Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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32 cgw e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 For the characters, the team reused as much of the feature film's production pipe- line as possible, beginning with the same assets and animation and simulation rigs, up until the point of animation – at which time they branched off into a customized setup. Also, they used Swoop, the in-house tool developed to give artists the ability to animate the path and timing of the wind spirit Gale in Frozen 2, either directly within Autodesk's Maya or by using VR. Due to its VR capabilities, Swoop enabled the "Myth" team to puppeteer objects and characters, creating the shape of the motion paths and the timing for the characters to travel over that path. For the environments, all the models likewise had to be reprocessed so they could be handled within Epic Games' Unreal Engine, the VR platform used by the filmmakers for "Myth." "We take lower-res models and have to create UVs, then we have to create fully unique textures. None of that really transfers from our regular pipeline. It's a completely different system," says Anderson. "So we make new textures for our models using [Adobe's] Substance Designer and various other tools." Once the models were brought into the Unreal Engine, shaders were created and set up so they could be rendered in the engine. While typically animation is exported through Disney's proprietary format, in this case it was exported as cached FBX files and then brought into Unreal Engine, where the layout was done inside the Unreal En- gine Sequencer Editor tool. It's important to note that the stylized characters and world of "Myth" provided the artists with more freedom in making creative choices when it came to their assets. In the VR short, the Nokk, an extremely complex character, is featured prominently. And while the team started off by using the Nokk's body asset from the feature film, they decided to make Nokk's mane a cloth simulation sheet as opposed to a fluid simulation, which was used in the feature and is far more complex and elaborate, notes Robbins. From 'Cycles' to ' Myth' As Gipson explains, there are many ways to make a VR film, though he prefers the narrative, linear approach of "Myth" and his previous "Cycles," as opposed to a highly in- teractive experience where the user is con- stantly grabbing at items with controllers. There is a versatility to the way you can tell stories in VR, and the way that audienc- es can interact with the world, Lee points out. "It's very different from what we do in feature films, and I think there's something very fun and exciting about it. You can really get into that space, and viewers can experience the elements a bit more closely and on a personal level," she says. "I feel like that may be the most enticing aspect of it. There's a real 'wow factor' when you get to have facetime with the Nokk and he comes right up to you and assesses whether or not you're worthy. You can almost feel his breath on you as he approaches. And the scale of the Earth Giants is so immersive to the point where you feel that they can practically pick you up. Experiencing the Northern Lights as if you're standing right in front of them is also truly magical." In "Cycles," the filmmakers tried to guide the eye of the viewer using color and light, as well as motion, to push the viewer around the space. They also employed a technique whereby the space darkens and desaturates somewhat if the person is not looking in the intended area. When it came to "Myth," they again used color, light, and motion to the same effect to direct the viewer's attention. Also, the interactivity is gaze-based. Users have six degrees of freedom, whereby they can move and view the film as they like. But there are also moments where the char- acters will react based on the user's viewer direction or proximity to the characters. Indeed, "Cycles" (which was created with Unity instead of Unreal Engine) was a learning experience, being the first project of its kind for the Disney Animation group. "When we opted to go with a different engine for this film, that meant starting from scratch in a lot of ways," says Ander- son. "The pipeline changed because the platform changed. We were able to do a lot more and iterate faster because of the tool set we were using [for 'Myth']." There were other differences in the processes, as well. For the characters in "Cycles," the artists used Alembic, a cached data format. For "Myth," they used cached FBX rigs. Also, "Cycles" has a more tradi- tional look, as artists used a toon shader to flatten out the characters. As for the envi- ronment, it is a single setting that remains fairly consistent. Conversely, in "Myth," the environments are diverse, and artists visually leaned into the art direction and shape language familiar to Frozen. Colors change to suit the story, with no cuts. "It has to be driven in one continuous piece," says Anderson. "It's a technical chal- lenge to have the sky change and the colors change, and cut from the cabin into the forest in a creative way so it's not just a fade to black. All of these things are simple and el- egant when you watch them, but underlying, the technology is very complicated, and it's complicated to get it all working in harmony." "It's amazing to see [Gipson's] range in going from a very personal and emotion- al film that was seen in the confines of a house like 'Cycles,' to this latest project, which encompasses an entire forest and the whole of nature," says Russell. "This film is a game-changer in the way that the VR technology is being used to tell a story and make the viewer a part of that world." Closing the Virtual Chapter "Myth," which is approximately eight min- utes in length, took close to eight months to complete following creative approval, with production wrapping last November. All told, about 80 people worked on the short film, though a core team of eight or so worked on the film for its entirety. "Myth: A Frozen Tale" is now available on Facebook's Oculus Quest. … The end. Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of CGW. The fire spirit Bruni, a quick-moving salamander, heats up the action.

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