All Images © Niall Horn
So this is a look at the FX work/RnD I did for what was supposed to be a 10 shot sequence with me as the lead FX TD! However the project got scrapped 3 days before my turnover due to budget problems on there end. As Stressful as this was I already am on a new gig and have all this fun FX RnD to show. I worked on the FX Setups/RnD from Mid March to 21st April. I also did all the Lighting/Rendering/Comping You See. The Idea for the project is an Underwater Naval Base That has epic destruction in 10 shots. I was brought on very early after the previs stage, and stayed on until the cancellation of the sequence. I've worked with someone who was in a similar situation as this, and he was not allowed to show any of his RnD, so still happy I can show my work on my reel!
My First part of production was reference, I knew I'd be alone doing all the FX (And Finishing) due to the budget and I wanted to try and bring a high budget/feature look in the FX to these shots. This was not a generalist project, I had to get high end FX setups and RnD done in a very short amount of time. Reference Wise I was looking mainly at MPC's work in GI-Joe Rise Of Cobra with the epic Naval Base Destruction. MPC Did lots of work with Flowline (Scanlines Fluid Sim Tool) to simulate Underwater Pressue in an Explosion, aswell as Destruction. Other good refernces were Scanlines Iron Man 3 underwater Shots (And there breakdown) and Pixomondo's work on Journey 2 (Underwater Submarine Escape Sequence). I studied these shots frame by frame I wrote nearly 10,000 Notes aswell as looking at US Navy underwater Explosion Studies. In the end it comes down to how much time did I have (Not much) to make the FX looks Physically Accurate vs Cinematically Epic. And that is what I love about FX !
The Naval Base Asset was based on a central building with 6 "Arm" Buildings most of the RBD FX RnD was based on these guy''s destructions! The Asset was sent un-named and in 10'000s of objects so I spent nearly a week just prepping the asset for destruction even having to re-UV some of the parts. Aswell as correct touching vertices. I hate Modelling/Model prep and usally dont have to do it, but in this case I did.
Doing underwater destruction is hard, not only are underwater physics very different but everything that has velocity underwater creates bubbles, meaning the creation of Various Bubble systems/Tools was needed, aswell a highres Hero Bubble Fluid Sims. The Main System was one made for the static geometry (IE non RBD Sim'd) This was using PFlow to create random debris instances the fall and some rise using random values through Split Amount operators. These Debris they get checked for speed/vel and when they pass a defined threshold they spawn bubbles, as the debris sinks they bubbles rise and delete out of frame. There is also random "Dumb" Bubbles that fill up the scene. More on the Hero bubble sims later. Becuse I was using VRAY I worked on a fully Alembic Proxy Pipeline for rendering all the Bubbles,Instances and Meshed Bubble Clouds. I ended up with some hefty 10's Millions Poly Bubble Clouds per FX Asset however these were rendered as proxies in just minutes thanks to VRay 3. I also did some RealFlow Gas Globes RnD, however these were not used sadly as we went for a more firbeall look rather than shockwave explosion.
Mix Of Bubble Methods, From Instances to Fluid Sims.
RealFlow SPH and Hybrido Gas Globes RnD- Faking Velocity (SPH Has Pressure Settings!)
RBD- As stated above the main RBD work was on Blowing up 6 Command/"Arm" Buildings, There was no room for faking these, I wanted full destruction. Not only are these supposed to be huge, but there also made from steel, breaking/tearing metal is hard to look right. For the pre fragging it was a lot of Manual Work, IE Manually chopping/cutting the geo, There was an Inital pre frag stage to define invidual objects, these were then split into Hero Objects and Non Hero Objects. Some of the fracturing was done using a custom Voronoi method to get rid of that Voronoi look. I also modelled basic internal destruction elements like bent wires and pipes.
Command Building C's Pre Frag Stage (In Sections)
My Tool For Destruction Was Thinking Particles (TP) right now there is no other tool that can handle geometry with not so great mesh in large quantities so well, while maintaing accurate collision detection aswell as iterative speed. The Shape Collision Solver although old now is still one of my favourite solvers for RBDs out there and I think i'll be using it for a while! Also with TP I could work procedurally when needed aswell as setup custom constrain systems via procedural joints. I made a two pretty big TP Setups where using a Bomb Force that defines its radius with a raster of particles I could position it anywhere in the scene and have it affect the fragments. From this joints were created and broken depending on the force, plus lots of friction. The Gas Tanks Destruction were also Sim'd in TP I did plan to do these via mParticles however TP was better. All the TP sims were exported through TP (No Budget For XMesh) and from there I manually added deformation to the hero parts and more debris were added as instances through PFlow.
Gas Tanks Destruction Sims
TP Base Sim (Using Lowres Parts)^
The RBD Side was a lot of work and a lot of fun. The Helicarrier Destruction In Cap America 2 served as good reference for how metal hulls break, aswell as my favourite ever film Battleship! The Systems/Workflows I made here will be used in my Epic Summer Personal Project I keep going on about!
Command Building D RBDs (WIP)
Shot FX Layout with RBD Sims (WIP)
Command Building B Destruction + Debris WIP
The Non Hero Destructions were keyframed using modifiers to fake the deformation as they fall. The Main RBD Sims were then used in my Bubbles Systems to Spawn bubbles. The two hero command buildings use there own Fume Sims that uses smoke with temperature thats then advected, meshed using Frost to create bubble clouds.
Fume+Frost+PFlow- Bubble Emission Sims (Command Building A)
TP and PFlow Working together! TP Main RBD Sim, PFlow Debris and Fume/Bubble Emission.
This is where the main FX Assets were created. Using FumeFX and PFlow as the main tools here. I needed a good way to fake pressure aswell as keep the explosions looking epic. The pressure was faked by using keyframed values and forces to get the explosions to Expand/Explode then Implode as they would underwater this implosion pressure lasts barely 3 frames which then is turned off quickly causing the nice looking underwater swirling look, and then neg gravity so they rise up. This meant that i setup around 12 different explosion grids using this method to populate the shots. I didn't have the luxury of a pressure solver/mixing liquid and gas sims to get proper underwater explosions. However due to the time and buget the focus was on cinematiclly epic rather than physically accurate.
A Selection Of the Best sims!
The Next stage is all underwater explosions create Bubble Clouds which refract the smoke. These explosions I went with were more fireball like than gas cloud/shockwave. All the explosions were made as FX Assets theres, the hero sims all were meshed using FumeFollow/Smoke and Frost to there own alembic caches, so an Artist could add these (Or me in the end!) to any scene. The what were to be background explosions/ population grids, these were not frost meshed, they each had there own PF System using FumeFollow and instancing bubble geometries.To make things easier I setup a system where I could open one of the scenes sim it and merge it into my main FX Scenes very quickly, and then quickly load the alembic proxie bubbles in.
Most of the explosions were simple srcs driven by velocity IE No particle voxel emission, becuase for one it makes nicer emissions for this case, also I can let the velocity particles live longer and actually drive the motion of the src's emission. You get much nicer bursting explosions than with particle emission. However it takes longer to setup, and is not very controllable and you cant have velocity particles driving the sims all the time as it'd be impossible to calcluate how the velocity is been advected aswell as how much does Fume influence this into the sims. So in some cases I might use a mix of Particle emission and fire some velocity particles into the grids to mix up the emission a bit. Some of the sims have smoke trails (This would be not realistic underwater, as smoke trails are burning debris in most cases which the water would either extinguish or slow down due the the pressure, however smoke/firey trails look awesome) and these were emitted via particles.
Command Building B Main Explosion Sim (4 Emitters)
Due to the sad cancellation of the sequence, I knew i'd be making an FX Reel of all my work and wanted to render a shot with some of my favourite FX Setups/Assets in. I like to do finishing on shots You kinda have to know how to finish into nice shots when your from a smaller studio background which is good because I can do FX projects and do the Light,RenderComp myself I know my skills are a heavy WIP, but with the ability to showcase my FX in a shot I think really helped show the work I put into this project. Would of been nice to have a lighting department here, but I am looking around and theres only me sat here!! I knew I was started a new project next week so did not have time for enviro fog and proper caustics and proper underwater lighting, so I did most of it in comp just showcase the FX in a finished shot. With VRay is really quick to be able to put Materials/simple shader setups on for iterative dailies, gives more of a clear example of how the FX Sims/Renders will be used and will look.
Lighting/Rendering of the "FX Showcase Shot" !
Overall I really enjoyed the work I did for this project, has defiantly been my biggest yet, sad that the sequence got cancelled but that was out of my hands. I learnt a lot on this project and have some great FX Setups for future use. I really enjoyed the underwater FX Side! Right now I am on a new project smaller scale, but have some more RealFlow 2015 RnD in the works aswell as prepping for my summer VFX Personal Project in my free time which will be lots of FX with full shot finsihing I am amining to do a really super ambitious (And Probably stupid) personal FX project! I am also working on a StarWars Game doing an FX Shot! (Dont worry its not confidential!)
So Just big thanks for reading, supporting my work. 2015s brought some awesome projects so far, I hope to get more awesome projects soon! Thanks- Niall