"The EcoSystem tools are fantastic! No other software gave us the flexibility to populate landscapes with realistic vegetation in such an easy way."
Michael Koch, CG Supervisor and Head of 3D Animation Department at Acht Frankfurt, shares with us how they introduced Vue to their pipeline.
Acht Frankfurt created the intro trailer for Terra X broadcasted on the public-service German television channel ZDF, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen ("Second German Television") based in Mainz. This spotlight appears by courtesy of ZDF.
About Michael Koch
Michael Koch is the CG supervisor and head of the 3D animation department at Acht Frankfurt. He studied physics, started working for games companies in 1994 and quickly set up his own company Mindworx. Today his portfolio covers the whole range of CG visual effects, from digital set extensions to character animation for film and tv commercials. Michael Koch is the author of many articles on 3D animation techniques, co-authored the book inside 3D Studio Max 2 and worked as a guest advisor at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Before he joined Acht Frankfurt he was lead artist and CG supervisor at ARRI Digital Film, Ogilvy & Mather Miami and Upstart Animation.
E-on: How did you get into 3D?
Michael Koch: Back in 1994 I got a contract from a German record label for a CD featuring my club music project 'Mind Evolutions'. The record company gave me a small budget for the design of the CD cover. I liked the idea to do that myself, so I started playing with a shareware raytracer called 'Vivid'. Everything was commandline, there was no graphic user interface at all. I rendered the cover image on my Pentium 90mhz computer - that was my first paid 3D job! After that I got infected with 3D animation.
Was this the first time you got to use Vue on a project? How long did you work on it?
MK: It was the first time we used Vue for a project. A team of two 3D artists worked on that project - Bernd Nalbach and me. From initial boards to final trailer it took us about 3 months, including the film shoot of various elements.
Did you use Vue in combination with any other 3D application?
MK: Besides Vue xStream we used Autodesk's 3Ds Max in combination with Vray, Ivy Generator and Xfrog. Compositing was done on Autodesk Flame.
Could you explain the different steps of your project creation?
MK: Frank Schneider, director and CEO of Filmstyler Pictures, approached us with this very interesting board for the new Terra X trailer for ZDF in 2008. We immediately wanted to work on that project. The initial idea was to use existing footage and creative compositing. But we all realized quickly, that this would be too time-consuming.
So Filmstyler Pictures worked out a new concept based on the idea that the viewer sees and 'feels' the passing of the entire history of earth and mankind. The pretended camera angle always stays in the same position and in the end it even offers a sight into the future. Filmstyler Pictures shot specific additional material and elements on film that we needed for compositing.
Compositing on Autodesk Flame was done by Senior Artist Heiko Leitsch and Steffen Röthinger. Different render passes were used to give the Compositing Artists as much flexibility as possible. They also supervised the film shoot of various elements, like the fighting knights and the Romans. The trailer is produced in HD format.
In the end, the result of this concept was a mix between footage, compositing and 3D. In a permanent and close collaboration between Filmstyler and Acht Frankfurt we generated the Terra X trailer by using real- and postproduction generated elements. Together we evaluated various tools for the task at hand, but quickly found that Vue's EcoSystem features will be very useful for wide landscapes covered with vegetation.
We also used Vue for timelapse skies. A number of growing foreground hero plants were animated with Xfrog, some Ivy vegetation was created directly in 3Ds Max with the Ivy Generator plugin.
The project was a pleasure to work on, during the workprocess we had so much freedom to come up with our own ideas. Over the past years we established a trustworthy relationship with Filmstyler Pictures, which I think is really important for creative work.
What was the most difficult part of your project?
MK: The most difficult part was the timelapse landscape morph, to find seamless transitions from one landscape to another. We created various layouts first, and discussed them with the director until we found the solution we felt works best.
Official Trailer Terra X
What are your favorite Vue features or options?
MK: The EcoSystem tools are fantastic! No other software gave us the flexibility to populate landscapes with realistic vegetation in such an easy way. The ability to paint EcoSystem vegetation is just brilliant.
Will you be using Vue in other projects?
MK: I am very curious to use the new Vue 7 features on one of our next projects. The Spectral II Cloud Technology looks very promising, also the interesting additions to terrain modeling and EcoSystem generation.
About Acht Frankfurt
Acht Frankfurt was founded in 2003 in Frankfurt/Germany. Since then, the company provides digital services for movie, TV, and commercial productions. To obtain the best results in postproduction, Acht Frankfurt usually gets involved into the projects at a very early stage and in close collaboration with the clients. Besides the classic postproduction, Acht Frankfurt also provides support at shootings and executes whole projects from their concept to their finalization. The company focuses clearly on technical innovation and works with 40 employees and freelancers. Since 2006 Acht Frankfurt offers its services also in a Color Grading suite (HD standard) to complete the HD workflow.
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