Earthquake - VFX Challenge - Astrofish

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  11 November 2002
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!
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  11 November 2002
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..
  11 November 2002
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.
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  11 November 2002
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
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!
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  11 November 2002
Update time again...

Here's a link to the latest version.

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)
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)

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...
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  11 November 2002
are we ever gonna see another update?...
there is no spoon...

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justin R.
  11 November 2002
Yes, when I've got something worth posting.

My last update was only 3 days ago, anyway.
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Last edited by astrofish : 11 November 2002 at 11:19 AM.
  11 November 2002
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
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'.
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  11 November 2002
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.

One never knows what each day is going to bring. The important thing is to be open and ready for it.

Henry Moore
  11 November 2002
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!
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  11 November 2002
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..

"yesterday's dream is today's hope, and tomorrow's reality"
  12 December 2002
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
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...
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