"Vue really helped me to deliver an architectural film which for the first time has virtual environments equal to nature, on a huge scale."
Rabih Haddad, CEO of BlackSmith Studios, shares with us how they introduced Vue to their pipeline.
BlackSmith Studios created one of the largest architectural visualization projects in Beirut, Lebanon for Emaar, one of the largest real estate developers in the Middle East and the world.
About Rabih Haddad
Rabih grew up in Toronto, Canada, and moved several times between Canada, the US and Lebanon growing up. But, since he lived more or less across the street from Alias in Toronto, it was kind of natural for him to learn 3D. After a short tenure at MIT and the University of Michigan, he went to AUB, in Beirut, Lebanon. He graduated with a degree in Computer Science, and audited practically every course in the business department. Before he had graduated, he had opened 2 studios. His company BlackSmith Studios is now a leading architectural visualization firm and his new VFX division is quickly becoming quite popular!
E-on: How did you get into 3D?
Rabih Haddad: I started working in 3D when I was about 15 years old, and quickly realized although I was okay at it, I did not have the patience or dedication required to be an artist, so I taught! I gave masterclasses to several studios in Toronto, London, Beirut etc, but eventually decided it would be wisest to turn my energy to opening my own studio.
Was this the first time you got to use Vue on a project? How long did you work on it?
RH: We started out of necessity. It was a huge project that we couldn't render on time and efficiently with Maya, and needed a third party program to step in. After some research we chose Vue xStream. It took us a total of 3 months to complete the project from planning, storyboarding to modeling, animation to rendering and compositing.
What is your Vue using level?
RH: I am good, but the artists at my company are the real masters. Most of the work comes from Cindy Hussami (artistically) and Majd Akar (technically).
Did you use Vue in combination with any other 3D application?
RH: We use a suite of tools to generate our final film. In this project we used Maya for most of the work. We then used AfterEffects for motion graphics and Shake for compositing. Editing was done with Final Cut Pro and final output was through Compressor. Audio was done in FCP, although we usually use Pro-Tools.
Could you explain the different steps of your project creation?
RH: We started with a storyboard with script. We then moved on to a full fledged animatic showing the individual shots. From there we modeled and animated the scenes and then texturing and lighting (which includes the landscaping, where Vue comes in). Finally, we render, composite and color correct and add audio, and any additional post.
The scenes were split into Maya based (with Vue trees) and pure Vue shots (the simulated helicopter shots) and the live-action composited shots (which also include Vue).
What was the importance of nature in your show and what do you believe it adds to the piece?
RH: Nature played an essential part in the BeitMisk film. First of all, since the project is based in the Metn area of Beirut, Lebanon, the beautiful Mediterranean weather is one of the key selling points of the project. Vue allowed us to showcase the sprawling green environment in its full glory. BeitMisk is so heavily landscaped, that the building actually are surrounded by trees and greenery of various species and sizes.
We even developed a "season-change" shot for the client. This shot cycled through all four seasons demonstrating how pleasant the environment is year-round. Using Vue we were able to have a 100% continuous shot with four separate environments without any harsh cuts or fades.
What was the most difficult part of your project?
RH: BeitMisk film's landmark shot is without a doubt the season change shot, where we go through all four seasons seamlessly. This was quite difficult as we had to go through four different lighting set-ups, skies while the plants all moved continuously throughout. The challenge was solved by setting up four identical scenes, making sure they had the same animation seed and blending the shots in post.
Another major issue we had was moving from Vue 6 to Vue 8, mid-project. The change wasn't as straightforward as you might imagine, as there was clear quality differences between the two renders. So we had to re-setup everything and re-render all the shots. In the end it was more than worth it, as we increased quality dramatically, and seriously reduced flicker. 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.
What are your favorite Vue features or options?
RH: Many features, but my personal favorites are 'drop to terrain', the 'terrain sculpting tool', 'EcoSystem painting' and the ability to render huge data-sets relatively quickly! Vue really helped me to deliver an architectural film which for the first time has virtual environments equal to nature, on a huge scale.
Will you be using Vue in other projects?
RH: Most of our projects are new real-estate launches and new products, which are all highly confidential. What I can say is this:
Having two sides to our business, architectural visualization and VFX for TV & Film, simulating and manipulating nature plays a major role in both sectors. That's why Vue will definitely play a huge role in delivering realistic landscapes that our clients demand. You can no longer get away with duplicated trees that do not move. Vue is the only solution available that is able to take our vision of how we would like nature to behave in our projects, and give our artists the power to realize that vision.
So wether its a new golf course or a funky new TV commercial, BlackSmith Studios will be using Vue to solve our next nature-based challenges.
About BlackSmith Studios
BlackSmith Studios has been around for the past decade, servicing several sectors of the 3D industry. These sectors included architectural visualization, music video clip postproduction, broadcast 3D (Commercials) and film VFX. The main regions of operation generally are Canada, US, Europe and the Middle East. In late 2006, BlackSmith Studios moved its headquarters to Manama, Bahrain in order to capitalize on the industrial and economic boom in the region. BlackSmith Studios is a privately held company with investors and employees from 10 countries in 4 continents.
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