De­liv­er­ing Su­per­heroic VFX Im­ages

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

How the VFX su­per­vi­sor of Su­per­girl, Ar­row, The Flash and DC’s Le­gends of To­mor­row de­liv­ers weekly oth­er­worldly shots for The CW. By Ramin Za­hed.

as the show is in­tro­duc­ing many new char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Ar­row’s Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Dr. Nate Hey­wood (Nick Zano) look­ing for the heroes scat­tered in time.

As a true comic-book fan, Kevorkian says he of­ten goes straight to the comic-book source ma­te­rial for the pop­u­lar se­ries to get a good feel for what each episode de­mands. “If we are go­ing to fea­ture a char­ac­ter that is well known in the comic uni­verse, that’s the first place I go,” he says. “We want to find out what has been es­tab­lished be­fore as well in the live-ac­tion ver­sion of that char­ac­ter. Then, we work with con­cept artists to come up with a ver­sion that fits in bet­ter with the real world.

“Some­times we have to aban­don the comics, but just keep some as­pect of it as a nod to what’s been es­tab­lished. I re­mem­ber when I did the pi­lot for The Flash, my big­gest fear was that the fans wouldn’t be happy. … But they have been so kind and the re­sponse to the shows have been mostly pos­i­tive. This is very grat­i­fy­ing, es­pe­cially when some­times the fans hate movies with $250 mil­lion bud­gets.”

When asked about his fa­vorite VFX mo­ments, Kevorkian says he loves the CG se­quences they get to cre­ate with Flash. “You read a few lines about Flash chas­ing Zoom, and we have to come up with all the vis­ual de­tails. It’s all CG, so we get to cre­ate that in pre­viz and show that to the exec pro­duc­ers. The same sit­u­a­tion with Su­per­girl. … I loved what we were able to do on the pi­lot, where she uses her pow­ers for the first time and saves the plane that goes through the bridge. For Le­gends of To­mor­row, we have a lot of fun with The Atom. We have these episodes where he shrinks and gets in­side the main­frame of a com­puter or goes in­side a boy and swims in the blood stream … or he grows and be­comes 500 feet tall and fights a gi­ant ro­bot — our TV-bud­geted ver­sion of Pa­cific Rim. All of these shows give us many op­por­tu­ni­ties to use our imag­i­na­tion.”

As fun as the fan­tas­tic CG el­e­ments of each plot­line may be, Kevorkian says some of the more chal­leng­ing as­pects of the job are creat- ing ef­fects that are not nec­es­sar­ily part of the su­per­hero world. “You have to ground it in re­al­ity as much as you can so that view­ers won’t even know that it’s CGI,” he ex­plains. “A lot of the shots of Flash we see run­ning in a city are not real. It’s about hav­ing view­ers not re­al­ize that the city the su­per­heroes are fly­ing in is all CG! Also, you have to re­mem­ber that some­times a scene looks great even if doesn’t make sense sci­en­tif­i­cally. You would die if you did a lot of the things that the Flash does, but if it looks great, you’re go­ing to be­lieve it.”

When it comes to of­fer­ing ad­vice to those who want to pur­sue a ca­reer in the highly com­pet­i­tive VFX field, Kevorkian has a few im­por­tant tips. “When I was out of film school and look­ing for a job, I got my in­tern­ship by cold call­ing ev­ery stu­dio in town,” he says. “That’s how I got my job work­ing on Star Trek for Para­mount. You have to be pa­tient, be a sponge and ab­sorb ev­ery­thing you can from those around you. You can never have a sense of en­ti­tle­ment. And re­mem­ber that there is no one path. Don’t be afraid to cre­ate your own path.” Now that’s what you can call price­less ad­vice from a man who over­sees over 6,500 su­per­heroic shots per sea­son! [ The new sea­son of The Flash pre­mieres Oct. 4 on The CW, while Ar­row hits Oct. 5, DC’s Le­gends of To­mor­row ar­rives Oct. 13, and the new sea­son of Su­per­girl kicks off Oct. 20.

around it, bring­ing it back into Re­Make for a print check, print­ing the com­po­nents of the gun, and then re­assem­bling and paint­ing the real prop. It’s, frankly, in­spi­ra­tional.

The user ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign is sim­i­lar to Re­Cap in that the in­ter­face is boiled down to just the es­sen­tials and the work­flow feels nat­u­ral.

Since I’m much more likely to have ac­cess to a DSLR than a Faro LIDAR Scan­ner, I think that I would lean to­ward Re­Make as a more likely tool of choice. is quite fast — multi-threaded on both CPU and GPU, which means the more ro­bust your graph­ics card, the faster it’s go­ing to run. And the ac­cel­er­a­tion is in Cuda, so NVidia is go­ing to be a good way to go. The soft­ware has a draft mode to speed up pro­cess­ing fur­ther, and is de­signed to be used out in the field and on-set, where things are mov­ing fast and furious and you need to ver­ify that the data you’ve ac­quired is go­ing to meet the needs of the project.

There are plenty of tools for re­fin­ing and align­ing the scans, which in­clude DSM and geo ref­er­enc­ing for those re­ally big ar­eas. And, like Re­Cap 360, there are fil­ters for get­ting rid of mov­ing peo­ple.

One of the align­ment fea­tures I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of is how Re­Make man­u­ally se­lects fea­tures in the pho­tos that are seen from mul­ti­ple an­gles, which in turn re­fines the po­si­tions of the cam­eras, which then re­cal­cu­lates to make the mesh more re­fined. Its a lot like cam­era track­ing in a way — well, not in a way ... in fact, it’s ex­actly cam­era track­ing. But in­stead of a cam­era path, you are help­ing it tri­an­gu­late the sur­face of the ob­ject in the pho­tos.

The sub­scrip­tion cost may be a bit hefty for many out­side of a stu­dio, but Cap­tur­ingReal­ity does of­fer a three-month sub­scrip­tion pack­age for 99 eu­ros with the lim­i­ta­tions be­ing 2,500 pho­tos per project and no tech sup­port. But at that price smaller com­pa­nies and free­lancers can cer­tainly ben­e­fit. [ Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on fea­tures in­clud­ing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer, 2012, Fi­nal Des­ti­na­tion 5 and Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­

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En­core VFX does quadru­ple duty cre­at­ing ef­fects like the vil­lain­ous Go­rilla Grodd for the DC Comics-in­spired se­ries on The CW, as well as its com­pan­ion DC se­ries To­mor­row and Su­per­girl.

Ar­men Kevorkian

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