View Full Version : Earthquake - VFX Challenge - Astrofish

11 November 2002, 11:53 AM
(Edit 10th Dec)
Here's a link to a page containing my final animation (

Remember to come back and read the thread!
(End of edit)
Ok, after playing around with some tests over the weekend I've decided to give this challenge a shot.

I'm interested in VFX work, but I've never really done any before so this should be interesting.

This is also the first challenge that I've ever entered, hoping to learn a few things in the process.

Good luck to everyone, and I'll post my storyboard tonight when I get home.


11 November 2002, 10:59 PM
Accidental duplicate posting - deleted.

11 November 2002, 11:09 PM
Ok, Here's my incredibly badly drawn storyboard. Don't laugh...

In case it's not too clear, the sequence is:-

1. View down onto motorway from bridge, cars driving along the road.

2. Crack appears from under the bridge and rapidly travels up the road. Cars steering to avoid it.

3. Second crack appears further across the road just as a car reaches that part of road.

4. Second crack splits wide open, and the piece of road between the two tips over and drops into the depths, taking the car with it...

I've already got the footage for this, it's something left over from another project. Here's a frame:

I'm probably going to crop this to focus on the lower right of the frame, there's too much of the other side of the road in this shot, and it's too distracting.

11 November 2002, 12:08 AM
Hey there astrofish,

I really don't know a lot about VFX...but from what i know it seems to be difficult removing all of the miving cars and replacing them with cg.

I dunno...just thinking about it, if i am wrong, well :D go for it cuz it seems to be a great project u got there :D

11 November 2002, 12:21 AM
Yeah I agree. You're going to have to paint out the road so that there are no cars, then replace them digitally.

The footage also suggests that the road is wet - notice how the cars have a slight reflection on the road? This one is going to be tough to do...


11 November 2002, 10:55 AM
Thanks for your comments!

I'm hoping that I'm going to be helped a lot by the fact that there aren't actually many cars in the raw footage, and by using the right 5-sec piece of the footage I can get it so that most of the cars are clear of the immediate vicinity of the quake area anyway.

I'm planning to only do a proper CG replace of one car (the one that goes down the hole).

For the other cars swerving out of the way, I'm going to see what I can do in After Effects. If I can't manipulate the raw footage enough to give convincing swerving behaviour, then I'll fall back on just retiming the cars so that they hit the brakes to avoid going down the hole. This won't look as good, but will be acceptable I think.

Because there aren't that many cars, I managed to create a clean plate by stacking 3 or 4 frames, and painting transparency onto the cars so that the road from other frames showed through. This was actually quite easy to do, so I'm going to repeat it a few more times using different frames, so that I've got a short looping clean plate sequence with the original grain on it.

Regarding the reflections - yes, it was a miserable wet day unfortunately.
If I end up retiming the original cars, then their reflections will be OK anyway. If I get them swerving then yes this could be difficult...

If the reflections do cause trouble then I thought that instead of trying to mimic them for the CG car, (and the swerving cars if needed), I could instead try using the clean plate to remove the reflections from the original footage.

I haven't got any suitable footage from a dry day and it's _pouring_ down outside, so there's no chance of getting anything better in time, so I'm going to work with it...

11 November 2002, 02:56 PM
Go for it! I have complete confidence in you! This is gonna look so cool!

11 November 2002, 04:28 PM
Ok, overdue for an update...

Here's a summary of what I've done so far. I'll try to post some images later.

1. Aligned my CG camera with the clean plate and locked it.
2. Placed a horizontal plane at the road surface level.
3. In camera view, drew freehand splines to mark the edges of the roadway and the area that I want the effect to occur in.
4. Also drew splines to mark out roughly the positions where I want the major cracks to appear.
5. Projected the splines from 3 and 4 onto the plane, from the camera view. (Discovered that the C4D project spline function fails when projecting onto an undivided plane. Wasted hours figuring out the problem. Works OK with a subdivided plane.)
6. Switched to top view. Checked that the splines that marked the road edges remained equally spaced in plan view - this helped to confirm that the camera alignment is about right.
7. Still in top view, redrew freehand splines over the top of those drawn in 4, using those as a guide.

Notes on 7:
So why did I do this? Because by drawing the cracks in the top view, I get consistent size wiggles in the splines. The ones drawn in the camera view in step 4 are not consistent because they have constant sized wiggles _when viewed from camera perspective_. Since they should be the same size in plan view this is wrong.

So why bother with step 4 at all? Because I want to sketch out in the camera view where I want the action to be, in top view I can then see where my cracks need to be, and draw them in properly.

8. Hid the splines from 4, and switched back to the camera view. Note that the scale of the wiggles from 7 reduces naturally as the cracks recede into the distance and look more believable, whereas the splines from 4 look like they were just drawn onto the picture... :)

9. Recreated the road surface from a large subdivided cube, cut into five major pieces along the spline edges.
(To do this I had to split the splines into the individual sections joining the various cracks, duplicate them, then rejoin the appropriate sections to form the outline of each piece, then extrude and boolean union with the original cube.)

10. Now I have five perfectly meshing pieces that represent the subsurface for the undamaged road.

11. In top view again, drew a lot of fragments over and around the main cracks to represent the pieces of road surface that will be churned up. Adjusted these so that they mesh together properly to form a continuous road surface. Also created pieces that roughly correspond to the five 'subsurface' meshes. Extruded these elements slightly to give some thickness to the road surface.

This is where I'm at at the moment.
The stuff following is what I'm planning to do next:-

12. Apply camera mapping onto road surface geometry.

13. Group the large surface pieces to their corresponding subsurface pieces, and apply an animated free form deformation to each of the five pieces.

14. Adjust the deformers to pull apart the elements at the cracks, and to adjust the road surface heights slightly as well.

15. For the central road section, keyframe the animation of it falling away. This will finish the gross animation of the road breakup.

16. For the fragments of road surface made in 11, make keyframe animations adjusting the positions and rotations to provide some more detail to the breakup.

I expect this bit to be quite slow and time consuming - so I'm going to see how this goes before I make any more detail plans for the next stages...

I'll try to post some images tonight.

Lots still to do (good fun though)...

11 November 2002, 08:31 PM
It's great that you show us the plan for how you do things. Making me discover new ways of doing things. Never thought of projecting splines drawn on the plate onto a plane for easy positioning of objects. This is good! :thumbsup:

Keep it up!

11 November 2002, 12:27 AM
Hi Knut,
Glad you found something useful in the post!

Here are a few pictures related to what I talked about in my previous post:

1. Picture of camera view with freehand splines drawn over the top in this view.
Green splines mark road border, blue ones mark the rough area where the cracks are to appear.

2. View of same splines in top view, after they have been projected onto the plane. Note that the green road edge splines remain constant distance apart, confirming that camera is in about the right place.

3. Same view as 2, but now showing the new crack splines drawn in top view.

4. Same view as 1, but showing the splines drawn in 3. Note the improved perspective effect compared to the original splines.

Finally, I'm using deformers to pull the cracks apart, but rather than deforming the shapes directly, I'm making a deformer 'slide past' the shapes. This causes the crack to progress down the road rather than opening all at once.

Look at:
This is a top view of the road area in the editor (no textures).
I've colour-coded the five different main chunks of road so you can see how they relate to the splines themselves (shown in red).
The blue gridlike thing is a deformer which I have set to affect the two left-hand side blocks.
As it slides up the screen you can see that it pulls the left crack open from the bottom up.
Another deformer (not shown) is doing a similar thing to the two blocks on the right.
Also shown is the results of some simple keyframe animation on the central block, which falls away as the cracks go past on both sides.
I need to add a few more deformers to open up the smaller cracks at the left and right.

Hope this is of interest to people!

11 November 2002, 12:08 AM
Just a quick animation test.

A lot of the road surface is missing - this will be replaced later with a lot of fragments that will react to the crack as it progresses.

The parts of the road surface that are visible here will remain undamaged. I think I'm going to increase this area, to localise the damage more closely to the cracks.

The subsurface is colour coded here to show the underlying surface blocks. At the moment the edges are straight - these need to be broken up, and of course they need texturing.

No traffic in this shot - this is done entirely with the clean plate.

The animation is mainly to show the timing of the main elements in the shot (except the car). I'm thinking of starting the crack earlier, since it seems too rushed at the moment...
(It's small - 83k).

11 November 2002, 12:11 AM
NOOOOOO!! I can't see it! Help!!

11 November 2002, 12:21 AM
This IS the right link for the movie! (

Woah that is one deep hole in the ground. I think the animation gives the viewer a great sence of depth and size. Maybe not to realistic, but who carees! Great work so far.

But since you deform the surrounding road surface and if you will hav cars from the video there, won't they be deformed too?

:thumbsup: Knut

11 November 2002, 12:24 AM
pretty cool !!!

must read everything now to know how U did it !!!!

evn like this it's good !!!

11 November 2002, 12:26 AM
Hmm, I've just checked and the link should work fine (I've just downloaded it myself via the link). It shouldn't be a codec problem as I'm using the Sorensen codec...

For what it's worth, here's a higher res still from the sequence.

11 November 2002, 12:40 AM
Hi Knut & baby,
Glad you like it. It's just a test so still missing a lot of stuff.

Fasty: Have you managed to get it yet?

Knut: Yes, the road surface deformation is potentially an issue, but there's a few things that will help:

I'm probably going to crop the shot to focus more on the lower right anyway, so the road should look a bit more like its moving rather than just stretching, and less of the other side of the road will be in the shot anyway - so those cars won't matter.

The oncoming cars will be in the area where the road is least stretched, so they shouldn't be too badly affected.

If it still looks to bad, then I'll just make the cracks narrower - since the bulk of the hole comes from the segment that falls away. (No - it's not realistic, but hopefully it will look good!)

Camera shake will help hide some of this as well!

I was originally intending to have the cars swerving to avoid the cracks but given how much else I've still got to do to the shot, I'm probably just going to retime them so that they slow down and stop - except for the one that falls in of course...

Anyway, time for sleep...

11 November 2002, 09:56 AM
Yes I just got it! Looking GREAT! Can't wait to see more!

11 November 2002, 02:07 PM
great work!! but in my point of view i would prefer the falling block to just fall a few feet instead of disapearing rom the it were to hit another layer under the road.....

but again



11 November 2002, 03:36 PM
Glad you like it so far.

Yes, It would be more realistic if it just dropped a bit, but I quite like the idea of it opening up a gaping chasm... I might try it the other way as well, to see what it looks like.

Anyway, since when were effects films realistic! :)

Cheers - Steve

11 November 2002, 02:04 PM
Just thought I'd post a few observations/issues that I've made when processing my footage using the Sorensen 2 Codec..

Raw footage started as PAL DV.

I imported this into Icarus to stabilise it, as it had a small amount of camera shake on it, and saved the result out as raw JPG frames.

I then re-encoded the frames using the Sorensen 2 codec, with a keyframe every 10 frames. This produced stabilised footage in a MOV file.

Call this 'mov_in'.

I then used 'mov_in' as an animated background plate in C4D, with some CG elements over the top of it, and got C4D to render the results out again using Sorensen 2, this time with a keyframe every 25 frames, quality=high. Call this 'mov_c4d'.

Results 'movc4d' looked ok, EXCEPT that every tenth frame (i.e. corresponding to the keyframes in 'mov_in') was noticeably brighter than the other frames. Noticeable colour banding was also present in all frames.

As a comparison, I then tried loading 'mov_in' into After Effects 5.0, and rendering the output again as a Sorensen 2 file with keyframes every 25 frames, quality=hig (so basically just transcoding from Sorensen to Sorensen). Call the output 'mov_ae'.

In 'mov_ae', EVERY frame was overbright in the way that every tenth frame in 'mov_c4d' was.

I then repeated the C4D and AE tests but using the raw jpg image sequence as input (thankfully C4D supports this!), and the results were both fine.

Although C4D and AE produced different problems, both produced bad output through the Sorensen codec when the source footage was also Sorensen encoded. This suggests that the problem is with the codec rather than either of the apps.

Sorensen 2 seems to have problems when re-encoding footage that was decoded from a Sorensen 2 source.

Since the decoder and the encoder are completely seperate processes, I can only assume that the encoder produces artefacts in the images which the encoder is susceptible to.

Actually, the other possibility is that it is the Quicktime player that is at fault, although most of the work there is being done by the codec again.

In a different project I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out why in two identical compositions rendered from after effects (Soresen again as it happens), one of them seemed not to apply the gamma correct that I'd applied, and the other one did.

I spent ages cursing After Effects for not rendering the same as it was previewing. Then I noticed that although one movie was clearly darker than the other when viewed side by side in two quicktime windows, which one was darker depended upon _which order I opened them in_. In other words it was a playback problem, not a rendering problem.

One final comment, here's a tip for reducing file sizes whilst keeping decent quality:
It seems that you can push things a long way by setting keyframes to be very infrequent - at least when there's not much motion. It remains to be seen what adding camera shake does for the compression - depends how smart they are...

Anyone else have any comments on any of this?

Bye for now!

11 November 2002, 03:47 AM
Hey Steve - WOW!

Followed you over from the progressive thread on dvgarage and WOW! Really great work & thread.

It's been a really long time since I've been on these forums and they've really grown.

Look forward to seeing more as it progresses.


11 November 2002, 01:00 PM
Astro: I am a bit suprised that you compressed the original videoplate before you processed it with effects. To me that sounds like a very bad idea. When i captured my DV footage i immidiately converted it to uncompressed quicktime. (i.e. took it into an editing app and exported it with the quicktime "none" setting.) This ensures that you want have any artifacts or reduction in quality when you render animation or filters ontop of it. Only when the video are completly finished you reduce the size and compress it with the soerenson codec. Ofcourse working with uncompressed video generates large files (5 sek. PAL = ca 290 mb), but that it what you will have to deal with when working with TV. Any codec that use a none lossless compression method produces artifacts in the video. The quicktime "animation" codec reduces size without making artifacts (lossless compression).

This was an information bulletin from the caribbian snowman.

11 November 2002, 01:18 PM
Hi Jon,
Thanks for the praise, I must be doing something right!

I've just had a quick look around your website, impressive stuff.

I liked the fact that in your 'profile' page you showed some of your early stuff - I particularly liked the light-sabre clip!

I shall be watching your tutorial videos tonight (if my crusty old modem is up to the job of downloading them).

And then I'd better do some more work on this earthquake...

11 November 2002, 01:43 PM
Hi Knut,
Yes, you're right. I wondered if anyone was going to comment on that!

Basically, the only reason I was recompressing the footage before applying effects was that I was just playing around with the Sorensen codec, and I wasn't too fussed about getting the best image quality - I was more interested in learning a bit about the codec.

Since I'd noticed these issues with Sorensen re-encoding Sorensen, I thought I'd share the information anyway.

For the project, I'm currently using uncompressed individual frames generated from Icarus, which in turn was fed with the raw DV footage.

Uncompressed individual frames are particularly useful (compared with a movie format) because it makes it easy to grab individual frames from the footage and pull them into a paint package, for selective combining together into clean plates for example.

As you say, disk space tends to vanish at an alarming rate.

I think I might be buying myself yet another drive soon...

(Hard drive makers must love digital video!)

11 November 2002, 01:56 PM
Originally posted by astrofish
(Hard drive makers must love digital video!)

Agreed, just come to think of when/if everyone changes to HD 720P (One of the presets in Photoshop) Each second will be ca 66 mb of data (At 25 fps). Thats almost 4 GB a minute! I bet IBM or other HDD producers would like that to happen.

anyway, that was a bit off topic.

Still image sequence is gold. The stage in the process i am at now, i have hardly used video at all, just a still from it as background for my preparations; cloning, extending etc. Going to add theese elements to the video with grain when i get to that stage (soon). And i will render everyting from max in a numbered .tif sequence for most flexibility when comping (might have to rerender a few frames wich have errors or things like that).

11 November 2002, 12:44 AM
I need to go to sleep in a minute, so I haven't got time to properly explain what I've been doing at the moment.

Heres a link to a low frame rate clip of what I've got so far.

test 21st Nov ( (128k)

I'm fairly pleased with the edges of the cracks in terms of detail - although they are too dark at the moment, they'll need colour matching.

What I'm not happy with at the moment is the reveal of the damage. The crack is too wide open as soon as it appears, and the 'leading edge' of the crack is too clean...

Anyway, I'll try to post some more details of how I've been approaching things over the weekend.

11 November 2002, 03:18 AM
Hey Steve, really nice progress.

There's a really easy cheat that will add tons to the realism...

:bounce: camera shake :bounce:


:scream: sound fx :scream:

zoom in a tad, and add a noise, jitter or shake to the camera when the split begins and most people (other than yourself or those who have seen the WIP) will ever figure out how you captured the footage.

lookin good!

Best regards,

11 November 2002, 05:53 AM
Cool man! how are you going to put this animation to a higher frame rate ?

I my opinion the road should not fall and disapear..maybe just fall then that it's not at the same level anymore...and maybe with an angle too..

Otherwise, i love it..the camera skae and some blur-noise would definitely bring some realism to it

Keep on rollin' baby! :D

:buttrock: :buttrock: :buttrock: :buttrock:

11 November 2002, 10:28 AM
Hi Jon and CobraX,
Yes, I'm going to add camera shake and add blur (static and motion) - haven't got around to them yet...

(There's still the traffic to add as well).

This is only rendered at low frame rate to keep the file size down as it is a WIP. The main project is actually 25 FPS (captured from PAL DV, then deinterlaced).

The part of the road that falls away _does_ rotate already. The lighting on it doesn't change though, which is something else I need to add. Maybe I need to give it more rotation as well.

11 November 2002, 12:28 PM
What a great thread! Full credit to you Astrofish, you've taught me and I'm sure alot of others alot already, and it looks fantastic! Can't wait to see more!

11 November 2002, 04:31 PM
Hi Fasty,
Thanks! This is easily the most complex project I've tackled so far.

Most of the other graphics stuff I've done (aside from programming) has just been general messing around with the software, and working through books and tutorials.

I'm really pleased that this thread is being useful to people!

11 November 2002, 10:34 AM
I like it. but I can't help noticing that middle of the road in the foreground moves to the left at least 5 meters... This should result in pushing up (is that english?) parts of the left road and cracking it...

The way it looks now is like the road is elastic.
Well, I wouldn't know where to start making stuff like this so ehm.. :applause:

11 November 2002, 06:18 PM
Yes, the road is a bit 'rubbery' at the moment. I've set the deformers up so that the left side of the road doesn't move, but as you've noted the distortion is a bit obvious.

I think I'll tweak the deformer so that the road looks more like it's moving rather than stretching (left edge will be pushed out of frame).

I'm also thinking that maybe it shouldn't open quite so wide.

11 November 2002, 12:50 AM
love the idea astro and the progress so far is great. A couple of points:

I can't be certain, but I would imagine the road surface, and underlaying structure would span at least a meter under the surface. I would make this clear to add to the realism.

On top of that I would make smaller bits of concrete and earth break of. You would also get alot of dust. OK you can't over do it or you won't see the hole in the earth, but a little may add to the realism.

Sorry if im rushing and all of this was on the cards anyway. :) Great work.

11 November 2002, 11:42 AM
At the moment there are two layers - a thin 'tarmac' layer on top, and a very deep 'rock' layer below it.

I was planning to change the texturing on the 'rock' layer so that the upper part of it looks like a third layer in the middle made of a more visible material. I wasn't planning to add more geometry for this, I'm hoping I can make it look right through texturing.

Regarding the smaller bits breaking off - I have broken the surface tarmac into lots of smaller chunks, but I still need to animate most of them (only simple animation - just to make them rotate out of position slightly). So, they won't actually 'break off' completely, but they will break up the surface some more.

If I don't run out of time then I'm going to see what I can do for smoke/dust/small fragments using particles, but I've still got a lot of other stuff to put in first!

11 November 2002, 11:44 PM
Update time again...

Here's a link to the latest version.

eqTest_24_11_02 (
217k (better quality than previous upload)

Not a huge amount has visually changed since the last upload, things are starting to get finalised at last! This is what I've done:-
1. Reworked the tarmac edge damage to make it more subtle.
2. Added an extra layer between the tarmac and the underlying rock - currently using a placeholder texture.
3. Made the central section lighting change in response to it falling away.
4. More rotation on the central chunk.
5. Brightened the image overall.

This is how I implemented the progressive crack damage:

1. Rendered out a wireframe top view image of road surface before road has split at all.
2. Used this as a template to draw a new layer. Simply drew over where the cracks were going to be.
3. Blurred and displaced this a few times to roughen it up a bit.
This was the resulting image: (70k)
topTemplate.gif (
4. In top view, used this image as a camera mapped alpha channel clip map for a material which is basically just a noise shader. This material was overlaid over the road texture.
5. This gives the following view, as seen from the top camera. (Note the low resolution of the camera mapped road surface on the right, as seen from this viewpoint) (90k)
topView.jpg (

This image shows the complete tarmac damage, but with the cracks completely closed. When rendered with animation, it shows the full animation, but the tarmac damage is all there from the very beginning, which is not what is wanted.
6. Created an animated mask which initially covers over all of the tarmac damage seen in this picture. This is used as a mask to selectively replace parts of the animated footage with parts from the original clean plate.
7. Animate the mask shape so that it gradually reveals the damage, following the 'leading edge' of the crack.
8. Render out a pass consisting only of this animated mask (as pure white) against a black background.
9. In After Effects, use this animated mask to selectively reveal the damaged tarmac just before the crack reaches it.

Note that because the damaged tarmac is always revealed just before the crack starts distorting it, the original undistorted clean plate can be used to hide the damage that hasn't happened yet for the whole animated sequence - it will only ever be covering parts of the image that haven't distorted yet. So, there's no need to also distort and animate the clean plate.

Other stuff:-

Lighting on central fall-away section:

The main parts of the road surface are camera mapped with the texture as luminosity, and so was the central section. This means that the texture was used as-is without any other lighting calculations being applied.
This is fine for the main parts of the road surface, but no good for the chunk that falls away.

For this chunk, I camera mapped the clean plate onto the geometry as a standard diffuse material, then set up a set of parallel lights with soft shadows around the damage area, pointing inwards.
Parallel lights were used so that the lighting remained even, multiple lights and soft shadows were used to give a crude approximation to ambient lighting from the sky.
The lights were set to pure white (since the projected texture is already coloured correctly by the real sky in the original footage), and the intensity tweaked to match the other elements that are using the texture as luminance maps.

As the chunk drops away its lighting changes due to changing angles with the lights, and also because it falls into shadow. Looks much better now.

To do (in a random order):
1. Better blending of the 'damaged' tarmac into the real tarmac.
2. Tweak lighting for the chasm.
3. Add camera shake and fixed/motion blur.
4. Add sound (if I get time)
5. Add particle based dust/smoke/fragments effects (ditto)
6. Combine in traffic from original footage.
7. Create CG car falling into chasm.
8. Finish animating the smaller fragments around the crack edges.
9. Add grain/noise to CG elements.
10. Put a proper material in for the middle road layer.
11. Tweak materials generally.

3,6,7 and 10 are all in the 'essential' list, so I'll be working on those next.

Time's starting to get short...

11 November 2002, 05:56 AM
are we ever gonna see another update?...

11 November 2002, 11:16 AM
Yes, when I've got something worth posting.

My last update was only 3 days ago, anyway.

11 November 2002, 04:18 PM
You're making great progress.. looks good.

I do have a question tho.

I was reading your post and am not near my workstation right now so I can't test this out, but would it be possible to achieve your lighting shift using negative lights to create the shadow you need instead of lighting the falling chunk w/ multiple parallel lights?

It's just a question of curiousity - that and you may get better render performance...

Anyway, lookin good - keep it up!!


11 November 2002, 04:43 PM
Yes, I probably could have used negative lights - to be honest I didn't try that.

I agree that that approach could probably give similar results with less lights, hence faster rendering. Whether it would have been any faster to set up though, I don't know, since my current lighting setup was thrown together quite quickly, and seems to work fairly well.

Fortunately, rendering is fairly fast at the moment, so it's not a problem.

In a more complex scene though, you're right, it could well be worth doing it that way instead to save render time.

Another possible approach would be to use 'vertical fog', to create the 'shadows'.

11 November 2002, 08:24 PM
astrofish : FULL CREDIT to ya matey....cos this thread is i really think you ought to take the thread once complete and turn it into a tutorial.....or at least a "this is how i did it" on your website....
gotta applaud your efforts and the extra time taken to share the process with the rest of us.

:applause: :applause: :applause:

11 November 2002, 10:26 PM
Hi Flingster,

Thanks for the support!

I am thinking of making a 'how I did it' article based on this thread, but with more detail in, as you suggested.

First though, I've got to get this thing finished - I've been tied up with other things for a few days, hooray for the deadline extension!

11 November 2002, 11:08 PM
astro.. great work... and i agee... i think the time you've taken to explai how you did things is something that not many people do.. and it's really rewarding to know.. thanks..


12 December 2002, 05:00 PM
This is an impressive effort, Astro! The main critique I would add is to echo something already mentioned--the ground being displaced by the crack doesn't look right, i.e., the road shoulder and opposite-moving lanes seem to warp out. I haven't looked at video of how this works in the real world, but I'd imagine that the earth would displace/split and pile up to the sides of and parallel to the crack. I realize you may not have time to do that. Thanks for sharing your project!

12 December 2002, 06:04 PM
Hmm. Someone's stolen a bunch of messages from this thread...


My last update pointed you in the direction of:

Earthquake Composite (

This contains details of all of the different layers that I've now got in my composite, and how they go together.

Since writing that page I've found that I needed a couple of extra mask layers:

1. A layer which indicates which parts of the overall image are entirely CG.

2. A layer which indicates which parts of the image are taken from the static clean plate, PLUS the elements in the above layer.

The first one is needed so that I can blur the CG elements without blurring the non-CG elements (remember that footage camera mapped onto the geometry shouldn't be blurred further).

The second one is needed so that I can apply noise/grain to the elements that don't already have it. Note that the camera mapped clean plate does need noise, but doesn't need blurring, hence the need for 2 masks.

Sorry, no pictures for these two just yet, as I've got to get my entry finished, under the assumption that the deadline really is tonight...

12 December 2002, 06:09 PM
By chance, I've found I had a local copy of last night's update, so here it is again:-


Ok, a bit later than planned, here's another update...

I've been rendering out loads of layers, and have pieced them all together in After Effects. I still need to do a lot of tweaking within AE in order to get the thing to look its best. I also need to add grain and blurring to the CG elements, then zoom in and add camera shake.

Other things I would like to do, but probably won't have time:-
1. Tweak some of the animation.
2. Smoke/dust effects.
3. Add some audio.

Anyway, since I've been fiddling with all these layers, this update is a bit graphics heavy. Rather than putting lots of links here, I've added a couple of pages to my website.

Go to: VFX Composite (

You'll find thumbnails and hi-res images for example frames for all of the layers, and short descriptions of what they all are.

There is a second page which describes how they are being used, and shows some of the intermediate composites.

Remember, I've not tweaked the compositions themselves yet, so colour matching, etc isn't very good yet.

Hope you find it interesting...

(please let me know if you find any problems with the pages, as I've had to upload this in a rush...)

12 December 2002, 11:18 PM
Ok, I assume that since there's been no word about how to submit, and the challenge site is still not accepting entries, that tonights deadline is going to be extended.

Presumeably the CGtalk people have been too busy sorting out the server crash hassles to deal with this. Fair enough.

Anyway, since I was expecting to have to submit tonight, I have 'finished' my entry.

If anyone wants to see it, It's on my website, along with the storyboard, and the original raw footage.

Both movies are compressed with Sorenson(2), quality set to 90%, 25fps, keyframe every 25 frames.
Resolution 320x240 (a bit on the low side, but as specified in the challenge rules).

Both movies are approx. 1Mb.

Here are the links:

Earthquake SFX (

Raw footage (

Storyboard (

I'm off to have a rest now.

Good luck to everyone else who's finishing off!

12 December 2002, 11:17 AM
Whew, submitted at last!

(Well, a still and a coudple of links anyway. Still doesn't seem to be anywhere to upload the movies...)

I stayed up till 1:30AM waiting for the site to open for submissions.

I then checked this morning to hear that it opened 'for a few hours' at 3:30AM.

Sudden panic!

Fortunately, it was still open, despite the message saying that it's closed.

Good job too, otherwise all us Europeans would have been asleep for the entire submission period...

Anyway, good luck to all, it's been great fun, and I've learned lots...

12 December 2002, 07:24 PM
I've created a better page to host my entry. Go here (

12 December 2002, 07:45 PM
Hehehe thanks, astrofish, i am glad there isn't any extension too to this Challenge.....i am sick of watching my Clip.

It was done so fast....anyways... i'll concentrate more on the next one.. Yours IS AWESOME :D incredibly done :)


For a forst time at this VFX you sure know a lot more stuff than me :)

Take care :) and see you next month for the new challenge :D

12 December 2002, 08:41 PM
Hi CobraX,
Glad you liked my entry! I've spent a lot of time 'fiddling around' with computer graphics, but this challenge provided a good focus for me to actually do a proper project from scratch. I'm sure it won't be the last one I do...

And well done for finishing - I thought that you were going to give up at one point. One thing that I do know, is that getting good results takes a lot of work and you've got to stick at it.

12 December 2002, 11:06 AM
Following CobraX's lead, I've decided to post my comments and thoughts about the challenge.

Overall, I thought it was a great idea. There are a lot of challenges out there for most other areas of CG, but this is the only one I've come across specifically for special effects.

The only bad thing was the mess-up with the submissions (meant to be open all month, only actually open for one day _after_ the challenge was officially over). I suppose that next time we know to complain louder if the site isn't accepting entries in the run up to the deadline.

I found that the challenge required a lot more work than I expected it to (doesn't everything?), and one thing I need to do differently next time is to plan ahead more.

There were a few things that I wished I'd done differently, but were too hard to change by that point. One example was that I wanted to change the shapes of the tarmac fragments fairly late on, but because I'd already sliced up the geometry and subdivided the meshes, they weren't easy to work with any more.

I had also split my subsurface up into five seperate pieces, with the intention of animating them all independently. In the end I grouped them into three elements and animated them, because I never got time to do the extra animation.

A physics/dynamics simulation would have helped a lot with this. As it was, everything was hand animated.

I would have liked to have added some particle effects for dust/smoke, but I've barely used particles in my software so far, and I didn't have time to learn how to use them for this challenge, so that was something else that had to be dropped.

I learned a lot about camera mapping and compositing during this challenge. I was quite surprised to realise just how many layers I was actually going to need. It was only on my last day of work on this that I realised I was going to need another two layers just to mark out which areas of the image should have noise added (all the CG stuff) and which needed blurring (all the CG stuff, except that containing camera mapped textures from the original footage...)

One other thing, I learned that I don't know much about after effects yet. I did a lot of my AE work inefficiently, and I'm sure there must be better ways of approaching the work.

More generally, it was great to have a shared challenge, and to see what other people were coming up with. I was quite surprised at the variety in styles of peoples entries, and it was good to chat to everyone.

I think that everyone that entered should be proud of their submissions, there isn't a bad one among them.

I'm certainly going to leave mine up on my website, and I'm happy to provide links to everyone else who entered, if they would like.

Looking forward to the next challenge (as long as I get a rest first).

I wonder what the subject of the next VFX challenge is going to be?

Anyone care to speculate wildly?

12 December 2002, 02:36 PM
Excellent Post Astrofish :xtreme: :xtreme: :xtreme:

Maybe the next challenge could be a Meteor hitting earth....
Or tornado devastating some houses...
...a Solar explosion...

An accident of some know how it goes with all those catastrophies movies.


12 December 2002, 09:16 AM
I've just realised that one of my updates fell victim to the server crash...

Here's a rewrite of it, since I haven't got a copy of the original post.

This post is about creating the CG car that falls into the chasm.

I originally tried to be lazy and to use a van from the original footage as a camera map onto some very simple geometry.

From the front, this looked like this.
Note, its quite fuzzy because this is enlarged significantly from the original footage.
Looks OK, but not great.

Seen from the side (as it would need to be as it rolls over into the hole), it looks like this.
Oh dear. The problem is that the camera map has no detail for the side, and it looks terrible.

So, I then decided to do it properly.
I took front and side photos of my car, and used them as reference for making a fairly simple HyperNURBs model of the car. I then (after some tweaking in Gimp) used these images as projection maps for the car.

The only complication with this is that I needed the material to blend between the two photos, depending upon position on the model.

For this I created a mask channel with intensity dependent upon the surface normal. The closer the surface normal is to pointing towards the 'front' or 'back', the brighter the mask, and the closer to the side the darker.
A colourised version of this can be seen here (the actual mask is greyscale):

The model was first textured by camera mapping from the side, then an extra map from the front was applied, and the mask used to selectively apply it.

Car with front map only:

Car with side map only:

Finally, the car with both maps:

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