 3D, announced NewTek, manufacturer of LightWave 3D, the Video Toaster and the Video Toaster Flyer.

    “The models we used for ‘Titanic’ were huge, and LightWave was extremely adept at handling these enormous databases,” said Edward Kummer, Vice president of Digital Operations for Digital Domain. “Our team of artists appreciated being able to do all the modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering in a single package.”

    “It’s always exciting to see the amazing things that skilled artists can do with our software,” said Brad Peebler, director of 3D graphics software development. “It’s particularly gratifying when LightWave 3D is able to play a role in a movie as successful, both commercially and artistically, as ‘Titanic.’ In addition, this is another example of the great synergy between LightWave and Digital Domain.”

    To film “Titanic,” the movie makers created a set that included part of the ocean liner, as well as a series of miniature models of the ship. Digital Domain used LightWave 3D to create portions of the “Titanic” that were used as extensions to these sets and miniatures. In two very wide shots in the film, LightWave 3D was used to render a fully digital Titanic.

    “We needed to animate the set extensions whenever the hull of the Titanic was visible, because in reality, the set consisted of scaffolding from the goldline on down,” said Kummer.

    In addition, in one scene where the ship is up-ended and sinking, the set did not extend far enough. Digital Domain used LightWave 3D to create almost all of the decks that appeared above water in this scene. Digital Domain also used LightWave 3D to model, animate and render a sequence seen early in the film: showing the way in which the Titanic’s hull was punctured, how the ship sank and the impact on the ocean floor.

    Digital Domain previously has used LightWave 3D for effects in other hit movies and numerous television commercials.

    LightWave 3D helps professional 3D animators create stunning images and effects for motion pictures. LightWave 3D can render animations at resolutions of up to 8,000 by 8,000 pixels, defined by the artist in any ratio, including custom pixel aspect ratios. The LightWave 3D camera is based upon real-world functionality, providing Depth of Field, Lens Flares and extremely accurate Motion Blur, making it easier for animators to create film-like animations. The camera can be adjusted according to zoom factor, horizontal or vertical field of view, or focal length for matching background plates or accurately matching reference footage.

    The animation system’s variable levels of anti-aliasing allow film animators to set the level for a particular shot, so they can trade off between speed and accuracy. Enhanced anti-aliasing, a feature implemented in LightWave 3D during a joint project with Digital Domain, effectively improves anti-aliasing quality by 500 percent.

    A capability called Front Projection Mapping (FPM) enables animators to composite elements with background images and have them interact. Instead of typical 2D, flat composites, FPM creates depth for the background plate for more realistic results. LightWave 3D’s FPM, which is based on real-world FPM, allows 3D objects to cast shadows and reflections and to refract across the 2D image, thus creating seamless integration of the various elements. As an example, the 3D animated ocean liner in Titanic casts a shadow and reflection across a background plate of the ocean, and the shadow and reflections are deformed according to the shape of the waves.

    LightWave 3D provides multiple light types, such as distant, point, spot, area and linear light. Combined, they provide very realistic shadowing effects, such as creating very sharp shadows at the base of an object that fade out the farther the objects recede from each other. All the light types can be used for ray-traced shadows, which means that animators don’t need to combine the lights to get the desired fall-off effect. This capability mimics a natural attribute of area lights and creates extremely realistic lighting.

    In addition, LightWave 3D supports shadow mapping (spots only), which is much faster than ray tracing. Animators using LightWave 3D also can direct lights to not cast shadows at all, or to affect only specular lighting or diffuse lighting. With these tools, additional lights can be added to a scene to create a specific highlight, without creating unwanted shadows or additional lighting effects on the rest of the scene.


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