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The visual style of the work in Bunraku was a departure for Hotz and his team at Origami Digital. "Most of our prior work was of a photorealistic/invisible style. Achieving the stylized look that [Moshe] wanted took a lot of trial and error, so we came up with a work flow that allowed for experimentation without incurring overages or getting into a major time crunch," he explains. DETAIL
Another challenge was the length of the more intricate transition shots that, at 2000-plus frames each, included a lot of geometry and passes to allow for control later, during compositing. Perhaps our biggest challenge was doing this all with a small team. At our largest, we had 25 artists ... but we had a very good crew and a streamlined work flow that allowed us, on average, to get 40 to 60 shots out per week—including all the exploration time that the director needed.
Hotz entrusted his Bunraku workflow to NewTek’s LightWave 3D, which he chose as the primary 3D application for all the modeling, texturing, and rendering. Artists also used LightWave to do all the setups for the shots. He affirms:
We used [Autodesk’s] Maya to create a majority of the transition sequences where buildings had to fold and unfold, and then transferred the animation back to LightWave for texturing, lighting, and rendering. Not having to think about licensing the LightWave renderer on our render farm was a huge relief ... We then used LightWave to create all the passes that we needed and then passed those off to compositing.
A smooth, tightly integrated production pipeline was a prerequisite for Origami Digital artists to produce a wealth of scenes combining live action, CG with high polygon counts, and striking VFX—all on a deadline.
The integration of LightWave and Maya on the 3D side, as well as getting camera and geometry information from LightWave into our compositing software (Eyeon Fusion), was key to the speed in which we were able to crank out iterations of work ... Having this seamless integration allowed me to make certain calls that would allow the artists to work more effectively. Sometimes, we would choose to use the geometry in the compositor rather than a 3D package, because we could make interactive changes while sitting there with the director.
Origami Digital also enjoyed tight integration with its internal job tools. The artists did not need to create render folders or passes folders, Hotz mentions. "We automated things like z depth or matte passes, and submissions to the render farm—all to make it easier on the artist, who could concentrate more on the creative work.
The integration with Maya was also key in moving elements to and from LightWave," "We used our own tools for that integration and it was a very smooth process. We have a very tight integration of LightWave with the rest of our tools, including our entire motion-capture pipeline.
Artists need to be able to iterate to improve work, admits Hotz. "LightWave allows us to do that," he says. "I find shading and texturing in LightWave so intuitive that we didn’t run into any slowdowns on that end, giving us the opportunity to explore many different looks in a very short amount of time.
Hotz enthuses ...
It has an extremely fast renderer, and where you usually shudder to use motion blur with [other] renderers, I don’t even have to think twice with LightWave ... We render with 3D motion blur.
LightWave also proved to be highly effective with scenes having large polygon counts. "We had millions of polys for our transition shots, and we had a much easier time dealing with the geometry in LightWave," Hotz continues.
Bunraku’s visuals are being compared to those of Sin City and 300, both of which commanded much larger budgets than Bunraku’s modest $25 million price tag. "I am extremely proud of the work we have achieved," Hotz says. "I’m equally proud of the way in which we were able to manage this project.
Hotz recognizes :
Typically, a project with 1000-plus shots would only go to a large facility working six- and seven-day weeks to finish; or, it would be broken up into smaller, sequence-sized chunks and distributed to companies all over the globe ... Due to our pipeline, tools, and management, we were able to deliver this project in the time allotted, with a small crew, in Los Angeles, without overtime or weekend work.
What Hotz hopes independent movie producers take away from Bunraku is that high-quality VFX work is available to projects of all sizes and budgets.
Going forward, LightWave will continue to be our primary 3D application and package of choice for modeling, texturing, and rendering. Its speed, robustness, and support for custom scripting are all key to our success as a provider of 3D content to the entertainment industry .... We will definitely continue to use LightWave 3D for future work.
NewTek LightWave 3D combines a state-of-the-art renderer with powerful, intuitive modeling and animation tools. LightWave 10 is designed to support the creative process, providing the artist with the ability to interact in real time with 3D content, to work seamlessly with the full range of software applications in production pipelines and to render on unlimited render nodes. LightWave is enjoyed worldwide, as a complete 3D production solution for visual effects in film, television, broadcast graphics, print, games, visualization, and the Web, and is responsible for more artists winning Emmy Awards than any other 3D application.
Benefiting producers and artists with cost-effective and groundbreaking technologies, NewTek is a worldwide leader in 3D animation and special effects tools, portable live production and video editing including LightWave 3D®, the TriCaster™ product line and 3Play™. NewTek has won numerous industry accolades, including two Emmy® Awards. NewTek products have been used in feature films and television shows, including "Avatar," "TinTin," "Repo Men," "V," "Fringe," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "The Fairly OddParents" and more.
NewTek is privately owned and based in San Antonio. For more information, please visit: www.newtek.com.
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