Dream of Anhui

    Tippett Studio, 2016

    VFX Supervisor: Chris Morley
    Art Director: Nate Fredenburg
    My Role: Environments Supervisor and Environments Art Director
    Sequence Environment Leads: Ben Von Zastrow, Brad Fox, Howard Campbell, Steven Bevins and myself
    Sequence Environment Artists: Erik Shepherd, Ray Sena, Anthony Shafer, Rob Meyers

    2016 VES finalist Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

    'Dream of Anhui' is a Special Venue ride project. In this case it means it was a flyover tour, putting people in the chair of a helicopter ride over 15 locations in the province of Anhui of China.

    The initial plan, as imagined before anything was begun, was for the project to be almost entirely filmed with actual helicopter footage. It became clear however at the very early stage of the project that China does not actually look like it's imagined to and this quickly became an entirely virtual 3d project. In response to this, with my co department head at Tippett Studio Ben Von Zastrow, we planned and built a pipeline and team that allowed us to create 15 fully 3d virtual environments. Ben took lead on technical efforts while I handled design and look direction.

    My early role ranged from initial research to keyart, shot planning and pipeline design. The location research meant intensive online explorations of each prospective area to determine the best spot in each of the areas to feature, and shot planning meant building initial 3d versions of each of the terrain & buildings of each location for previs & discovery efforts. We worked with DEM data and satellite textures to show an early sense of the locations, and I created initial flight tests and camera moves for the initial previs and presentations, collaborating with Layout Supervisor Chris Piazus.

    Once the final locations were selected we sent a crew to China to scan each of the locations using drones. When this data was returned I worked with the photgrammetry to orient and incorporate it into the master layouts and this became our starting point and reference for each location. In practical terms, the 3d data for each of the locations was reduced to the minimum amount of area we felt we could get away with considering the travel paths of the cameras and what people would see. These areas were then divided into 'sub-sections' in order to divide the work among multiple artists. A Lead Artist was assigned for each location who was responsible for collecting and managing and rendering their location. Each of these 'sub-sections' could be worked separately and in unison.

    As this was a massive 3d fly over, some shots traveled kilometers over the terrain there was no way to fake anything, it was entirely a 3d asset based project. To facilitate this Ben and I bult upon the pipeline we had developed for The Crossing and working with our development team created a full asset management system that allowed us to place and manage hundreds of assets for each shot.

    My responsibilities at this point were focused on identifying and designing the assets required for each section and to manage and balance the asset team's desire for detail over keeping the geometry light and simple. Keyart was created and reworked, and various look direction cards and sheets were created and adjusted to keep the asset production in line.

    The assets were built almost entirely by a team of dedicated modelers and texture painters, though some were done by me and the other TDs. We wanted to keep things as tight as possible within the pipeline but also allow the freedom to be somewhat flexible in creating assets that were needed. The assets were arranged into into various categories from natural vegetation to vehicles to buildings, etc. A large part of the asset build was also the Hero location items, the temples, buildings, dams and bridges for each location. These were built entirely by the asset team. The process was to build them roughly, almost blocking level detail and get them into the asset management system so that the layout could begin, and then refine them as production began.

    Once the assets were ready for a shot the production began by working with the terrain and scans that were used in the previs, and each team was given leeway to develop the terrain and layout as best they saw fit. Some locations were all natural while others were almost entirely cityscapes so each location had to be treated differently within the basic scope of the shot design.

    In addition to Leading three of the locations my duties at this point were on art direction and quality control - so much of the personality of these shots was conveyed through subtle lighting and placement decisions...

    Production Stills
    A selection of images from the sequences. These images are cropped from the full final delivery resolution of 6k 180 degree field if view.