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 7 the interior castle shots were fi lmed on location somewhere in England or Ireland, they were actually shot greenscreen in a Cardiff , Wales, studio. The shots were done in a greenscreen "box" with a few props, and the CG artists then fi lled the box with a stunning computer-gen- erated environment. Of course, there were still the signature Merlin eye eff ects (glows), but during Season 5, the team expanded its role and created some complex CG characters, as well. The most diffi cult was the Euchdag/ Diamair, a fully digital humanoid that was semi-translucent with a glow eff ect, had a lot of dialog, and whose face appeared in close-ups. Actor Josette Simon, who voiced the character, also provided the body movements and facial reference. On set, she was dressed head to toe in LED lights, so her hands and arms would emit "an interesting inter- active light when she interacted with the characters," Illingworth explains. Later, the actor was replaced with the CG character. Simon's facial performance was achieved using a facial capture and imaging technique from Dimensional Imaging (DI3D), which captures the entire face rather than just markers applied to the face. With this technique, an array of cameras encircling Simon's face captured every nuanced move, including her mouth movement for lip sync. "TDI3D captured nine separate video feeds of the character and used triangula- tion to get a 3D mesh of the full performance, including cheek twitches and eye blinks," says Illingworth. "It's not a traditional method of motion capture, but one that's been used in video games, and I thought it would be useful for us." In fact, Vine is using the process again for work it is doing on Atlantis. Starting with Season 1, Merlin has featured a CG dragon cre- ated by The Mill, "a great asset we inherited," says Illingworth. The Mill's creature had been lit with Mental Images' Mental Ray but had to be developed to work with Vine's (Solid Angle) Arnold-based pipeline and shaders for the shots in the last season. At the end of Season 4, Vine got its turn to create one of these mythical creatures from scratch, mod- eling and animating a full-CG baby dragon that later turned into an adolescent. Martin Rexard designed Aithusa, which was then brought in-house at Vine, where it was textured and rigged for animation. The model was designed in Pixologic's ZBrush and retopologized in Pilgway's 3D-Coat to get a leveled density in the mesh that would work better for rigging. The group then built the rigging in Autodesk's Maya and added cloth dynamics to the creature's wings. Textures were done in Adobe's Photoshop and The Foundry's Mari, with displace- ments for the scales done in Autodesk's Mudbox. "She had a rough life and was a battered soul," says Illingworth of the scarred creature. With dragons come fi re, which was mostly practical and composited into the scenes with The Foundry's Nuke. But in the fi nal episode, when Merlin fi nally reveals his magic to Arthur, it is done around a campfi re as Merlin conjures up the shape of a dragon from CG embers. For this, a short anima- tion cycle by Sally Goldberg was produced in Side Eff ects' Houd- ini. She made layers of particles whereby the embers li ing from the fi re fused together to form the dragon shape, then fell apart and fl oated off . And just like that, Merlin showed off his magic skills with a subtle display, but one that required quite intense work and fi nesse by the VFX team. MANY INSIDE SETS WERE SPARSE (TOP LEFT) SO CG WAS USED TO COMPLETE THE DETAILED BACKDROPS (BOTTOM LEFT). ONE OF THE MORE COMPLEX CG CHARACTERS IN THE SERIES WAS THE EUCHDAG. AN ACTOR OUTFITTED WITH LED LIGHTS PROVIDED THE BODY MOVEMENTS (TOP RIGHT). HER FACIAL PERFORMANCE WAS CAPTURED AS WELL AND APPLIED TO THE CG CHARACTER (BOTTOM RIGHT).

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