It’s been a bit more than 2 years that I delivered my student short-film Murphy at Isart Digital – a private visual effects school in Paris. This experience really helped me to step into the VFX industry and it’s always great to remember it and see how much you can learn as soon as you start working on bigger productions. The last promotion of ISART unveiled their short-film earlier last month and I wanted to know more about their experience… Let’s start with my Coup de coeur from the 3DVFX section: Invasion Day!
How big was your team?
3D Special Effects :
- Vincent DE BELLIS (Compositing, FX, TD)
- Milos ERATOSTENE (Modeling, Animation, FX)
- Terence GUILPIN (Compositing)
- Léo LEFEBVRE (Editing, Layout, Animation, Lighting, Compositing)
- Raphael LEYLAVERGNE (FX, Compositing, TD Shading)
- Arthur LOISEAU (Procedural Modeling, FX (RBD, Shatter, Fluids), Compositing)
- Mohamed OUMOUMAD (Art Direction, Texturing, Shading, Painting, DMP, FX )
- Dimitri TROUVE (Modeling, Lighting, Rendering, Color Grading, Crowd, FX.)
Music & Sound Design :
Paul BARRET, Axel BURCKEL, David GUINOT, Laurent KEROMNES and Denis RIVOIRE
How long did the project took in total?
We did about a month of pre-production (storyboard, previsualization), 3 days of shooting and about 8-9 months of post-production (CG, animation, VFX, compositing)
Independance Day seems to be an obvious reference, what inspired you to work on this short-film?
We used Independance Day as a main reference of course, it was THE Sci-Fi movie. We also had The Lego Movie in mind since we all wanted to have a funny short film (soldier as a toy, music at the end, …). The green soldier is also a reference to Toy story.
What was your overall workflow?
Our main rendering engine was Arnold in Maya, but some VFX were rendered on different softwares, for example the Arc de Triomphe was rendered in mantra (Houdini). And we used Krakatoa for the particles in the spaceship energy. All the shots were composited in Nuke.
One of the outstanding aspect of your work is the environment. How did you approach the creation of a full CG Paris?
Making Paris in CG was the biggest challenge that we had to face on this project.
We went through different approaches but ended up using city engine to generate procedural buildings based on Paris’ haussmannian architecture.
Then we used real data and maps to instance our procedural buildings to match the shape of Paris, create the main roads, match the elevation of the city, generate parks and so on. Finally we added some key buildings (Montparnasse, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur…).
We didn’t have enough computing capacity to handle the high level poly of the city, so we used a lower version for the movie. After exporting the city as .OBJ to maya, we used several scripts to optimize the meshes and to handle the shading for Arnold. We used a proxy version for the animation and an external file optimized for Arnold in the final shots.
How did you manage the Champs-Elysee panic scene?
First, we used Golaem Crowd in Maya for the crowd in panic. Then, we removed all the trees on the plate and replaced them with Speedtree, which allowed us to generate wind effects caused by the spaceship aspiration. We also added maya cloth to simulate some covers.
Some of us had the chance to meet the Golaem Crowd’s developers – Nicolas Chaveroux and Alexandre Pillon – during the FMX 2015 in Stuttgart. Since then they followed and helped us during the process of this shot.
There is also a lot of FX work in your short-film, how did you handled the different effects?
Houdini was used for the Arc de Triomphe’s destruction, the tornado, missile fluids and the meteor. The spaceship’s energy and all the particle effects were done on 3Ds max.
Finally some 2D layers were added in compositing with nuke to generate additional effects such as clouds, smoke, particles where expensive simulations weren’t needed.
Managing that kind of project with so many effects is not an easy task. Can you tell us more about how you kept track of everything?
We used “ShotTracker”: an internal school tool similar to shotgun. It was really essential to stay up-to-date on our progress on a daily basis. We also had reviews every week, making sure to keep our objectives on track… The last 2 months were the more intense 🙂
Which part of the project are you the most proud of? Anything you would do differently now that you have more experience?
We are all proud of the project in general, we did what we aimed for! With more time we could have made several improvements to the shots and developed the story a bit more.
Let’s talk a bit about you guys. What did this project bring to you? Did you had some feedbacks from the industry?
Some of us kept their current jobs (since they like it) and others went for new ones, our team members are currently working in VFX Studios such as Unit image, Mikros Animation, Method Animation, Plug Effect, Small dots… and we are working as 3D Generalist, TD, Digital Compositor, VFX Artist or Layout TD. We are all still living in Paris for now.