Visa 'The Heart'

An enigmatic and fascinating piece by one of the best directors out there.

An amazing experience to work with such a visionary and the team at MJZ who managed once again to make look simple the complex production requirements.

Given the medical division at Glassworks, Heartworks, owns the best (by far) hear model in the planet and given it’s truly anatomically correct both in structure and motion as it is used to train anaesthetists we were confident we could bring something truly meaningful to the project in the form of visualisation, knowledge for the prop makers and for the intricate shots inside the heart that simply can’t replicate in real life as it is too complex.

The project’s VFX were envisioned to have some crowd extensions and obviously the interior of heart but at the core, Juan wanted to do as much as possible in camera and we embarked with the team at MJZ in supporting the model making.

From the start we used the Heartworks asset and refined the details in Zbrush and Mari to bring the textures used in the real time training system developed by Heartworks to film level quality resulting in multiple maps at 8K that would, once combined, give us the necessary 12K o more we needed to bring all the detail to screen in such macro level shots.

The pre-visualisation of these shots allowed director and editing company to work in the edit in a very accurate way as they really had a simplified yet perfect animation that provided the perfect blueprint for the approval process.

During the shoot typical gathering of data allowed us to reconstruct the stadium to a very accurate level so we could place the agents that were done from scratch on the back of Houdini new crowd system.


Tracking of the stadium shots was pretty straight forward apart from one particular shot that was very long and that we knew Juan would be tweaking the edit once the crowd was in place, for this reason we did track it completely and make sure he had the necessary freedom if required.


Given the shots got more complicated due to the camera positioning we had to up our game on the agent modelling and redid the original Houdini agents models, texture and also brains so we could hold much closer shots that led to build a comprehensive system with a truly detailed model. In this particular project we were using at some point 250K polygon agents although afterwards we started to optimise them down to 50K polygons with 4K textures and normal maps.

The number of textures created were crazy to avoid patterns appearing and we ended up with 200 t-shirts, 180 shirts, 130 sweatshirts, 90 jeans, 90 trousers, 50 chinos and a huge number of permutations of shoes, hair, etc; Ultimately there was not a single repetition in the stadium which was our goal.


Regarding the animation Juan was very clear he wanted a realistic crowd rather than an over the top crowd (flags, cheering like mad, dancing, etc..) he really wanted something credible so I took the opportunity to go to a football match during my Christmas holidays and too references with my iPhone to understand better what really was required keeping in mind, the olympic crowds will not be partisan or supporting a team in a clear way but rather plain spectators so we focused on some parts of the stadium that tend to be subdued.


Andy Nicholas who was in charge of the crowd shots did a fabulous job constructing a system and hacking the Houdini crowd tools to do way more than they do out of the box in this first iteration and is fair to say the project could not have been done to the same standard without him.


At the same time Julian Johnson worked his way on all things heart and produced some of the most beautiful renders of the interior of the hear that we did have to address a number of times to fine the perfect balance between what was shot and its style and the CG and its style. A very difficult balance as it had to feel unified.


During the look development process and all its iterations the goal was to establish an endoscopic lighting effect and a continuous refinement of textures and sub-surface shaders was critical. Once again Julian produced gorgeous renders which made the project very easy to supervise.


From the point of view of the edit and given we provided very detailed pre-visualisation shots it barely changed which allowed us to finesse the shots and put all the effort to make sure these worked perfectly.

Compositing was in charge of Duncan Horn who once again outdid himself adding so many details and finesse the project left the building totally finished which is something rare nowadays.


One thing I am very proud is that it was seamless execution from a first class team and I want to thank every individual for their extraordinary commitment and resolve.


Director: Juan Cabral
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi London
Production: MJZ
Task: VFX Supervisor

Jordi Bares Written by:

Jordi Bares is a Creative Director/VFX Supervisor working for Framestore on some amazing projects.