Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 3: Need for Speed Breakdown, part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph VFX and Digital Art.
- So, you brought another file with you from Need for Speed, so this is a really good example of a true VFX shot, where you're, where you have to make something that both wasn't there before and is transparent to the viewer. - Yes, and I think it would be good to kind of get this conversation going, to bring up kind of what we were tasked with here. I'm going to show a little breakdown of this whole sequence.
- Excellent. - 'Cause I guess to preface, everything you're seeing here are actual cars, actual drivers in these cars, actually crashing and risking their lives doing this stuff, so this was in Need for Speed, directed by Scott Waugh, which was a Bandito Brothers and DreamWorks kind of co-production, and we did most of, we did about 1,000 visual effects shots for this film with a pretty small team of like 12 or 15 people, so, so Tony Lupoi supervised for us, excellent supervisor, so this sequence is a pretty, pretty major moment in the film.
This big crash, this big race here at the end of the film where there's this big crash sequence here where this McLaren takes a tumble, so as you can see, there's quite a bit of patchwork and you see this little kind of kicker, like lever arm that, you know, propels the car up, and allows it to tumble in a certain way. It's amazing to us that there is, it's controlled chaos, you know? And Scott Waugh, the director, has a background in stunts, and he can kind of tell a driver to go here, do this, you know? At this speed, and it'll roll generally where we think it will.
- Wow. - And for us that, there's an amazing-- - That's real. - That's real, and you can't beat that, and actually one of the drivers, this guy named Greg Tracy who does a lot of stunt supervision and stunt driving himself, he told me years ago, you know, amazing is relative. You think what we do is amazing and crazy and we look at what you guys do and we think it's amazing and crazy and we don't quite understand it, so... - There's no command Z on that, though. (laughs) - No. - Yeah, there's a... - No. - No undo's there. - Yeah. Yeah, so, so the big thing here was, you know, again, we're not brute forcing it, we're not, you know, just rendering the whole thing over again, glossy, you know, we're really trying to work with as much of this wonderful chaos that's in the camera, the dust effects, you know, the kind of, you know, explosion of dust that happens here, we did build some custom particles and things like that to kind of patch in certain areas, so, if we freeze frame here, you can see, you know, crash cams and that kind of thing, so we did have to kind of patch it up, but the whole mission of the film is to really make people not question that these are real cars and that these are, you know, these are actual drivers, and they are.
- So, let's start from the beginning. You get this clean, this plate, which is the original shot, right? So what's the very first thing that you guys have to do? - The very first thing we do is track the shot, so we use PFTrack. We've used a little bit of Boujou, but mostly PFTrack. We'll kind of get a good track for the shot and we'll probably, I think we started the paint work pretty early on, just to start cleaning up the plate, so painting out these crash cams, you know, there's some buried in the hill there.
And then the next thing is to, so we have this nice model, this nice 3D model, and we knew really the main focus is this back portion of the car here. We wanted to retain, you get all these nice scratches here and on the front of the car, we wanted to retain as much of that as possible. You'll see in the end we did end up tinting the window a little bit. So, yeah, the first step was tracking the scene, getting a nice track, and so we brought that tracking data into here, so we did do ultimately a kind of a scene track and then an object track on the car, and the object track kind of gets you, you know, most of the way there, but it wasn't perfect, and one thing right off the bat is that these are kit cars, so they, this roll cage you see here, that's this big armature underneath, is of a different proportion than the actual factory model so we had to take that into consideration.
This is a big, this is a little bit of a bigger kind of caboose on this thing than what the actual model is, so, with that in mind, you know, we kind of brought our car into our environment here. We set up some basic bounce cards that are really, they look crude, but again, just enough to sell it. Let's not kill ourselves rebuilding everything when what is really going to be reflected? You know, on this car.
So, and then one thing I guess, just kind of, for me, when I start, you know, an animation like this is I like to pick, you know, my A, my kind of A-point, you know, where is it? Where does it start? And where does it end? And I set those two keyframes first, so in this case, I think if I can open kind of our curves here, it's a pretty simple, you know, rotation, and it's overcranked, it's in slow motion, so that helps.
It's nice and smooth. But I like to set kind of this keyframe. Whoops, let's not do that. And this keyframe and just set those first, X,Y, and Z. And then just interpolate, and so what I did early on was I didn't set up any shaders or anything or any lighting, I would just render kind of a crude, just with basic Cinema 4D textures, render a crude pass of this, and it became a back and forth between After Effects and Cinema, in terms of the animation.
So then, we ultimately did set up some nice shaders and some lighting. I made those bounce cards invisible to the camera, and so it still kind of looks, you know, like very, very crude and it's this, this got us about 70% there. - It's a big step along the way from what you originally started with, though, in terms of realism. - Sure. Yeah, so we get a lot of this kind of movement here, really was nice, and again, all we're worried about is kind of this back area here, so, with that in mind, we even, in earlier versions of this, even animated this back wheel to try to match how this back wheel was rotating, and again, that's, it's kind of like you can fight against that, or you can say, well, let's try to retain that back wheel and kind of roto it back in, and kind of use again as much of that stuff in camera as possible.
So, you know, we had that and I have some stills here that kind of start to break down the comp phase, so we kind of went from this, you know, some paint work happening here, you know, lots of kind of patching going on. This is kind of, you know, when you first kind of quickly feather it in and see how this is really in that animation phase, kind of looks like this. - Doesn't even line up. - Doesn't even line up, and it doesn't always perfectly, and again, going back to the fact that it was a different proportioned car all together, so, there was some stretching and warping and that kind of thing, and then ultimately, bringing those, you can see, bringing those final pieces, kind of back in and we said, like, let's retain this window, let's bring in that practical wheel, and those little kind of final touches really just sell it.
Like just looking at, I don't have a render now, but looking at this CG wheel's completely static, versus the next version-- - With the actual wheel. - With the actual, it's like night and day, it's a completely different shot, so, again, that mix of, you know, the olden days of Dennis Muren, you know, ILM stuff of let's take the practical and the VFX and merge them rather than just VFX, you know, over the whole thing, so this was a perfect, you know example of that, and this was another shot where we used the same strategy, this Lambo kind of a crash sequence.
Same method, where we had to, this rotation was quite intense to get that to work, but, you know, same strategy there and getting, you know, pretty simple lighting in this case just the sunlight, you know, and we use V-Ray on this stuff. Yeah, so that's kind of the gist of those shots, and big credit to, again, Tony Lupoi who was our supe, who, sometimes you don't need to explain exactly what you're doing to the director, they just kind of want to see it done, but again, he's a master of kind of creating that dialogue and, helping them understand kind of what we're doing and why we're doing it, and yeah, so these were really, I think worked out really nicely.
I don't think anyone would really question these as VFX shots, so... - As you're showing me this stuff, you know, there's, you mentioned earlier the idea of, you know, working with the practical and working and having that and the digital stuff work together. Have there been, or do you guys feel like there are things such as good VFX or bad VFX? You know, there's, every movie that comes out right now, every TV show, has visual effects in it, and honestly, even a simple show like a cop show will have set row, set extensions or you know, having to paint out crowds that were shooting for there, so it, there almost aren't any non-VFX shoots anymore, but, yet, you hear people blaming VFX for a movie's failure or success, you know, giving it credit when it's there, so, is there such a thing as good VFX or bad VFX? - I think, in any case, it starts with story, and, using VFX as a tool, and it should only be used to supplement the story so, sure, I guess you could have bad visual effects, but, I think it's, you know, you can get away with maybe effects that aren't incredible, but if there's a great story and those visuals are supplementing that story then, you can kind of suspend that disbelief, but I think what we run into a lot nowadays is the story is reliant on the visual effects, you know? And, so I think that's where it gets a little confusing and where the visual effects can become kind of a scapegoat because you're basically asking a studio to, you know, kind of write the story as well, and, kind of explain what is even going on in this, you know, show or film, and, but, yeah, that's where it can get a little dicey.
- And, oftentimes, there are money and time constraints, you know? And we know kind of from behind the scenes that those are very real concerns that affect the work, and so you'll see some films and where a comp is maybe like, ooh, we don't necessarily even blame the artists. They might have run out of time, you know? And so, and audiences, the thing is that, you know, we work on this stuff, we see it, we watch films in a certain way with a critical eye, but my parents can pick out bad CG, you know? They can look at a shot and be like, ooh, you know, that's not real, or that took me out of the story, you know? You know, like using maybe Wes Anderson as an example, you know, he uses a lot of practical stuff, but when he does use VFX, it has a certain style and flair, but it works, you know? For his style, so yeah, you really only notice it when it's not good and this is a perfect example, and I think a lot of what we do, people might even think that you know, Robert Downey Junior's face is somehow, you know, like 3D-mapped or something (laughs) or projected for CG, you know, you get a lot of funny questions on that, and that's, we think that's a good thing, and people start to-- - When you're not taken out of it, when you cut from the real world and then cut into this digital environment, the audience shouldn't, that shouldn't alter their perception, you know? It should just roll.
- Right, right on into it. - So whether it's an invisible effect or not, it's really a tool and it's kind of how you use it to supplement the story. That kind of determines whether it's good or bad.
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