The Sword and the cineSync: VFX of King Arthur

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The Sword and the cineSync: VFX of King Arthur

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword feels like the logical next step in Guy Ritchie’s career – after all, who better to direct a modern reimagining of King Arthur than British film royalty? Ritchie has spent years moulding rough and rugged England into whip-smart stories of sleazy charm, and Ancient Albion feels like home turf.

Ritchie has driven a bolt of trademark energy through King Arthur’s folklore, the murky grasslands and staunch stone castles fizzling with the director’s verve. This is mythological Britain filtered through modern-day cinematic technique – not to mention some truly exceptional VFX, delivered under the watchful eye of VFX Production Supervisor Gavin Round (sadly not of the round table).

Boasting a decade of experience in visual effects, Round has worked on numerous blockbusters, chalking up visual feasts such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Edge of Tomorrow. He teamed with Ritchie on King Arthur to breathe new life into the classic tale of swords, sovereigns and sorcery, corralling the project’s global VFX teams around a singular vision with support from cineSync.

“I came onto King Arthur in 2014, working with VFX Producer Alex Bicknell and VFX Supervisor Nick Davis, who I’d worked with on Edge of Tomorrow,” he explains. “Thanks to that experience, we had an established, effective workflow in place for meeting with vendors, viewing material, and of course, using cineSync. In other words, we could hit the ground running on King Arthur.”

Vendors of the round table

cineSync was key to making King Arthur’s VFX a reality, given the nine separate vendors involved in the process. Framestore stood as the lead vendor, operating out of both its London and Montreal studios. Contributions also came in from MPC’s Montreal team, Method Studios in LA and Vancouver, Scanline in Vancouver, and many more, totaling nine different studios.

Round was in the thick of the battle on King Arthur from pre to post, helping to establish Ritchie’s new kingdom of myth and magic across all studios involved.

“My duties involved managing vendors, making sure the shots came in on time and that the vendors had everything they need,” recalls Round. “cineSync enabled us to review the material constantly, so we were always aware of the status of any given shot. We could see it in real-time to discuss with the vendors.”

cineSync played a large role in creation of King Arthur’s many mythical creatures, such as a nine-foot CG villain, whose creation was split between VFX vendors Framestore and MPC.

“It was a delicate process, as we had to maintain continuity between the two vendors, who were essentially building different parts of the same being,” explains Round. “We needed to constantly review and check the material back-to-back to ensure everything transitioned correctly, no matter which vendor it came from. This is the exact kind of situation where cineSync is so useful – it saves a lot on travel!”

cineSync was used almost every day in post on King Arthur, particularly towards the end of the project. “We relied on cineSync heavily during the backend of the post schedule, at which point we were ramping up and getting most of our shots through,” says Round. “We used cineSync with all the vendors involved – we knew we could rely on it.”

The sword and the cineSync

cineSync proved to be a powerful tool throughout the filmmaking process – and one that, unlike Excalibur, anyone could wield: the entire King Arthur production team fell in love with the simplicity of cineSync – in particular, VFX Supervisor Nick Davis, who would make sure every VFX shot was reviewed, analyzed, and improved by all vendors.

“He likes to do cineSync sessions because he can pull up a shot, make marks on it, draw on it and tell the artists exactly where he wants a creature to walk,” says Round. “We did it for the big shots and small shots alike – whatever we were working on, cineSync ensured that the sequence ended up looking much better on screen.”

For Round, King Arthur revolved around the power of cineSync, ensuring that every shot was delivered to the ultimate satisfaction of all involved: “cineSync was completely intertwined in our day-to-day workflow. It was a brilliant overall tool and made my life much simpler.”

Or, as the British would put it: Bob’s your uncle!

The “deep paintings” of Warhammer 40,000K Dawn of War III

The “deep paintings” of Warhammer 40,000K Dawn of War III

Dawn of War III returns once again to the battle-scarred frontlines of Warhammer 40,000, bringing the conflict of Space Marines, Eldar and Ork to the lost planet of Acheron. Read on to learn how Axis Animation and director Abed Abonamous took inspiration from classical paintings to build the game’s brooding expository cut scenes, revealing a world where beauty and violence sit side by side…

Axis Animation first stepped into the ominous nightmare world of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III in early 2016. Relic Entertainment – the creator of the lauded real-time strategy series – called on the studio and director Abed Abonamous to create an announcement trailer that would challenge the expectations of the Warhammer franchise, revealing a darker take on the universe and its characters.

The result was a haunting journey through visuals inspired by the forbidding work of painters like Zdzisław Beksiński and H.R. Giger – mysterious stone structures tower behind plumes of dust; behemoths clash across corpse-strewn battlefields; and lonesome soldiers face their ultimate end with a wry smile.

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Axis and Abonamous were once again invited into the netherworld of Dawn of War III to further expand this atmosphere throughout the title’s in-game cinematics, imbuing them with the same tone and atmosphere as the trailer.

The team worked to create 14 minutes of compelling 2.5D “motion-painting” cut scenes, each exhibiting the scope and fury of Dawn of War III’s violent clashes with the same oppressive atmosphere that pervades the initial trailer.

Read on to find out how Axis approach each of these doom-laden tableaus, taking inspiration from the classical masters…

Deep paintings

As a team of Warhammer fanatics, Axis Animation stood as the studio of choice for Relic Entertainment, who knew the team would show due reverence for the beloved tabletop franchise.

Axis collaborated closely with Relic to ensure the cut scenes hit the right tonal notes from pre-production onwards, with Abonamous once again diving into the universe headfirst.

“Relic had a clear idea of the storyline; they gave us detailed scripts that covered all of the cut scenes’ narrative beats,” explains Abonamous. “They also gave presentations revealing how the scripts tied into the game’s narrative context, revealing what would happen between one cut scene and another. That was a kind of ‘narrative glue’, which we used to think of the cut scenes as part of a larger tapestry.”

Abonamous and Axis needed to make this “tapestry” feel as rich as possible, both narratively and artistically. As such the team chose to implement the cut scenes as a series of “deep paintings”. Each frame revealed an atmospheric diorama or character and environment, shrouded in the sinister atmosphere that permeates Dawn of War III.

“We broke down the scripts provided by Relic into storyboard sketches, and iteratively finessed them while discussing each with the developers,” Abonamous explains. “Relic’s scripts and briefings rarely mandated any specific compositions for each cut scene. We had a lot of flexibility in approach for the deep paintings we wanted to create, and could decide on compositions that allowed the camera to tell a story.”

Indeed, the similarity between storyboard sketches and final output can be witnessed in lead storyboard artist Paul Coulthard’s comparison reel, detailing the initial sketches alongside Dawn of War III’s final results.

A two-way street

Using Relic’s directions for the cut scenes’ narrative elements, Axis worked collaboratively with the studio to define the look, feel and approach of each short composition.

“We approached this very much in the vein of classical painters, who guide the viewer’s eye through use of composition and lighting,” explains Abonamous.

“Relic provided high-level designs for locations and characters, as we had to make sure that the cut scenes corresponded visually to the players’ in-game experiences. This wasn’t a one-way street, however, as the cut-scenes required higher resolution assets, which meant that sometimes we would design details on characters or locations, and then send them back to Relic for signoff.”

Once the rich, tactile designs were ready, each conveying the painterly style the Warhammer 40K franchise is known for, Axis worked to give the images subtle motions and a delicate seasoning of effects, then meticulously planned the camera movements through each diorama.

“Using the animated storyboards we had prepared as reference, we translated the nuance of the camera movements to the final images,” says Abonamous. “Relic gave us high-level feedback, giving us an idea of the important narrative beats. But otherwise we had a lot of creative freedom to explore visual and compositional options on our end.”

Fans first and foremost

Axis’ animated paintings were ultimately delivered as eight separate sequences, comprising 14-minutes of beautifully brutal narrative. Concept to delivery took six months, with Axis engaging in much technical and creative thinking along the way.

“The biggest challenge we faced was how to add a sense of depth to these paintings,” Abonamous recalls. “Our tech gurus came up with an approach that allowed us to use a ‘thick’ atmosphere of smoke, fog, and haze inside 2.5D compositions.

“We also had a lot of content to render, which always poses a challenge on projects of this scope,” he adds. “We streamlined the pipeline to a point where we saved time by rendering assets just once for an entire shot, regardless of the moving camera. That saved huge amounts of time and enabled us to focus on getting each sequence feeling right creatively and rhythmically.”

Beyond the technical innovations, the final animated sequences represent a deep pool of artistic talent: the sweeping panoramas glide past in amber and copper chiaroscuro, fetid Orks and bulwarked Space Marines held in moments of frozen bloodshed. It’s static poetry – taking the viewer through fragments of captured time.

“The Axis team on Dawn of War III are fans first and foremost, so they really put their all into this,” concludes Abonamous. “We’re the guys who played on tabletop for years, and now we get to find new and exciting ways to cast light on the characters and concepts we know so well. The excitement we feel for Warhammer 40K is evident in every frame.”

 

 

 

In Sequence Kickstarter

In Sequence is a new animated film from Brooklyn based artist George de Moura. The animation is executed in a fairly wonky style reminiscent of artists such as Mike Judge, Priit Parn, and Igor Kovalyov but at times utilizes a form of rotoscoping to increase the realism of the character movements and pacing. The film is part way through a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the expenses to complete the film. Professional actors will be used in the creation of the footage and audio that will be used as the foundation of the project. I hope that you can help make this project come to life by contributing or sharing through your networks.

Kickstarter – http://kck.st/2qv0QHE

Website – http://georgedemoura.com

Proofs of Concept from Exit 73 Studios

Cool little bit of animation from my friends over at Exit 73 Studios

The First one is called #BLUD:
It follows the adventures of Becky Belmont, who has to balance the perils of middle school by day and fighting the undead at night.  All of which serves as an allegory for what it’s like growing up as kid in this modern world.

The last one is called Duke and Darryl:
Darryl and his imaginary friend duke find ways to make mountains out of molehills in this Cartoony adventure!

NBCUniversal Is Building Its Own Children’s Channel

The New York Times has an interesting article up about NBCUniversal’s new kids network which will replace the Sprout Network.

From the article:
LOS ANGELES — In a new salvo in the children’s television wars, NBCUniversal is creating its own Disney Channel.

Starting on Sept. 9, NBCUniversal will turn one of its smallest cable properties, Sprout, into a network called Universal Kids, said Deirdre Brennan, who will oversee the effort. She said NBCUniversal wanted to create an “umbrella brand” for its family offerings — television cartoons made by the Universal-owned DreamWorks Animation, Universal-Illumination films and attractions at Universal theme parks.

Sprout is solely aimed at preschool viewers, but Universal Kids will concentrate on children 2 through 11. The revamped channel’s first series will be “Top Chef Junior,” a spinoff of the cooking show on NBCUniversal’s Bravo.

“Reality programming is a real white space in the U.S. children’s market — food, pets, dancing, even news,” said Ms. Brennan, who will be general manager of Universal Kids. “Look at how sophisticated 11-year-olds are these days. They want more than the same sitcoms.”

DWA TV Production – Prop Designer

DWA TV Production – Prop Designer

About Us
From the award-winning storytellers, artist and innovators at DreamWorks Animation and DreamWorks Animation Television come the beloved characters and stories that come alive on the big and small screens. From films like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Trolls to original TV series including Trollhunters, Voltron and Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh, DreamWorks Animation continues to bring home the laughter, fun and courage to dream.

Visit www.dreamworksanimation.com to see our latest animated film and television productions.

DreamWorks is a division of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBCUniversal’s policy is to provide equal employment opportunities to all applicants and employees without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender identity or expression, age, national origin or ancestry, citizenship, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, veteran status, membership in the uniformed services, genetic information, or any other basis protected by applicable law.

Generates prop designs, turnarounds, special poses and any other prop-related art that the production may require, ensuring style and quality of show is met.  Responsibilities may include but are not limited to:

• Review script/animatic/breakdown list for props needed at handout of show.

• Complete all rough, revised and final designs necessary within assigned deadlines.

• Resolve design problems with creative supervisors.

• Ensure all deadlines are met.

• Communicate progress of work to appropriate production staff.

• Ensure all artwork is properly backed up and stored appropriately.

• Ensure all shipping materials are prepared and ready on time.

• Be available for questions until department’s shipment is complete.

• Assist with special projects.

• If applicable, make special shadow and color indications

Qualifications/Requirements

• Must demonstrate proficiency in style of show.

• Strong prop design and construction/mechanical skills.

• Knowledge of or willingness to learn applicable design software and hardware.

• Strong time-management skills.

• Work well under pressure.

• Ability to multitask a plus.

Desired Characteristics

• Relevant drawing experience necessary

• BA in Fine Arts or equivalent work experience highly desired