Digital visual effects research


As a group, we looked at various films but we decided to each look at two in more detail to see how they accomplished the film and its effects.

World War Z – Zombie tower

When watching the film, i was curious how they created such numbers in the amount of zombies that we see and interact with each other. Whilst they may use actors in some scenes, there are some shots that would need to be digitally simulated.

MPC, who did the majority of the effects including the zombie tower needed to find a way of generating swarms of zombies that would react and behave accordingly. with the tower at its peak having over 5000 characters, they started by using motion capture clips of people climbing up things like walls and nets, and also them falling down from ramps and different heights.

“MPC’s most exciting work was the huge crowd scenes. MPC’s CG Supervisor Max Wood captured mocap clips, adapted MPC’s proprietary crowd system ALICE, and tested the technology needed to render these huge crowds.  The crowd characters were built from reference photography and scans gathered on set. MPC’s Modelling and Assets team creating 24 different body types with different textures, which resulted in 3,000 possible crowd variations.  

In all of the complex crowd shots we added layers of hand animated zombies.  For falling and landing zombies we used PAPI, our in house rigid body dynamic solver, which is based on the Havok physics engine. MPC’s Crowd team worked with the Animation department to ensure the zombies moved realistically when in a crowd and when interacting with live action or digi doubles.”



Man of steel

Having been told that his cape would be fully CG in this film i wanted to know how the vfx team made him fly etc.

The next thing i wanted to know was how they destroyed the buildings in metropolis, a task that Double negative were given.

Double negative looked at Esri’s city engine which has been used previously in total recall.

 “That was a much more sci-fi based role,” notes Dneg visual effects supervisor Ged Wright, “so we took what they had done and extended it a great deal. The work we were doing was based around the Downtowns for New York, LA and Chicago and that gave us the building volumes for heights. We’d skin those volumes with kit parts but most of it then had to fall down! So we had to rig it for destruction and use it for other aspects of the work as well.”

For building destruction, in particular, the studio re-wrote its own asset system to be geared towards dynamic events. An implementation of the Bullet engine inside Houdini – dubbed Bang – became Dneg’s main destruction solver, with a core philosophy of allowing for quick iterations with heavy control. 

In addition, fire, smoke and water simulation tools were further developed at Dneg. The studio moved from its existing proprietary volume renderer DNB to working in Houdini and rendering in Mantra for elements such as fireball sims. Dneg’s in-house fluids tool Squirt also benefited from new development to handle larger scale sims and interaction for more tightly coupled volumes and particles






About philb15anim

studying computer animation and special effects at leeds met university
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