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 4 1 as well as particle simulations, such as dirt, dust, crumbling rocks, explosions, and liquids. In addition, there are set exten- sions, along with lots of fog and atmospheric eff ects that help give the show a spooky feel. The steed ridden by the Headless Horseman and his cohorts are real but have digital eye treatment for the red glow. For the most part, Pixomondo handled the simulations, simple to complex. As Zimmerman explains, the show is shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, which serves as present-day Sleepy Hollow as imagined for the series. The southern location off ers the crew historical structures for fl ashbacks to Colonial times, and there are at least a few in each episode. While most of the period sets are practical, at times CG set extensions are required. For example, in one episode, the artists at Pixo- mondo added a bell tower with lantern lights for the opening shot depicting Paul Revere's ride. The team also populated the shot to make the area look like an actual town, not a set. For the opening of another episode, Synaptic generated a large water simulation for the re-creation of Colonial Boston Harbor and augmented it with digital matte paintings. There is a range of creepy characters that appear in the series, but most of them use prosthetics. "We don't do full-CG character work for the series," Zimmerman says. At times, though, CG is used to augment their appearance. For instance, Police Offi cer Andy Brooks, who became a follower of the Horseman, is o en seen with a backward-facing head resulting from his death. Mostly this is achieved with a prosthet- ic and CG combination. "We start with a practical prosthetic head that is on backward, and we map his face back onto that," says Zimmer- man. "We usually do as much practical work as we can before turning to digital solutions. That is the look of the show. We are there to help production tell the story they want to tell." Zimmerman explains that the VFX group tries to work with the various departments when they reach a point where a CG solution would be better than a practical one. When it comes time for the Horseman to go headless, that task is split between two of the vendors, depending on the over- all work load and shot count in the episode. It involves painting out a green hood worn by the stuntman and matchmoving a CG collar and neck stump. O en, it entails much more, Zimmerman points out. "We actually have a full body scan and sometimes have to replace arms, shoulders, and more depending on the angle of the shot," he says. Artists have to complete the scene by tracking in a clean plate created with what was occluded by the head before it was removed. Next, the artists solve the camera and track it to match the plate. Mak- ing this more diffi cult was the fact that the character is always in motion, whether riding on his horse or swinging an ax. Synaptic also handled a vine animation in the fi nale, as well as a scene with swarming locusts. That compelling sequence involved Offi cer Brooks (John Cho), during which he enters a tunnel and is overcome by a swarm of locusts, which encase him in a cocoon. On set, fl exible fabric helped sell the various stages of the cocoon, although the CG artists had to connect the stages and sequence them together. "You have the locusts swarming around his legs and wrapping his legs, progressing up his body and ultimately pinning him to the wall and covering his face in a large cocoon," Zimmer- man says. "It involved some fun technical stuff to fi gure out the swarming and dynamics of the cocoon." According to former Synaptic CG Supervisor Eric Hance, the locust sequence was "process rich." A er getting the general idea of the sequence from Zimmerman, Synaptic started developing the key elements: the locust fl ocking and dynamic web wrapping. "Our team collaborated with The Light- Wave 3D group, which added functionality to their existing particle/fl ocking system to get the behavior we needed," he explains. "As we proceeded, we built and animated hero bugs and variations. During the R&D phase, we also rigged dynam- ic webbing in Maya to travel through the air and then prop- erly stick to our digital version of the actor and the set." Once Synaptic received the plates, the digital artists careful- ly matched the actor's perfor- mance and the set in a spatially correct way, so that webs could properly interact with John [Cho] and the set around him. A er they got the technical underpinnings in place, the crew created an in-house edit of the sequence that would help give them creative direction. "We studied the patterns of real locusts and re-created what we thought were the most terrifying, disgusting parts," says Hance. They then continued to refi ne the performance of the bugs and the density of the webbing coming from the bugs and constraining the actor. The artists also created additional TWO VENDORS, SYNAPTIC AND PIXOMONDO, WORKED ON SHOTS THAT REQUIRED THE REMOVAL OF THE HORSEMAN'S HEADS. SYNAPTIC DID THE WORK FOR THE FIERY SEQUENCE BELOW. P R I M E - T I M E E F F E C T S

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