A photoreal digital creature unlocks an ocean of creative possibilities either not affordable or simply not possible with practical methods. Without physical constraints of construction, a well planned and executed creature can be any size or shape, yet still look and move as convincingly as the live-action actor standing next to it.
Every great CG character or creature starts with beautiful concept art. With us, you are not limited to only one staff artist. We bring in the perfect artist for each project, matching strengths, tone, and style to your specific needs.
An equally specialized 3D sculptor will take the final concepts and create a rough 3D sculpt that can be quickly revised before committing to the final model work.
The final sculpt, often tens of millions of polygons, can’t be animated directly and must be built out into a production ready 3D model. This involves simplifying the mesh, adding correct topology, and baking the fine detail into displacement maps.
The production models can then be assembled and rigged. This provides the framework for all motion and deformations—the bending and stretching at the joints.
The final models are given photo-realistic surface shaders, including a skin shader that replicates the subtle bouncing of light under the surface of the skin and a BRDF metal that obeys the conservation of energy, ensuring that specific real world material properties are preserved.
A good creature animator’s focus is as much on the tone of the performance as it is on the physics of motion. Not only must the creature’s movements be physically accurate and true to its scale, but they must also convey the correct emotion. Everything about the creature’s motion must reveal the nature of its character. Each shot is 3D tracked to resolve the real world camera. Proxy objects are built out to reproduce the live-action set in 3D space. This aids the animators in blocking out the action and keeping the creature in the correct spatial relationship to objects in the scene and the ground.
The finished scene is then lit with panoramic HDRIs that were captured on-set. This ensures that the lighting of the creature will match the live-action photography.
The finished renders are turned over to the compositors who add grain, atmospheric effects, dust, smoke, and lens effects, giving it that final, finished look.
Along with those explosions usually come structure demolition and debris. Whatever it is—a real world object or digital set extension—we can destroy it.
Real world objects, regardless of size, can be scanned on-set. This also produces a high-resolution texture capture. The scan model can then be fractured for demolition.
The demolition begins with a rough layout of the action and camera work. Collision objects are timed out and added to a demolition simulation. The simulation uses the fractured model to break the original object into small pieces. Those pieces interact with everything else in the physically accurate simulation.
HDRI panoramas are captured along with the set scans. These create lighting environments that match the principle photography.
Fluid simulations create the fine cloud of dust that gets thrown into the air around the large pieces of debris. Fluid sims also create fireballs and plumes of black smoke.
Once all layers have been rendered, they’re merged together into a final image. The
Original, undestroyed object is painted out, and any foreground elements or actors are roto’ed back in.
With a digital double, you are no longer bound by the limits of traditional production. Stunts that would’ve been considered too dangerous or difficult to coordinate can now be accomplished without putting anyone at risk. Traditional makeup can be enhanced or replaced. Rather than simply adding onto an actor’s skin and clothes, parts can be removed or replaced entirely. If an actor is missing from a shot, a digital double can be inserted, possibly eliminating the need for a pickup.
Digital Doubles also have complete freedom of interaction with digital creatures and props, rather than being limited to on-set choreography and wire pulls. When two interacting agents are both digital, simulations can calculate and ensure physically accurate collisions, offering a level of realism not possible with on-set techniques alone.
We’re able to capture actors on-set in 3D, in between takes, while they’re in wardrobe and makeup. This ensures the closest possible match to the practical photography.
An animation friendly mesh is built from the scan data rather than modeled from scratch. This ensures the most efficient and cost-effective workflow. Clothing simulations are run on top of this mesh to ensure everything moves as lifelike as possible.
Using HDRI panoramas that we capture on set, we’re able to recreate the lighting environment that matches the practical photography.
Character Animators, specializing in digital double physics, will create multiple revisions of action until the exact performance is achieved.
Face and head replacements, like full body doubles, offer the opportunity to enhance or modify the head, with close-up level detail.
This means that not only can you replace the head of your stunt double with the correct actor in fast moving actions shots; but also, you can digitally treat or completely replace an actor’s head in static close-ups.
With close-ups, the challenge is to recreate the subtle movements and expressions of the face. To accomplish this, we scan the actor in various emotional states, such as a surprised face, then an angry face. Each of these expression scans becomes the basis for building a library of animatable expressions.
The final face rig can move and emote in a way that reflects the actor’s actual expressions.
The ranges of options of how the digital face can be modified are practically endless. The face can be completely resculpted and repainted. The face can animate between sculpted states. It can sink in or balloon out. Part of it can be taken away, or new material added on.
Digital set extensions push the boundaries of not only what’s possible but also what’s affordable. A digital version of a practical set can cost a fraction and yet appear every bit as real.
Digital sets often extend a small practical set. The base of a building, for example, that doesn’t exist beyond the first floor. Or a city sidewalk that is only dressed and populated for the first block. This allows the actors to interact with something real without having to build the full expensive set.
We can work with existing art direction or bring in concept artists to rough out your vision.
Our modelers will then build out the 3D geometry of the set, putting in even the smallest details where needed.
On your film shoot we capture 360-degree HDRI lighting panoramas. This allows us to match the exact lighting situation of the original shot and ensures that the CGI blends naturally.
The original shot is 3D tracked, allowing us to match the movement of your practical camera. Foreground elements are keyed or roto’ed. In order to keep the CG elements from looking too digital, we add grain, lens diffraction, blurs and flares. All elements are then composited and graded to create the final shot.
Visual Effects aren’t always the grand finale with fireballs and aliens. Sometimes they’re simply the right Production Solution; a way to get the un-gettable location, a way to keep the actor safe, a way to feed a lion mashed potatoes (BEEN THERE DONE THAT). Visual Effects might be the solve you never knew you could afford.
If I had the budget and ability, I’d like to…
· Have epic exteriors without the stress of permits, background action, weather and safety
· Shoot a scene inside a helicopter as it flies out of control and actors jump to safety
· Rig inside a moving train full of actors, with motion control in daylight on public transit
· Shoot an alien versus man fight scene where the hero actor gets tossed against a silo and no one gets hurt
· Blow up a building without blowing up a building
At Cosmic FX, these are all things we’ve done for clients just like you. And in all cases, using Visual Effects saved time and money, and increased both safety and creativity.