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Eye candy: the visual effects of Our Lady of Lourdes

Friday, March 8th, 2013 | Posted by Jim Thacker

Indie writer-director-VFX-supervisor Peter Szewczyk has just posted an impressive one-minute VFX clip from his latest live-action short, Our Lady of Lourdes.

We covered Szewczyk’s last film, the nine-minute ColourBleed, when it was released in 2011, but Our Lady of Lourdes goes a couple of notches better, clocking in at over 20 minutes.

Szewyczk himself put down half the money for the film, which stars Terra Nova’s Naomi Scott, raising the remaining $20,000 from a Kickstarter campaign.

Rendered with Arnold
Central to the success of the VFX work was Solid Angle’s Arnold raytrace renderer, which Szewyczk adopted midway through production. As he told CG Channel:

“We had blocked out about four months to do the VFX work for the film. With about 40 shots to get through, I wasn’t too worried about the schedule at first. However, after the first two or three weeks, there was a growing concern about the rendering bottleneck that was looming on the horizon.”

“I had just started developing the look of the creatures and environments, and already, the overnight render tests were coming back incomplete. I was still nowhere near the level of complexity that I wanted, and yet the render times were going through the roof.”

“About this time Marcos [Fajardo] from Solid Angle contacted me after seeing a video for my Kickstarter campaign detailing the project. I was very familiar with Arnold, and had already requested that studios use it for some of my commercial work, but nothing had ever materialised.

“It seemed now, at quite a crucial time, Arnold had become an option. Twenty-four hours after I had unpacked the software, I already managed to port over my shaders, rebuild the look, and render out an entire shot overnight. There was virtually no learning curve at all.”

‘Flat-out incredible’ rendering performance
“With most renderers I’ve come to know, there is usually something that will just grind the software to a halt, but with Arnold, I would keep increasing the complexity, turning on more and more features, and it would still power right through the frame. The real stunner, however, came when I started using it to render fur.”

“The fact that I could raytrace multiple area lights and have them bounce multiple times and that I could crank the number of hairs into the millions just left me speechless. No crashes. No huge memory drain. The way Arnold handled lighting hair was flat-out incredible.”

“I’ve been lighting fur since Puss in Boots on Shrek 2 and have done more fur shots than I care to name, and I have never seen software plow through hair rendering as well as Arnold.”

“Oh, and I should probably mention – perhaps the most astounding fact of all – this was all done on my Sony laptop. In fact, 99% of Our Lady Of Lourdes was rendered on a consumer laptop, using Arnold.”

Our Lady of Lourdes is now complete, and will be released on the film festival circuit this year.

Updated 21 May: Armando Sepulveda, who modelled the wraith character for the short, has just posted a making-of video showing his work in ZBrush and Maya. Watch it here on Vimeo.

Read more about Our Lady of Lourdes on the film’s Kickstarter page (Includes the official trailer)

See more recent work rendered in Arnold

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