The Settlers    


"Vue's EcoSystems provide an impressively fast workflow to create stunning landscapes and vegetation!"
Rodrigo Olmos, Art Director and Concept Artist, ANIMA RES.




Rodrigo Olmos, Art Director and Concept Artist at ANIMA RES, shares with us how they introduced Vue to their pipeline, for the creation of 3 TV-commercials for Ubisoft's Video Game 'The Settlers: Dawn of cultures', broadcasted in Germany.


About the Crew at ANIMA RES

Rodrigo Olmos

Pablo Olmos

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Rodrigo Olmos: I studied Design at the Köln International School of Design (KISD). Together with my brother Pablo Olmos, who studied Electronic Arts at the Middlesex University of London, we decided to open our own company back in 1997. Since then, we have successfully carried out very diverse 3D computer animations for various well-known clients.


Was this the first time you got to use Vue on a project? How long did you work on it?

RO: Yes it was. Last year (2008), we bought Vue 6 xStream, along with several RenderCow licences, to create the new 'The Settlers: Dawn of cultures' TV-commercial for Ubisoft. We started out as beginners and had four weeks to change that. Apart from the typical difficulties when dealing with a new software, we were impressed with the results we achieved with Vue in a very small amount of time.



Technical Aspects

Did you use Vue in combination with any other 3D application?

RO: Besides Vue, we used 3d's Max 2009 for character modeling and animation, After Effects CS3 for Composite & Particle Systems, Photoshop CS3 for textures.


Could you explain the different steps of your project creation?

RO: The different steps were:

a) Storyboard: First, we received the client's storyboard and started to discuss how the prescribed content could be put into action. We agreed that the landscapes would probably turn out to be the greatest issue in this project.

b) Character modeling: Since the low resolution game characters lacked the geometrical details needed for the TV-commercial, we had to remodel and texture all characters in 3d's Max (in a proper game style) to meet our demands.

c) Game environments: At the same time we took up the task of creating 3 environments in Vue. Again this had to be done in accordance to game style and storyboard's pictorial composition.

d) Camera motion: Animating the camera motion in Vue and thereby defining the binding visible image section for our landscapes and character animation was next.

e) Rendertests: During the whole production process innumerable rendertests in PAL- and HD-resolution kept our renderfarm busy. The visual results gave us information about which presets or scene elements needed refining, or rather, adjusting (e.g. purging flickering in materials). Rendertimes for respective presets and resolution were documented to provide a basis for our production schedule.

f) Character animation: The characters were rigged in 3d's Max, using the biped-IK-skeleton and "physique" for the skinning process. Character motion was created in the motionflow-editor, using a mixture of motioncapture data and keyframing.

g) Scene detail: The next step was to refine and pad the scene with additional geometrical detail (accounting for the visible image section and rendertimes).

h) Secondary-animations: Setting up minor animations such as wind for weeds and trees, cloud tempo, etc. was quickly done and added to the overall impression of our animation.

i) Client's approval: A final preview was created - once the animation was accepted by our client we started the final rendering stage.

j) Final rendering: The TV-commercial was rendered in PAL- and HD resolution. Each resolution in turn was rendered in triplicate versions (20-, 30- and 60-second, each with varying camera motion).

k) Compositing: In the final stage of production, numerous render passes for characters and environments, as well as additional 2d-animations (blowing sand, dust, passing flock of birds or butterflies) were composited in AfterEffects CS3.

 
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Client's storyboard





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Character modeling





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Screenshot of the game





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Adding special effects


Did you run into any problems and if so, how did you solve them?

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RO: Flickering proved to be a real problem and each scene reacted differently. The only way to solve this problem was to define rendering parameters for each scene separately. Seeing that, we assigned 10 quadcore machines 24-7 to the task of testing various rendering-parameters on short animation sequences. We optimized these and started all over again until we found the adequate parameters for each scene.


On the other hand,
what were the easiest parts of your project and why?

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RO: Creating stunning landscapes. Achieving similar results in 3d's Max would have taken a multiple. EcoSystem's fast workflow had more of a painting-game than uninspiring scene construction. Vue provided us with the tools to accommodate our client's wishes (be it modifying / adding / relocating trees, plants, stones or mountains) quickly.


Are their any anecdotes you would like to share with us regarding this project?

RO: After receiving the first storyboard, I started to work on the look of the landscape according to the Settler's game style. Since you never know with a new software, a colleague of mine set out to do the same in 3d's Max. It took me only a few hours to create the desired landscape look along with moving grass and treetops – this totally amazed my colleagues!



Official TV-commercial




About Vue

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Why did you prefer Vue over other solutions?

RO: The biggest issue in this project was to create several game scenarios in accordance with the settlers game style in a fast and flexible way. We wanted to convey the impression that the viewers are still in a gaming scenario, although a more detailed version of the Settler's game. Since generating and editing detailed landscapes and skies in 3d's Max turned out to be too time-consuming, we started looking for another approach and stumbled over the Vue showreel.



What are your favorite Vue features or options?

RO: Our favourite Vue feature was the impressively fast workflow to create stunning landscapes and vegetations with the EcoSystem. Painting these was really fun!


Do you have any tips and tricks to share with the Vue user's community?

RO: Especially heavily populated tree- and grass scenes made it necessary, so as to keep render times down, to think in terms of what will actually be seen. Trees and grass were only positioned in these visible areas, thus boosting scene- as well as render-performance. We created each mountain and hill separately on a particular layer. This approach enabled us to create previews in a short amount of time by hiding unnecessary scene elements. Apart from that, scenes with splitted layers seemed to be rendering faster.


Will you be using Vue in other projects?

RO: Vue's ability to handle extremely detailed scenes, similar to MentalRay's proxies in 3d's Max, shows great promise. We are planing to use this ability to create medical environments in future projects.



About ANIMA RES

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ANIMA RES is a specialist in 3D computer animations. Their particular focus is on the pharmaceutical, medical and biotechnological sectors and has turned into a highly specialised outsourcing partner for Healthcare Agencies.

The company name derived from the Latin word 'animare' (to breathe life into) and 'res' (the thing) and describes the field of activity most aptly.

"We reanimate the lifeless, we change the small thing into a big one; we turn the invisible into visible and stage products or procedures in a fascinating and intelligible way."

Irrespective of whether this is cinematic, interactive, printed or online. Since the formation of ANIMA RES in 1997 in Bonn, they have successfully carried out very diverse 3D computer animations for various well-known clients, whether the projects be cinematic, interactive, printed or online."

ANIMA RES Homepage: http://www.animares.com



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