View Full Version : Earthquake - VFX Challenge - Arioch

11 November 2002, 06:13 PM
Alright, a challenge that requires us to go out and spend some time in the real world! I'm in. If I can manage to borrow a friends camera and weather permits I hope to be shooting some footage this weekend. Until then here's a quick storyboard, basically I'd like to simulate a little chaos on Long Beach's Metro blue line. ;)

11 November 2002, 10:52 PM
Cool idea!!!
Can't wait to see that train.

Best of luck man


11 November 2002, 11:02 PM
Yess! This will be great!

THe only issue that I can see upfront is the CG train which you're going to have to painstakingly model, match the lighting and well....make it look photo-real and actually comped in the scene.

:thumbsup: Great start!


11 November 2002, 11:14 PM
Yeah the train is going to be the make it or break it part of the shot. I toyed with the idea of shooting 2 versions, the second one with a real train almost hitting the crack right at the end of the clip but if I'm going to put in the time might as well go all the way.

I was planning on scouting locations early Saturday but the web has been a tremendous help already. If anyone is ever looking for locations to film in California take a look at

After that site and some other places I think I'll probably shoot at a location where the train turns while crossing the street like this:

11 November 2002, 01:08 AM
hey that pick looks like I pass through there on my way home to HP ;)

11 November 2002, 01:16 AM
So the plan was to shoot Saturday but since it rained the whole day I just ended up following the railís path and noting good locations to set up the tripod. Sunday was nice and clear so I headed out early to beat the downtown crowds but the tall buildings made the shoot too dark until about 11:00.

I ended up shooting footage from 4 intersections and still havenít decided which one to use yet. Everybody was very interested in what I was doing including a cop who watched me from his squad car. I noticed that one of the buildings in the shot was the Long Beach Police Dept. so when the first metro train came by I made a big deal of panning along to follow the train. The cop got the idea and left but then all sorts of other people wanted to ask questions or walk back and forth in the background. I told most people I was doing a study of the effects of an earthquake on public transportation. ;)

Even shooting for minutes on end none of the shots were perfectly clean so Iíll have to paint out a bus here or a person there from the cleanest 5 seconds. I also took some still shots of the train for reference but the thing only stands still for a minute so I had to work fast. Oh yeah, the total expense for the shot was 75cents for parking. Iíll post some screen grabs after the footage is captured.

11 November 2002, 05:13 PM
So here are the 4 angles I shot. I'm leaning towards either #1 or #3 but I'm curious what you guys think. To me the ground looks better in 1 and the city more interesting in 3. I'll probably be re-creating the entire street surface in Max anyway so maybe I'll try to mix the best of both.

11 November 2002, 07:07 PM
The reference photos of the train have now been stitched together after removing some barrel distortion from the images with Icarus. Thanks to MrWyatt for the heads up on that App. Here is an image of the first car of the 2 car train. The actual stitched image is 13000 x 1500 , way more than enough to serve as a modeling template and texture map.

11 November 2002, 01:46 AM

I like location #1 best. It's very clean and have focus on the track.

Very nice train texture. Just enough pixles for a tv effect :). I'm planning to do one of those one time. Would be nice to se a large tram crash into som familliar locations, buts thats for another time.

Looking forward to see a massive earthqauke and a runaway train!


11 November 2002, 02:05 AM
Hey is that Oakland?


11 November 2002, 03:13 PM
Nope, it's downtown Long Beach. I'll probably be headed back this weekend to get a few more measurements from the locations, having a bit of a challenge getting the camera match to look right in either shot.

11 November 2002, 11:32 PM
Starting to model the train.

11 November 2002, 12:55 AM
:wip: Looking good!

11 November 2002, 12:23 PM
:buttrock: :buttrock: :buttrock: :buttrock: :buttrock:

11 November 2002, 01:52 PM
hey, I'm very curious, cuz I don't have much experience with 3d, what the quality of these homeprojects can be. Looks promising!

I'd go with location 1. I like the difference of height in the street. Looks like a dangerous speedy curve for a train to loose track...

good luck!

11 November 2002, 11:36 PM
Thanks for the encouragement guys. Feels like I'm falling behind on this challenge but here's a small step further along. Just a quick test of a crack, it needs more deteil and is not integrated into the footage yet.

Crack test 128K (

11 November 2002, 11:58 PM
:buttrock: That looks really good. It's like something I'm doing but I think yours looks better.

Keep up the good work.:thumbsup:

11 November 2002, 12:26 AM
Yup the cracking looks really good.


11 November 2002, 05:50 AM
Nice, can you tell me how you manage to have a layer of asphalt and then a layer of ground-dirt ?

Sorry about the question....otherwise... i love the texture and the way the road cracks open :D

awesome :bounce:

11 November 2002, 07:14 AM

The asphalt and the dirt are seperate textures applied to different faces of each road piece. The road surface has UVW mapping projected down on it while the dirt map is a seperate UVW map projected from the side. You can't see it on the small preview but the dirt texture tiles badly so that will be one of the first things to improve.

11 November 2002, 07:04 PM
Here's an update to the train. The textures on it right now are just placeholders.

11 November 2002, 06:02 AM
Dang man, looking good! I think I'll keep an eye on this thread. ^_^


11 November 2002, 08:51 AM
Looking nice!!!

gerat renders.. very accurate proportions... cool..

Can't wait!!.. hehe

Keep it up!!


11 November 2002, 11:01 AM
gerat...the richness of the phenomen earthquakes is that is an incredible power moving things shaking other threds nobody has used a heavy object (such as a train) so i guess this will improve the disaster concept....making a pole fall is something but a train being shifted!!!
great idea pal!
finish it quickkkkkkkkk!:)

11 November 2002, 12:04 AM
That train looks great! It's just _begging_ to be involved in some sort of natural disaster...

How are you getting on with the quake itself and integrating it into your footage?

11 November 2002, 02:28 AM
Glad you guys like the look of the train, it's the only part near completion. Astrofish, I've been having a bit of trouble matching the video footage in Max so I had to go back and get some more measurements from the location today. Hopefully I'll have something to post soon, the deadline is looming.

Also while I was at the actual scene I got a few more reference photos and some more footage but I was stopped by 2 guys from the metro authority. I guess they were called by one of the train operators, probably worried about why I was measuring things like the width of the track and the height of the station. They told me I was done and sent me off. I wish I had snapped a picture of them but they basically looked like this

:shame: :annoyed:

11 November 2002, 10:46 AM
Best ever use of smilies!

Presumeably you didn't tell them that you needed accurate measurements in order to be able destroy it properly...

I've heard it suggested that it's worth joining a film-making society just to get some 'I make films' type ID to help in these sorts of situations.

E.Z. Schwartz
11 November 2002, 06:57 PM
Hey are you the Mike Johnson who made that "Devil went down to Georgia" animation?


11 November 2002, 09:29 PM
Astrofish - that film-making society thing is a good idea, not sure it would have helped with those guys because the MTA actually has a film division that would probably want me to buy a filming permit.

E.Z. - No that's not me unfortunatly. Are you talking about the stop motion animation version sung by Les Claypool? Great video, I havn't seen anything else that uses that song.

E.Z. Schwartz
11 November 2002, 09:31 PM
Yeah that's the one. I saw it a few years ago and the name stuck with me. Guess it's not the most uncomon name :)

12 December 2002, 11:42 AM
I am a little excited about your result, did you finish some animation?

12 December 2002, 01:29 PM
Hi, would like to vote for your shot - where can I see it?

12 December 2002, 02:32 PM
I want to see your crack!

PS. Maybe you have to "cut some corners" so that you do not get cut off the challenge.

12 December 2002, 03:55 PM
Sorry for the delay, I wasn't expecting to have to host the files myself. Ended up having to cannibalize my homepage to make the space. I still haven't been able to get the comp under 2 megs but the original footage file is tiny. Must be all of the shaking that increases the file size.

The comp is at:

The original footage is at:

12 December 2002, 04:05 PM
:D Very nice indeed, high quality on the train rendering, but the lack of shadows between the train and the roadsurface make it float above the ground. Else than that it is great. Good work Arioch. :thumbsup:

12 December 2002, 04:05 PM
:applause: Nice work! I like the engineer.. you driving?

12 December 2002, 04:18 PM
That's my buddy in the train, shot him against a white wall during lunch break. I'm the bad actor on the right and left side of the street trying to react to an earthquake, hard to see at this rez which is good, less embarrassing for me. :)

12 December 2002, 07:47 AM
So I get home today and immediately check my after effects comp. As Knut has pointed out there are no shadows from the train onto the ground. For that matter there is no shadows from the ground sections onto the ground. :eek: Turns out I somehow hid my shadow pass before the final AE render. Iím attaching a still so you can see the difference. Iíve redone the animation but Iíll just keep up my challenge entry until the voting is over.

After smacking myself in the forehead I realized I had also gone about this challenge in the wrong way. If I had been able to post my clip the day before, even at low rez, Iím sure Knut or someone else would have pointed out the shadow slip and I could have quickly re-rendered it in time for the deadline. Without much webspace to host animations myself I mainly posted stills to the forum for feedback, and I appreciate all of the great responses. But what I should have done was find some space somewhere, anywhere, to put up everything including the simplest wire-frame tests.

Some of the other guys in this challenge were very diligent about documenting their entire process with animations, something I figured I just didnít have the time to do. But now I think that instead of spending hours tweaking the animated cracks and train derailment myself I should have posted a bunch more tests and let everyone else help out finding what was wrong. Iím not use to having such a powerful resource of professional opinion waiting to help me out so Iíll need to take better advantage of that in the future. And in return I also need to pop into everyone elseís threads more often to offer more encouragement and critiques.

Iíd like to thank everyone again for their comments and congratulate the other animators on some incredible work. This project has been a rewarding experience and I look forward to more challenges in 2003.

12 December 2002, 02:49 PM
arioch awesome job!!! what software did you use other than After Effects ? what used to model the train ??
Also, how long have you been using After Effects for ? and are there any good books you would recommend for learning ??
:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

12 December 2002, 03:29 PM
Thanks for the interest sebek27. I modeled the train and road pieces in Max 5 and rendered with Brazil. I really don't know my way around After Effects that much beyond the basics. I use After Effects every so often at work but usually I'm stuck doing less creative stuff in premiere. I can't reccomend any After Effects books but I could use a good one myself. :p

Now that the voting is over I'll put up the improved version in a few days. Still have to find some space to restore the rest of my website's functionality.

12 December 2002, 07:25 PM
Originally posted by Arioch
Now that the voting is over I'll put up the improved version in a few days. Still have to find some space to restore the rest of my website's functionality.

You might want to make sure you leave your submitted version there as well as any updated version - my understanding was that the CGTalk people would decide the winners - the voting was just for interest (it said this in one of the stickies that vanished in the crash). I don't know when they are going to decide though...

12 December 2002, 11:52 PM
First off, how dilagent are you to work on this project? What I mean is are you planning on working on it to make it completely life-like, or is it just a runthrough for effects purposes? The reason I ask is because there are a few things, besides shadows, that need some tweaking.

Look at the lighting on the inside of the train as its coming around the bend. There seems to be a large source of light hitting the side panels of the train? The panels themselves don't seem to be reflective, so it gives the feel of "glossy panels."

It looks as though you have replaced a lot of the elements in the video with CG elements that you created in max. Don't be too quick to recreate elements when you don't need to. Some of the things that you have re-done would have looked much better with masking. Take the building on the right with the light poles and what-not. I know its a tedious thing, but if you would have used after effects' masking tools, you could have seperated that part on the right from the rest of the video. In that way, you can render it as a quicktime animation. Bring the render of the background in, bring the render of the train in, and then put the masked layer of the elements on the right on top. That way you have the three layers, the origonal footage is there, and you don't have to recreate/re-texture anything in the scene.

One last thing...

The train looks as though it hits a "rock" and skips off the track. I think that it would work nicer if you had the train come off the tracks at the bend, rather than having it come around the bend and then come off the tracks. Unless you go back to the 3D file and accelerate the cracking of the road. That way you could animate the tracks buckling and then the train coming off after the bend would look a bit better.

These are just things that I caught after looking at the footage. Like I said, depending on how much your into this, determines how much time you want to spend on making it look realistic. I'm not saying it doesn't look real now, in fact, it looks very good. These are just some things that might make it look better.

12 December 2002, 03:20 AM
Astrofish - well I don't have the space to put up 2 versions but at the same time I don't want to create any hard feelings by updating my entry before the CGtalk guys decide, so hopefully we will find out soon.

Shin_Iori - I plan to keep working on this so any critiques I can get are still welcome. As for the glossy side panels they are pretty reflective in the reference I shot of a train going by but I'll experiment with turning it down.

The main objects built in 3D were the road and the train as specified by the contest rules. The buildings were replicated for the reflections and light bounce only, just the train and road were brought into AE, kind of like you mentioned. In fact the right hand building video is a layer in AE because I've now used a mask, some noise, and displacement to shake the windows a bit.

You are completely right about the train leaving the tracks, this was something I was debating here before the server crash but went this way because of the 5-second time limit. Now that I don't have to worry about it I'm going to redo the crash to make it slower and maybe try to add some more dynamics.

Other things I'd like to add are some more debris falling into the crack, dust rising from it, and possibly some sparks as the train metal grinds with the pavement.

Another thing that I spent too much time on last month and didn't end up using was the electrical grid above the train. There are poles all along the sidewalk that hold this web of wires above the train to power it. I was trying to shake the poles and use reactor ropes for the swinging wires but had to abandon it due to the looming deadline. I'm not sure if I'll end up adding the web or not, the grid resembles a mesh in wireframe mode and just screamed CG.

Finally I'm not too happy with the camera shake. This was done by filming dots on a wall while shaking the video camera, tracking the dot movement, and applying the motion to the comp. But the shake was alternately too subtle some times and at other points too exaggerated. It would be nice to be able to animate the influence of the track over time but I have no idea if that can be done in After Effects, Combustion, or even Commotion.

Thanks again for taking a look with a critical eye, hopefully I'll be able to post an update soon.

12 December 2002, 10:07 AM
I like your approach for getting authentic camera shake.

FWIW, the camera shake in mine was done using AE motion sketch, running at 200% speed (so it captures at half the speed it plays back at). It's a bit hit and miss, but on the other hand it's very quick to do a new capture if you don't like the current one. Once I'd got a capture that I was fairly happy with, I then hand tweaked some of the keyframes.

12 December 2002, 04:51 PM
I'm not 100% on this one (testing a theory on you) but I think that if you do the camera work in max you may have better results. What I'm thinking is that you don't even have to track anything... stay with me... try using a noise float on the camera's transform. I'm not sure this is possible, I'm just guessing, but I use it for lights when I need to make the multiplier randomly generate light. What I'm thinking is that if it's applied to the camera's transform, it will randomly positions to look at. You would just have to mess with perameters to get it to look right.

The float is a apart of your track view. I know most people don't like messing with the track view, but in all honesty, its the only way to get smooth animation (or in this case shakey animation). Click on the camera, and find it in the list of objects in the viewer, then click open the assition signs till you get to the transform controlls. There should be a button available at the top of the fiew which looks very similar to the Assign Controller button. I say should be, cause I have only used it on lights, and I'm not sure that it applies to cameras. I'll try to post some screen shots later to give you more detail, but try using the help file if you can't find what I'm talking about.

12 December 2002, 06:33 PM
Astrofish - Motion sketch looks pretty cool, I'll have to mess around with that. I have the feeling that I'll never do more than scratch the surface when it comes to the functionality of AE, in fact we still haven't decided to upgrade to the latest version or not because we might switch to combustion.

Shin_Iori - I could do the camera shake in max but only in a new scene after importing the AE comp. What might be best is to use your position noise controller idea but place it in a list controller so that I could adjust the weight. In fact I could even track the dot video on a separate camera in Max then add it's motion to the main camera's list with a position constraint. Then I could blend between the 2 as well as keyframe a position XYZ entry as a third controller. So many options, and now plenty of time to explore them.

12 December 2002, 10:52 PM
Since you have everything on seperate layers like you said. All you would have to do is take the cam render you had from the train in max. I'm guessing you hade to have mached it in max before you put it in AE. So take the same cam you used to render in max, and add the noise to that. I'll tinker with some other idea's and let you know what I come up with.

This is a really cool challenge. I think that I'll take some time to make a composition of my own. Not for the challenge of course, but just a project.

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