Computer Graphics World

May/June 2014

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C G W M ay / Ju n e 2 014 ■ 13 points out. "We worked on it for a solid year." The amount of detail is enormous, the destruction dramatic. "We had every bump in every sign," Smith says. "The Disney store, McDonald's, chasing neon lights on signs, people in cars, traffic, the panels with LEDs that make up the Jumbotron displays. We had to be prepared to go fully digital." The crew took still photos every 10 feet of storefronts for texture reference, had three survey scanners running for a week for geometric detail, and mounted three F65 cameras on custom rigs to capture moving footage of the Jumbotrons. "About the time we got the footage back from the F65s, we realized it changes constantly and needed to be licensed," Smith says. To handle the massive amount of geometry, the crew used a new back end to the studio's Alembic pipeline. "We call it 'Ogawa,'" Smith says. "It makes it efficient and fast to translate geometry from the layout stage, where we set up scenes, to lighting. Our lighters only bring in as much cached geometry as needed." For lighting, the crew used The Foundry's Katana; for rendering, Solid Angle's Arnold. In addition, the shading team created shaders that allowed the lighting artists to treat geometry as a light source. When the Jumbotrons were flat planes, the artists used mapped area lights, but for the more dimensional custom signs, like the 3D version of the Coca- Cola swish logo, they turned the geometry into light. "Any piece of geometry could have any attribute we wanted," Smith says. "We used it for shaped signage and for Electro's bolts. For example, we extruded the Disney logo into 3D geometry and turned it on by making it a light source. That way it properly cast light into the scene. We also had some- thing we called Mesh Lights. We could take any geometry, turn it into a light, and map the light with any detail whether color or pattern." When Electro throws a bolt of energy, something is destroyed. In Times Square, the Jumbotrons fell apart. "They are built from one-foot by one-foot plastic panels put together into six- by six-foot pieces, and those panels are wired together," Smith says. "When we dropped them, they fell apart accurately – our solvers broke them apart." Electro also wreaks havoc in other digital environments as Spider-Man battles the villains, notably at a power plant and a clock tower. "We knew we had to upgrade our destruction pipeline," Smith says. "We do a lot of simulations in Houdini using proprietary plug-ins, and we used DMM [Digital Molecular Matter from Pixelux]. We brought those solvers into our pipeline to produce a more natural look." In addition, modelers built internal structures for buildings that would be destroyed. "We didn't want the things that came crashing down to look like hollow, plastic toys," Smith says. "We even added hidden dirt. Practical set pieces have hidden dirt, and I took a lesson from that. In Times Square, I took close pictures at high resolution from a crane of the old buildings behind the signs and saw that they're really dirty. So every time something fell, we had a lot of dirt and dust." Chen notes that although advances in graphics cards, machine memory, and CPU performance have made environ- ments such as those created for Spider-Man possible, the demands have grown greater, too. "There is a trend," Chen says. "Digital environments are be- coming gigantic. They are quicker to build now, but the scope of the data, the geometry and textures, and the vastness of these worlds are becoming bigger and bigger." Indeed. Ten years ago, for Director Sam Raimi's 2004 film Spider-Man 2, a crew at Imageworks created 150 digital build- ings and went to great lengths to create Anthony Molina's digital double for a handful of shots (see "Another Big Leap," July 2004). For this year's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Imageworks visual effects virtuosos built three massive digital environ- ments, including one that surrounded a Times Square set with eight square blocks of detailed CG buildings, vehicles, and people. "Seventy percent of the people in Times Square are CG," Chen says. "We have crowds watching and running. We have people looking out windows." These highly detailed environments, combined with photo- realistic digital doubles of the films' stars, gave Director Marc Webb the freedom to swing a believable digital Spider-Man through New York City as he battles three digitally enhanced villains, and to invent "live-action" shots that he hadn't filmed. "I can't imagine what it will be like in another 10 years," Chen says. ■ CGW Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for CGW. She can be reached at ■ ABOVE LEFT: Modelers at Imageworks built eight square blocks surrounding Times Square. Above right: New shaders allowed artists to treat geometry as a light source.

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