From Previs To Final On G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra

Posted by Shane Griffith, 28 August 2009 3:54 pm

The crew over at Prime Focus VFX (formerly Frantic Films VFX) certainly are not strangers to the 3ds Max Dev team and several of their staff have been key contributors to our UAB/Alpah/Beta programs since the very beginning. A few weeks ago at SIGGRAPH I was able to sit down with a few of them to learn more about the complex challenges they were able to overcome on the Stephen Sommers directed film “G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra” from Paramount Pictures.

Prime Focus VFX worked on the previs for several shots in the film and also the digital environments, fluid simulations and various complex particle shots. Close to 70 shots alone were for the movie’s finale sequence involving a complicated aerial scene where the Nanomites devour a plane. Prime Focus used 3ds Max to pre visualize this sequence and to indentify the problematic aspects of the shots. “For the finale sequence of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," Prime Focus VFX did a complete previs job, and much of the motion and camera work went straight from its previs 3ds Max files into the post setups. While the previs environment work was pretty rough, it allowed Prime Focus to immediately identify the relative difficulty per shot and the techniques it would need to use to finish them.” - Prime Focus VFX Environments Lead Rob Ward

After the previs was complete they were faced with the challenge of creating these large environments and bringing it all together with the 3D clouds and particle effects. Ken Nakada, Visual Effects Designer/Supervisor for Prime Focus, describes some of the difficulties with this large data set. “Once Prime Focus had approval on the concepts, it needed to figure out how to make it work for the real shots. Cameras moving at high velocity passed clouds close to camera and would need 3d to sell the parallax. Ethan Summers and Marcus Levere helped work out a pipeline to generate these volumetric clouds. Digital elevation maps from the U.S. Geological Survey were often used as starting points for terrain generation. Sometimes Prime Focus used satellite weather pattern images as node inputs for cloud-generating algorithms. The background vistas were generated as before, CG image with matte painting on top to bring it to photo-reality. The size of the vistas were often very large due to the high degree of camera movement. Prime Focus wrote a tool that allowed its artists to paint the regions that the camera saw within the environment. These regions were then created using 2K-4K panels to maintain the highest resolution possible. Some backgrounds had as many as 12 panels. The panels were then stitched back together using the matte painting tool in 3ds Max and rendered in passes for compositing. Maya passes were also rendered for the volumetric clouds closer to camera.”

One of the more interesting details that I learned was how they assembled all the various assets of the scenes. As with many of their projects new approaches and tools were needed to gather these immense data sets together for final rendering. In a recent Prime Focus social media release Chris Harvey, Visual Effects Supervisor for Prime Focus VFX, talks about a new asset assembly pipeline that was developed to create the final scene files on the fly. The whole process is incredibly flexible, and I'm not sure what I can talk about here but read the artcile mentioned previous for a few more detials.

“G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra” starring Channing Tatum (Duke), Sienna Miller (Baroness) Marlon Wayans (Ripcord), and Rachel Nichols (Scarlett) premiered in theaters on August 7, 2009. 





 Other recent articles about “G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra”:

Autodesk Software Plays Starring Role in Creation of 'G.I. Joe' Movie
Prime Focus VFX Helps Elevate ‘G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra’
Step By Step: G.I. Joe: Rise Of The Cobra
G.I. Joe: Rising To A New Level Of Techno VFX



Prime Focus also has a software division, Prime Focus Software,  with dedicated engineering staff focused on bringing to market some of the same production tools they use in house. Krakatoa, a volumetric particle toolkit, is one of those key production tools that they have released as a commercial software plugin for 3ds Max. For an example of what this tool can do check out this video posted on YouTube.






Plus there is now a new tutorial from Next Limit that shows how you can combine the power of RealFlow with Krakatoa











Prime Focus Software offers a fully functional demo of Krakatoa and simply watermarks renders.

Next Limit also makes available a fully functional evaluation copy of the RealFlow plugin.

So go get to playing already!



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