A CG Cold War Re­dux

Animation Magazine - - Vfx -

RISE recre­ates the not-so-dis­tant past of a di­vided Ger­many for Guy Ritchie’s stylish

By Karen Idel­son.

Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. pays homage to the clas­sic Cold War era spy films in all the ways that de­light an au­di­ence – cool char­ac­ters, sexy lo­cales, stylish fash­ion and dy­namic car chases. Th­ese are all the in­gre­di­ents that have made spy films of any era an ex­er­cise in com­bin­ing the slick­est el­e­ments of film­mak­ing.

De­spite be­ing en­am­ored with this im­agery, it wasn’t long be­fore Ritchie leaned into mod­ern tools to up­date all the best el­e­ments of the spy genre. Af­ter all, this film was a new take on a clas­sic 1960s TV show, and con­tem­po­rary moviemak­ing means the di­rec­tor wants more con­trol over things like a race be­tween two clas­sic cars — and that he can use CG to get it just the way he wants it.

Early in the film, the three main char­ac­ters — Napoleon Solo, played by Henry Cav­ill; Illya Kuryakin, played by Ar­mie Ham­mer; and Gaby Teller, played by Ali­cia Vikan­der — find them­selves locked in a des­per­ate chase through East Berlin. Ham­mer, be­hind the wheel of a Tra­bant, is pac­ing Cav­ill and Vikan­der as they put the pedal to the metal in a Wart­burg. In­ter­est­ingly enough, th­ese two cars are not ex­actly known for their speed.

“When we saw the cars – and the Tra­bant and the Wart­burg are two of the slow­est cars you can imag­ine – we won­dered how they were go­ing to make a chase with th­ese two cars ex­cit­ing,” says Flo­rian Gellinger, vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor for the Ger­man com­pany RISE, which worked on more than 300 vis­ual-ef­fects shots for U.N.C.L.E. “But Guy Ritchie had imag­ined it in a really in­ter­est­ing way.”

The Tra­bant and the Wart­burg are sto­ried cars of the Cold War era and as­so­ci­ated with the style and de­pri­va­tion of the East Ger­many that ex­isted then. The Tra­bant gained no­to­ri­ety world­wide when the rock band U2 in­cor­po­rated it into the stag­ing of its early 1990s Zoo TV tours.

Up­dat­ing Auto Clas­sics Af­ter shoot­ing th­ese chase se­quences us­ing prac­ti­cal meth­ods – ac­tual Tra­bants and Wart­burgs specif­i­cally al­tered and trans- formed into movie cars and cut­ting-edge rigs de­signed with cam­era mounts to film the cars while they were be­ing driven at high speeds – the di­rec­tor de­cided he wanted to al­ter the look of what he had, and that’s where RISE came into the pic­ture. The com­pany had been on-set since the be­gin­ning of shoot­ing and had scanned all the el­e­ments be­ing shot.

As the film­mak­ers re­al­ized how much they wanted to add and change – things like close ups of the char­ac­ters dur­ing the chase, zoom­ing in and out of the car win­dows as the cars sped along – it was clear they would need to re­place the real cars and the real se­quences that were com­pleted with CG cars for the fi­nal se­quence. And the prac­ti­cal footage that had al­ready been shot was go­ing to be es­pe­cially use­ful.

“Once you have all the light­ing in­for­ma­tion from the real cars you can use it to make what you’re do­ing in CG look that much bet­ter,” says Gellinger. “You’re not just work­ing with some­thing that’s only been in the com­puter.”

That in­for­ma­tion made it pos­si­ble for Gell-

When I asked the guys at Chaos, “How many new fea­tures have been im­ple­mented in V-Ray 3.2?” their an­swer was, “Hun­dreds.” So, I said, “For the re­view, let’s boil that down to some­thing maybe … less than that.” And here’s what we came up with.

At SIGGRAPH 2015, the Big Thing was Vir­tual Re­al­ity and Aug­mented Re­al­ity and Vir­tual Aug­mented Re­al­ity. Un­sur­pris­ingly, one of V- Ray’s high­est pro­file new fea­tures is cam­era sup­port for VR ren­der­ing, more specif­i­cally tar­geted ( at the mo­ment) to the Ocu­lus Rift and Sam­sung Gear. Ba­si­cally, you can ren­der stereo 360-de­gree views in ei­ther a cube-map or spher­i­cal for­mat, which sim­ply and seam­lessly fit into the new tech­nol­ogy. I re­main un­con­vinced that the tech­nol­ogy will take off as a “film” ex­pe­ri­ence, but I have been con­vinced of its im­por­tance in tons of other fields — ed­u­ca­tion, med­i­cal, in­dus­trial, me­chan­i­cal, real es­tate — and Chaos seems to have taken the hint.

More ad­vances are filed un­der “Re­al­Time”, which is ren­der­ing on the GPUs. De­pend­ing on your spe­cific video card, your re­sults may vary. But, us­ing the Pro­gres­sive ren­der to get quick feed­back for light­ing and shad­ing, V- Ray RT was throw­ing its cal­cu­la­tions to the video card rather than the CPU. Now 3.2 has added QMC Sam­pling ( the stuff that deals with noise), dis­place­ment, com­pos­ite maps, tex­ture bak­ing, UDIM sup­port, et al. I think they just plan to keep throw­ing stuff at the GPU to speed things up un­til all of our dis­play cards ex­plode. But, it means faster feed­back, which means we go home ear­lier in the day — or that the di­rec­tor feels he can tweak things a few more times.

For me, the next big, im­por­tant fea­ture is Vol­ume Grids — the con­tain­ers that hold all the FX-y stuff like smoke and fire and ex­plo­sions. In the not-too-dis­tant past, you may have seen smoke ren­dered in Hou­dini’s Mantra, wa­ter in Ren­derMan, ro­bots in Arnold and en­vi­ron­ments in V-Ray. That smoke is a night­mare if your robot, and wa­ter and build­ings hap­pen to be in­side the smoke, which is very likely.

See, the smoke had to be ren­dered with a hold­out matte of the other stuff. De­pend­ing on how the ren­der­ers deals with mo­tion blur, an­tialias­ing, etc., those mattes would never fit prop­erly. ( Just ask John Knoll about Pa­cific Rim.) But now, V-Ray’s Vol­ume Grid can im­port lots of stan­dard fluid for­mats — OpenVDB, Field3D and Chaos’ own PhoenixFD — so you can ren­der your smoke, with hold­outs, in V- Ray. And you ben­e­fit from all the other stuff you get from ren­der­ing ob­jects in vol­ume, like GI bounce, shad­ows, all sorts of neat bonuses.

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