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September/October 2020

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Page 20 of 35 19 POST SEPT/OCT 2020 As Ian Farnsworth, VFX supervisor, explains, set- ting up a rig to handle the liquidy, blobby creatures in Maya would have been a big undertaking, so instead, the group looked to Houdini and Houdini Engine for its OpenVDB tool set and procedural workflows. As a result, the Lunarians were able to have their body parts separate, blend back togeth- er and have an arbitrary number of control points added to the rig. "In addition to giving animators a lot more free- dom, running it through Houdini gave us a lot more control over the final look. We were able to up-res and smooth out the characters to a higher degree for rendering, add custom attributes for shading and calculate accurate motion vectors," he says. The oldest character residing on Lunaria is Gobi, who is more developed than most Lunarians, as are the trio of so-called biker chicks and a pair of playful lions that help guide Fei Fei's rocket. They all have a more defined form and, thus, a more traditional rig. One of the bigger challenges facing artists was that each Lunarian emitted its own light source. "These characters were sort of like a drop of water, which is a liquid, but it's a solid volume of liquid, and within that there is a gas which would give them a glow and their color," explains Smith. "For us to have a volume of water undisturbed by the gas inside, we basically had to cheat and tell the renderer that this was two materials that were capable of something that's physically impossi- ble to have. You can have gas inside water, but it would just be a bubble. In this case, the gas lived in the same volume as the water." Moreover, these self-illuminating creatures existed within a self-illuminating city. "It was definitely something we hadn't done before. The most important thing to the filmmakers was that there would be an explosion of color on Lunaria, that there would be an energy to it. The design has an elegance and simplicity to it, so we needed to bend the rules of lighting to achieve that. Even though everything was created in 3D, we wanted to blend in some of the 2D aesthetics," says Chan. Furthermore, the native characters and buildings not only give off light, but they also absorb light. "And in ray tracing, that is pretty complex," says Smith. The lighting situation became even more complicated in scenes where Lunarians and earthlings shared the same shot. "Both the illuminated characters and earthlings needed to react to light when they were standing next to one another or going through the city," explains Smith, whose team reconfigured its mesh light software based on technology initially created for Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man films, whereby any ge- ometry can be turned into a light. "We wanted the characters to be able to react to light. So our shading team had to rewrite that software so it could both respond to light and give off light beautifully and realistically without a lot of ray-traced noise." In one scene shortly after Fei Fei finds herself on Lunaria, she enters a gigantic concert hall where at least 250,000 Lunarians are gathered to watch the moon goddess sing. "With all the gases inside each Lunarian and the effects, it was very complicated and required a lot of optimization to render," notes Chan. For huge crowd scenes like that, the dev team also tweaked its in-house tool, Sprout, which had been used to paint trees across an environment, only in this case, their brush - strokes produced Lunarians. Tens of thousands of them in some cases. "The film had some of the biggest crowds I've ever dealt with," says Kapijimpanga. Creating a Goddess In myth, Chang'e typically is depicted as beau- tiful, peaceful, genteel and softly feminine, though in Over the Moon, the filmmakers turned that on its head, making the goddess more diva-like as she basks in the adoration of the Lunarians. (At least this is the case when Fei Fei first meets her, but the girl eventually draws out the gentle, empathetic person the goddess is known to be.) In addition, Chang'e has extremely long, flowing hair, but sports amazing traditional hairdos for which a simulation artist at Sony Imageworks wrote a tool within Maya that enabled him to complete the styles quickly by building a model and then filling its volume with hair. Indeed, Chang'e is a goddess who is larger than life, literally, standing nine-feet tall. Making her stand out even more, this glamazon is outfit - ted in elaborate couture, designed by renowned fashion designer Guo Pei, who created Rihanna's yellow dress for the 2015 Met Gala. "When talking about Chang'e's costume design, we knew we needed someone who was going to honor her authenticity, but we also wanted someone who could give her a fresh and modern take," says Chou. The gowns Pei sketched were intricate and elaborate; to man - ufacture them would have taken thousands of hours. Even in CGI, this was no easy task. "For Chang'e's dress in the Chamber of Exquisite Sadness, [Pei] designed 'super silk' that floated ethereally around her with every movement. She provided the patterns, fabric samples and embroi- dery designs for each costume [accurate enough to be sewn together and even worn on a live model]," says Keane. "Chang'e's royal robe tells the story of her love for Houyi as two intertwining exotic birds." Then, the cloth team at Sony Imageworks used 3D software from Marvelous Designer to build the CG clothes and then fit them to the character's body. Like most couture, once the dress was on the body, adjustments had to be made. "It was complex and time-consuming," adds Chan, especially with the goddess's many ward- robe changes. New Traditions Over the Moon is a touching tale — one blended in past and present, tradition and contemporary — told through the creativity of a renowned traditional artist and a talented team of 3D animators. "This was definitely a unique experience for many reasons, among them working with Glen Keane, a legendary animator, and Netflix, which is an emerging market that's making fantastic products," says Smith. "Having the opportu- nity to put the artistry from Keane and Céline Desrumaux up on screen was amazing." At the time of the film's development, Netflix's newly formed animation division consisted of Keane, his son Max, and Gennie Rim (producer). Since then, the animation division has swelled to approximately 800 artists, as Netflix continues to make its mark on a growing segment of the animation industry. Indeed, a new moon on the rise. Chang'e performs in front of a huge crowd of adoring fans, created from her tears. Clothing designer Guo Pei devised elaborate costumes for Chang'e.

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