GStar : Destroy to Construct
This may have been one of the most difficult jobs I have done due to the nature of the deconstruction process and how complex is to make a system directable.
After an early round of meetings defining the project and many practical explosion tests we decided the practical route will be perfect and we would “only” need to add extra bits and bobs to connect the footage with the elements shot on a studio on a separate day.
Needless to say shooting sometimes has this temperamental quality to it and after 2 days of elements shoot and explosions we saw not much coming out so we ended up having a major project in our hands to make it happen. Of course we were preparing at the same time for that eventuality so didn’t caught us by surprise, nevertheless we manage to use some bits and bobs by adding CG bones on top and some elements shot on a later moment.
Having shot everything at 2500 fps the volume of material Rankin shot was simply spectacular so we opted for using the conformed version with timewarps and effects rather than having to deal with 12000 frames for a shot.
The team started developing a sophisticated simulation toolset for the cloth destruction and skin destruction, which was very different as the skin was decided to go the porcelain route while the cloth was obviously the cloth route, mostly so it didn’t look like we were tearing apart people.. not nice to look at I guess.
We collaborated with Glassworks from whom we received the model used in the first commercial so we didn’t have to manage also that part, this solution proved great for both parties and I believe it was a good example of facilities collaborating.
The zootrope effect evolved a lot and we tried our best to keep Rankin’s vision together, in its current form is in part due to the legal limitations in TV regarding flashing so we had to tame our original animation eliminating the slit part and any violent flashing bits plus trying to animate the motion blur over the course of the shot to make sure it was more pleasant to the eye.
On top of that the simulations required extra work as a second pass of strings, fur and particles were added on top so the task of directing the action was very time consuming and prone to glitches.
I did construct a digital copy of Keenan (the girl) and Sergio (the guy) based on a 3D scan we did on set, and rigged them in Houdini so we could do all the body matchmoving in Houdini which would bring extra flexibility given we are going to have to go back and forth up to the very last moment with the match moving.
During the process we did work layering motion and blocking the whole commercial, refining the material up to the point where we could preview it, only thing is that the layers of strings and fur added so much that the process required these to be put together too. Then we did massage the motion in Flame and send back the new sequence as references of the decisions to the animation fx team to mimic.
For Keenan and Sergion construction/deconstructions we altered them as the speeds and editorial requirements highlighted it, first breaking them, then tweaking the shots around and testing it all in Flame to see if there was the right feeling and continuity. These went through many iterations and you will notice we didn’t hid nor trick the breaking, the take over is not really camera mapped, the cg versions of both of them are 3D rendered as we needed the shadows and light to change, wrinkles and cloth quality too… that was complex and we are proud even if you go frame by frame you won’t see any dirty trick.
Particularly tricky was to break the guitar that was about to morph into a dog and the team led by Louis Dunlevy and Michele Fabbro did an amazing job with it, the size of the chunks and how real these were meant to be, plus the questions related to the material itself, should it break as wood? as porcelain? as a blend? Endless tests and commitment until we got it right as you may notice the wood breaks different from the other elements, the strings don’t change, but there is a reasoning behind it all to change into the dog and the cloth in a correct way.
For the last shot in which you see the whole transition and literally is nowhere to hide we had a major challenge in front of us due to the fact that changing volumes are not really acceptable, morphing materials was a must, but in a more advanced way than in previous shots, and things needed to come from somewhere so the shot went on right until the last days of course.
At the end we finessed it all in Flame and made sure to add the motion blur based on shoot, exaggerating it from an artistic point of view rather than to hide things.
A great experience to work for Rankin and have the opportunity to make his vision possible after a very complex shoot.
Task: VFX Supervisor
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