VFX (Visual Effects) Production
At Deep Sky, we keep ourselves armed with the latest tools, talent, and technology available. The result is a highly efficient and inspired team that consistently produces groundbreaking VFX work in a broad range of applications. From look-development, match moving, rig removal, object replacement, and CGI character animation, to crowd replication, set extension, natural phenomena simulation and compositing, our team of artists can tackle it all. What you can envision, we can make happen.
- Match moving
- Object replacement
- CGI characters/vehicles
- Matte paintings
- Set extensions
- 360 flat and stereo effects
- On-set supervision
- On-set VFX previews
Before filming, we work closely with the client or director to prepare for production. This part of the process includes R&D, defining scope, scheduling tasks, pre-visualization used for shot planning, and effects tests. Pre-vis can be utilized to block out the action using low resolution 3D models and textures. By translating the storyboard into 3D, the director can get a clear idea of how the sequence will work, and camera moves and set-ups can be experimented with before committing to an expensive on-set shoot. Often pre-vis will be used only as a guide on set to ensure shots filmed match the framing and action. Visual Effects tests are done as proof-of-concept pieces to demonstrate to the client that what they want to achieve is truly possible.
A fundamental aspect of VFX research and development is effective supervision while shooting. When it comes to digital assets interacting with real elements and actors, expertise of a skilled VFX supervisor is vital. Along with providing the most efficient ways to realize the creative goals of the director, our VFX supervisor will also guarantee the proper execution of the shot so that production costs are reduced, and ensure the function of post-production as a creative catalyst is maximized.
Modeling generally begins in pre-production, often because low-res models are needed for pre-visualization and tests. Sometimes a client will supply drawings or clay models of elements they want to see re-created in CG. These models and sketches are used to build totally faithful CG reproductions that can be used in shots and can be produced at several quality levels: high resolution models for final renders, medium resolution quality for animation, and low-res for pre-visualization. The modeling phase can continue into the start of post-production, though most shows aim to build everything they need by the time they start producing the finished shots.
Once models are completed they need to be rigged. Rigging is a very technical task requiring an engineer’s understanding of how objects move and interact. Creature rigging is especially difficult, as layers of bone, flesh and skin need to be simulated by the rigging process. Once a rig has been created it is tested by animators, who essentially try and break it. Then a new, revised rig is built based on the results from the testing phase. Rigging may well continue throughout the animation cycle as better and more refined rigs enable ever greater results from the animators. Rigged elements are not only required by the animator – they are also necessary when match moves are called for in a project.
Match Moving (camera tracking & camera matching)
Match moving is used to track the movement of a camera through a live-action shot in order to produce an identical virtual camera move in 3D animation. On set, lens measurements are taken so the correct focal length can be applied to the CG camera. Often a manual tweaking of the output of the tracker is necessary to finesse the camera move into perfect alignment with how the actual camera moved on set. Once an accurate camera track has been established, any match moving or body tracking can be accomplished. A body track is an animated CG character or object that perfectly mimics the on-set equivalent – necessary if you need to attach a CG element to an on-set character. Using software like SynthEyes, Nuke or PFTrack, animated elements are then composited back into the original shot, resulting in a seamlessly matched perspective.
Animation is the process of making modeled and rigged elements come alive. Typically this means creatures or characters, but it could be a vehicle or anything else that moves really. Animators tend to work with medium resolution models – detailed enough so that they can be positioned accurately, yet not so dense that the animators’ work-station becomes sluggish throughout the process. Keeping a loose, light workflow enables an animator to craft a natural-looking performance. Multiple versions of the animated renders are then presented to the client as grey-shaded playblasts for critique and feedback to prompt further revision.
Simulation (water, smoke and fire effects)
Effects animation generally falls into one of three categories: Particles, rigid-body dynamics, or fluids. The effects TD will pick up the camera and any hand-animated elements plus a CG version of the environment. They will use this scene to provide the basis for their simulations.
Compositing is the last process in the chain and it is where all the CG, elements and the scanned plates are brought together to create a seamless finished image. Matte paintings may also be produced at this stage to serve as the backdrop to green screen elements or CG. A compositor will use a variety of techniques to integrate all the elements together so that the shot looks as if it had been filmed and no trickery has been used. Compositors must have an excellent grasp of lens properties and film as well as a good artistic eye to achieve this. Once the composite for the shot has been done it is sent to the supervisors and then the director for approval.