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VFX breakdowns of the month: January 2015

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Posted by Jim Thacker


Honorable mention: matte painter Anthony Eftekhari‘s latest demo reel was uploaded to Vimeo in December, but it’s a stunning collection of work from Blizzard’s recent cinematics, with some beautiful breakdowns.

If you follow the CG Channel Facebook feed, you’ll know that we post a daily selection of the best new animated shorts, cinematics, demo reels and R&D tests. But we know that some people only visit the site itself – which is why, this month, we thought we’d bring you a round-up of the best VFX breakdowns released online in January.

We’ve taken into account the quality of the work itself, how much making-of material is included, and how well the reel is presented – but this is a purely personal selection. Nominate your own favourites in the comments.

Making of ‘Smite: Battleground of the Gods’
Studio: RealtimeUK

Back in the day, game cinematics used to be Blur Studio’s and Platige Image’s home turf, but RealtimeUK has stepped into the major leagues lately, with work like its trailer for Smite, Hi-Rez Studios’ free-to-play MOBA.

The making-of video includes environments, character work – mainly just turntables – and some gorgeous FX: the breakdown of Ymir’s freeze attacks is particularly eye-catching.

Tech notes: The studio’s pipeline is primarily 3ds Max/V-Ray based, with Particle Flow and FumeFX for FX work, supplemented by Houdini, and some Maya/Arnold work. Compositing is done in both Nuke and After Effects.

Making of War Thunder (trailer)
Studio: Postmodern

Another studio now turning heads with its cinematic work is Ukraine’s Postmodern Postproduction, which picked up its fourth VES Award nomination for the ‘Victory is Ours’ trailer for air combat game War Thunder.

The breakdown covers more or less the entire spot, including some spectacular FX and bullet camera work. Preserving the flow of the final trailer while intercutting the making-of material is a nice touch, too.

Tech notes: Postmodern didn’t post any tech information along with the video, but previous breakdowns have shown a mixed pipeline based on tools including ZBrush, Softimage and Houdini.

The Crossing Part 1: Hell to Heaven in Old Shanghai
Studio: Tippett Studio

John Woo’s two-part historical epic The Crossing hasn’t had a Western release yet, but part one has been taking Chinese cinemas by storm, accounting for over a third of screenings nationwide in its opening week.

Tippett Studio’s VFX breakdown reel includes some nice set extension work, but the highlight is undoubtedly the full-CG aerial shots. Thumbnails show the individual buildings used to lovingly recreated 1940s Shanghai.

Tech notes: “We used Nuke to assemble all the lighting layers, hi-res Alembic set data from Maya for projection work, and lo-res as reference for all the practical element placement (chimney smoke, etc).”

“The skydome, clouds, and timelapse animation were all done in Nuke as well. For the CG part – the CG geo was rendered out of Maya using V-Ray, and we had about 300 separate assets feeding into it.”

Compositing reel 2015
Artist: Kshitij Khanna

Our sole reel from a solo artist in this month’s round-up, VFX compositor Kshitij Khanna’s latest demo reel is a compilation of some of the most beautiful parts of The Mill NY’s recent commercials work.

There are some excellent environment and matte painting breakdowns from Nissan ‘Winter Warrior’ and Bingle ‘Chimpfall’, but the highlight is probably the out-of-this-world opening shot from sci-fi short Anomaly.

Tech notes: None posted, but given that Khanna’s job title is ‘Nuke compositor’, there’s probably no mystery about the main package used in the work.


The Crew launch trailer making of
Studio: Unit Image

Paris’s Unit Image turned heads last year with its VES Award-nominated teaser for Ubisoft’s open-world driving game The Crew, and it repeated the feat with the official launch trailer.

The breakdown is, if anything, even better, reinforcing how detailed the CG environments are, but the pièce de résistance is the on-screen counter that adds up the number of artist hours needed, finally stopping at 5,646.

Tech notes: None posted, but this excellent article on Matt Guetta’s blog lists the pipeline for the original spot as Mudbox for texture work, 3ds Max for modelling and animation, V-Ray and After Effects.

Know of a gem we missed? Post a link in the comments. For more videos like this, follow us on Facebook.

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