January 2003 Official VFX Challenge Guidelines - Through Jan 13th - Feb 28th


First off I hope you all are having a great New Year so far, the mods, leonard and myself has been proven to be busy already :).

Second we’re very sorry for the delay, but we’ve been trying to clear the table with articles such as the ChubbChubbs and other projects on the go. Ok with that said let’s get to what you’ve all been waiting for.

Welcome to our 2nd VFX WIP challenge…

This month’s Challenge is entitled “The Gift”

- The Gift -
VFX challenge, January/February, 2003:

Through paranormal activity or magical enchantment, there are times when someone is the unfortunate recipient of physical disembodiment and disintegration. Seen in such projects as ‘Mars Attacks’, ‘Blade’, ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, these effects are relatively common. A technical understanding of how these effects are accomplished is a good item to have in any digital effects artist’s repetoire. In a low budget/little time situation, 2D post effects can be effectively utilized. When looking for the ‘wow’ factor, however, 3D effects allow for far more control over how an actor or prop gets destroyed or killed.

The Shot:

Recreate a shot from the classic 80’s animated film ‘Heavy Metal’. A mysterious green orb creates lust and desire with promises of power and grandeur. But those who struggle against its influence, or are not meant for its gifts, suffer a disturbing and unfortunate demise.

Create a live-action interpretation of any disintigration shot from the film. As an interpretation, your work will not be judged on the accuracy of situation replication (i.e. location, props, costume), but on the effectiveness of your actor’s demise as a result of the presence of a glowing green orb.

The Rules:

Challengers must shoot a 5 second shot with a locked down camera.
The shot can be longer for lead-in to the effect. (i.e. actor discovering the orb)
Final delivery will be a 320x240 movie using Quicktime to be hosted by the participant. Video resolution movies (720x480) are acceptable but not required.

The Steps: Summary

Plate with Actor
Clean Plate
Model Roto Geometry
Rig Roto Geometry
Align 3D Camera
Roto Character to Actor
Camera Project onto Geo (dependent on effect design)
Bake Projected Texture (dependent on effect design)
Particle/Geometry/Texture Effects
Composite Blend Actor Plate to Clean Plate

The Steps: Detail

1. Plate with Actor: Using a locked down camera (on a tripod), shoot the plate with the actor’s performance. For example, someone kneeling down to a closed box, opening it, picking up the orb, then falling to their knees and collapsing on the ground. The segment of the shot from the ‘effect’ beginning to when it ends should be no longer than 5 seconds. The total duration of the clip can be longer. The effect does NOT require having the actor be full frame. A mid-shot is acceptable and can reduce the amount of roto/effect work… although it can also make things harder as the closer you are to the actor, the cleaner your integration needs to be.

You may choose to shoot the performance on a green/blue screen. This will definitely simplify certain steps for a mid-shot effect. For a full frame actor shot, however, the set-up for the blue/green screen can become more cumbersome.

You will also need to keep interactive light effects in mind… if you decide to pull off the glowing orb as a CG effect, for example, you need to decide if it is bright enough that it should illuminate the actor. If so, you need to decide how you are going to do this. You could do it practically (i.e. shine a green light onto the actor using a soft spot), or in post (using a 2D HSV effect through a travel matte, for example).

2. Clean Plate: Shoot the same shot without the actor using the SAME exposure settings (f-stop, etc). We are using a locked down camera to simplify this. If the camera needed to move, we would need a motion control rig to make sure the clean plate perfectly matches the main plate. Then once you have a moving camera, the shot would need to be camera tracked.

3. Model Roto Geometry: As this must be a 3D effect, you will need to model an accurate double for the actor. To simplify this process, gather photo orthographic reference of your actor. Ideally you would get him/her scanned, but even so, the data would need to be cleaned up and a model would still basically be made from scratch.

The question at this point is how to model the actor. This depends on the design of the effect… First off, take this into consideration when you are costuming the actor. The more complex the outfit, the more complex the modeling task.

You are free to use NURBS patches, NURBS single surface combos, Polygons, Sub-Division Surfaces or a combo of all of the above. For example, if your actor’s skin needs to burn and peel off, you would need to model the individual pieces of skin which curl and flake off… and animate all that. So your effect design needs to take the deadline into serious consideration. It can be fun to come up with an intense, ‘cool’, effect in a storyboard, but executing it on time is the important thing.

When you have finished designing your effect on paper, take advantage of the challenge forums to get feedback on how you may want to approach this phase.

4. Rig Roto Geometry: Once the modeling is complete, the geometry must be rigged to a skeleton so that the performance can be duplicated.

5. Align 3D camera: Load the performance plate into your 3D software and align the 3D camera with the live-action camera. To simplify this, it is good to take notes when on location. (camera focal length, film gate, f-stop, height of camera, distance to actor and so on).

6. Roto Character to Actor: Duplicate performance of actor with your rigged character. You will need to do this with the performance plate loaded. The accuracy of your work depends on the design of your effect, but they will need to be pretty close.

7. Camera Project on Geometry: If your effect will involve pieces of the actor disintigrating, peeling, breaking off, and so on, you will need your 3D double’s texture to match. This is often done by ‘camera projecting’ the performance plate onto the 3D geometry.

8. Bake Projected Textures: With the texture projected, it will need to be baked into UV image maps so that the texture sticks to the surfaces as they peel, curl, fall, emit particles, or whatever.

9. Effects: You are now ready for the fun part… executing the actual effect. As there are really limitless ways to accomplish this, I leave this up to you. You should always start with reference material, however, when time is limited.

10. Render Effects elements: You will want to render in layers and passes in order to yield the greatest amount of flexibility when compositing.

11. Composite: With the 3D effect complete, you will need to move into a 2D compositing application to finish the job. You will now have your clean plate, performance plate and 3D rendered layers/passes. What you now have to pull off is the transition from performance plate, to 3D effects, to the final clean plate.

Have fun and good luck!
We look forward to seeing your WIP and final submissions.

                                 Alex Alvarez
                              Founder, Director
                  Gnomon - School of Visual Effects

[B]The Challenge starts Jan 13th, 2003 and will run until

Feb 28th, 2003 Midnight GMT[/B] Please visit this link to obtain GMT information http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/custom.html?continent=&sort=1 [towards the bottom]

additional notes:

- Please provide some form of a storyboard, doodles are fine.
Remember that this is a WIP challenge, so it is a requirement to show the steps you used, and help out as much as you can, of course you’re not obligated to, but it will help those that need it greatly.

There are however some restrictions to prevent unnecessary issues:

[li] Animations cannot be uploaded at this time to the new challenge site, so you must use the forum,
If you wish to show a larger animation do so by linking it from your site.
[li]Keep in mind filesizes. . .this is to help those people with slow connections.

When you begin a new thread please use the following syntax

The Gift - VFX Challenge - [your name]

so for example

The Gift - VFX Challenge - lildragon

And that’s it,


Challenges issues resolved here http://www.cgtalk.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=37192

Good luck everyone