Saturday, July 26, 2008


Trying not to let myself get behind. With a good little surge on Friday, we have only 15 shots left. Some of these are real nightmares, but our momentum is good.

We had another full-film review on Friday with our esteemed guest Chris Bishop, who's been there with me since the beginning of this show in 2005. The list of CBBs (Could Be Betters, a term from back at Pixar) keeps growing, to be sure, but many of them are starting to look positively trivial up against some of the remaining shots.

Monday we should hit another big milestone: the 100th final shot. It's the last piece of low hanging fruit out there for us, and you bet I'm plucking it!

This week we popped the cork on 32-bit TIFF renders. Yes the files are huge on disk, but the compositing in shake is just so much better. Is it worth it? Too soon to answer. We'll use it sparingly for now, only when we can really use that extra range.

I'm pleased to present this final frame from u7_07, when Leed (the main aquatic character) dives down to avoid the fate that awaits his human counterpart. And just to honor Mr. Bishop's return, I've also included one of his original boards for u7_07:

How far we've come!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

17 left

I'm late in posting... oops. We were actually at 19 last Friday and we're cranking to get to 15 by this Friday. That would have us back on track for 5 a week.

The numbers are looking good, as are the images. We're finishing some of the underwater shots right now. Here's a frame from u7_06, which finaled yesterday. There's a lot more "god fog" underwater action when it's in motion. This will have to do for now:

Three more underwater shots are pending. I'll add some stills when they're finished!

Friday, July 11, 2008

23 shots left to light...

A huge week! We got seven shots final, going one over what we needed to do for the week (and coming awfully close to hitting eight). A large chunk of the Operator-on-water shots were included in this set, including his penultimate shot in the film. Here's a frame from u7_17 (note to self, uploaded at full-res with the "large" setting from Blogger, we'll see how it comes out on the other side):

Note this shot doesn't actually feature the water surface, but it does have some fake caustic reflections which aren't even visible in this frame. Sorry about that. But the water itself in these scenes has been done with a Maya ocean rendered both with the Maya Software renderer and with RenderMan Studio for reflections and refractions. We accomplished the latter by using a MEL script which Brian Kendall started and I touched up that molds a polygonal mesh to fit the displacing surface of the Maya ocean. Each frame of the molded mesh is saved as a blend target so it's easy to animate through the molded surfaces. The final touch is a RenderMan subdiv attribute attached to the poly mesh.

Okay, I convinced myself to put up a frame from u7_11, which is almost final, that shows this hybrid water surface solution more clearly:

So things are moving ahead very well. We're almost at the point where every remaining shot presents some kind of super challenge, but I feel that our efforts thus far this summer have us primed to solve whatever problems come up fairly efficiently. Next week will feature the film's opening shot, a 1000+ frame monster that is finally poised to finish in lighting after some layout tweaks I made yesterday. Next week also features some underwater shots, including atmospheric lighting effects being worked on by Hampshire College student and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Intern Will Colón. Is that a long enough title for you? :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008


A good week, as they all need to be from now on. We finished 5 more shots. This week I'll feature a frame from u7_19, one of the shots we just finalized today:

This shot, from late in the film, shows the tower finally starting to give way. Water begins to spray out from the many cracks that have formed, and its collapse is inevitable.

This shot includes a hand-painted sky layer, animated particle sprays, a hand-painted (and then replicated) fence layer, rendered tower, cracks, pipes, and terrain, and some shake heat shimmer inserted near the base of the fence and the horizon. The jagged glass edge at the top was another 2D effect, as was the slight rippling of the water surface up there. Kudos to Will for that master stroke. At least five different people touched this shot in effects, lighting, and compositing.