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Autodesk Behind Holiday Blockbusters

Visual FX and Tech

Autodesk Behind Holiday Blockbusters

As the major studios brace themselves for a highy competitive week at the box office, Autodesk is heralding the fact that post-production facilities used its entertainment software solutions to produce more than 25 films for the lucrative holiday season. Such top vfx shops as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Framestore CFC, Rainmaker U.K., Luma Pictures Inc. and EFILM all use Autodesk technology to create an array of complex digital characters, environments and other visual effects.

Marc Petit, senior VP of Autodesk Media & Entertainment comments, ‘The audience’s taste for digital visual effects’from the subtly invisible to the jaw-dropping’continues to increase year after year, and Autodesk is proud to be a leading provider of the creative tools that give life to people’s imagination.’

London-based Framestore CFC used Autodesk Maya 3D modeling, animation and rendering software, and the Autodesk Inferno visual effects software, to shape New Line’s The Golden Compass. In addition to the exotic polar environments, the software solutions were employed in building and animating all shots of a massive armored polar bear, one of the film’s heroes. ‘Maya, with its wide-reaching flexibility, has always been a terrific package for us, easily and efficiently enabling integration of our in-house tools and other packages in our pipeline,’ notes CG supervisor Laurent Hugueniot.

Post-production facility Rainmaker U.K. also used Maya on The Golden Compass. Artists at the facility modeled, rigged, animated and lit computer-generated doubles using customized shaders. Visual effects supervisor Paddy Eason says that once the set was extended for a battle sequence, the warriors were replaced entirely with digital doubles, and the original camera move was replaced with a CG move that extended the tilt of a cliff. Animated noise deformers on the 3D geometry helped simulate fast moving cloth and wind dynamics, and additional snow particle effects were also created to add interaction with the environment.”

Sony Pictures Imageworks made use of Maya and Autodesk Flame to help bring Warner Bros.’ very successful the science fiction thriller I Am Legend to the screen. ‘Autodesk Flame is an important tool in creating live-action and CG films at Imageworks,’ remarks senior lead Flame artist Lisa Deaner,. ‘In the case of I Am Legend, the multitude layers involved were difficult to place in scene and matchmove, mainly because of the complicated scenery of fast-moving New York City street scenes. The CG deer, weeds and aging elements all needed to be integrated and prioritized accurately. Between the Tracker, Paint, Modular Keyer, and Sparks functions, Flame helped us easily handle these challenges.’

For its work on Paramount’s Alvin and the Chipmunks, Rhythm and Hues employed Maya and Flame. Flame artist John Heller recalls, ‘I was brought in on the film to composite a complicated shot that needed to be completed on an extremely tight deadline. The shot itself involved complicated tracking, keying and parallax, which was being applied to the track for a large, multi-layered matte painting.’

Using Autodesk Maya and Autodesk Mudbox 3D modeling software, one of UK’s leading post-production facilities, Cinesite, textured and modeled reindeer for the holiday film, Fred Claus. Cinesite also animated the photo-real reindeer using Maya. Similarly, for The Golden Compass, Cinesite artists used Mudbox to model Lee Scoresby’s air balloon and to sculpt displacement maps for several creatures and completed all character animation and non-speaking demons using Maya. Maya was also used to create the digital environment for the spectacular final battle scene at Bolvangar, as well as Scoresby’s air balloon.

CafeFX took Autodesk Mudbox and Maya to task as part of its production pipeline for MGM’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. All creature modeling was done with Mudbox, while all character animation and rigging was accomplished with Maya. The first step for lead model and texture artist Miguel Ortega was to create 3D creature concept art in Mudbox. He then accelerated the character design process by providing digital 3D maquettes for director Frank Darabont’s review.

‘We used to build models entirely in Maya and then detail them in Mudbox,’ Ortega says. ‘With The Mist, we took a different approach. It sped up the process, allowing us to be more creative with each character’s form without getting bogged down in its function. Since the characters were so complex, we first used Mudbox to obtain signoff on rough characters, then created extremely basic shapes in Maya and sculpted them in Mudbox, redoing each model’s topology after details were added. We were then able to transfer the resurfaced models into Maya.’

Other holiday season releases that benefited from Autodesk technology include 20th Century Fox’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, DreamWorks’ The Kite Runner and Paramount’s Beowulf. For more information on the company and its products, go to

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