Computer Graphics World

July/August 2014

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j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 4 c g w 3 3 shot management so ware, Autodesk's Maya 3D modeling so ware, and The Foundry's Nuke compositing program at the core. Tracking markers mounted to the ceiling of the soundstage, along with equip- ment mounted to cameras, provide the data necessary for ZEUS. On the front end, Zoic's pro- prietary iPad application lets the director and creatives examine the set library so animatics can be built for previewing the virtual environments. "They can take measurements and make storyboards, comments, e-mail frames, and more," says Orloff . "We also write a bunch of proprietary tools that take the camera information from Lightcra and put it into our tracking pipeline so we can get through a large volume of shots faster than ever before. We have scripts that integrate and man- age the assets, interface with editorial, and export the assets for automatic delivery." The volume of shots and complexity of the editorial demands are extremely high, so on the back end, the pipeline automates a good deal of the process, so the artists are creating rather than managing, contends Orloff . E N C H A N T I N G W O R K With a grueling schedule and limited budget, Once Upon A Time's production and visual eff ects teams must estab- lish a balance between using practical and virtual sets. For example, on one episode, the set consisted solely of a table and columns; ZEUS delivered the dark walls and glowing fi res that set the mood for a tense scene. In another, it was used to build a ballroom wedding scene, extending practical columns, adding stained-glass windows, and fi lling the room with digital guests. And that was just the beginning. In addition to the digital sets, the show uses a substantial number of matte paintings – in fact, three full-time matte painters alone work on the production, using Adobe's Photo shop along with Maya to give the scenes parallax. Backdrops and sets aside, Zoic also has its hands full with the show's magical ef- fects, such as portals, smoke, fi reballs, freezing and barrier spells, locking and unlocking spells, and disappearances. Environmental eff ects, such as clouds, tornadoes, lightning, and storms, are plentiful, too. "We do a lot of the particle eff ects and magic designs," says Orloff . "Those are the second most popular eff ects in the series and are in just about every show." For transformations, the group o en uses digital scans of the actors – for instance, to create an adult version of Pinocchio, once the actor was scanned, the artists generated a wooden texture, then rotoscoped the texture and matchmoved it onto the character in the shots. For this past season, fl ying monkeys were the rage and a vital story element to the Oz theme of several episodes. An- other challenge this season was creating the ghost of Cora, the Evil Queen's mother. The direc- tor wanted her to perform like an actor yet react like a spirit, so THE TELEVISION SERIES ONCE UPON A TIME FEATURES A RANGE OF EFFECTS IN BOTH THE "REAL WORLD" AND THE STORYBOOK WORLD. ZOIC HANDLES THE VISUAL EFFECTS, USING ITS ZEUS VIRTUAL PRODUCTION SYSTEM THAT BRINGS THE VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS ON GREENSCREEN STAGES TO LIFE FOR THE ACTORS AND DIRECTOR DURING THEIR PERFORMANCES. Images ©ABC/Once Upon A Time

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