PASSING THE TORCH
Imagining Nordic folklore with modern techniques
Wanting a special kind of lighting can pose
challenges of its own. Inspired by the look of
films like “The Revenant”, the group was set on using all natural light, which due to the nature of our planet caused the effective hours of filming to be around three hours per day, with each minute almost completely changing the dynamic of the light on set. The entire short was shot on Black Magic cinema cameras using a raw DNG format to preserve as much light information as possible. This allowed the team to shoot in vastly different conditions and then alter the look of the film in compositing.
TELLING ANOTHER KIND OF TALE
In early December 2016, CG artist students Kristian, Ludvig and Mattias set out to collaborate on the future task of creating a project to close off their studies at LTU. Little was certain except the desire to create a short film starring an industry-standard character. With two months of production now behind them, the team has produced a short film showcasing both their abilities and the beauty surrounding their homes. The story places us deep in forests of northern Sweden. This is a place of relaxation for some, and a home to others. We are introduced to a frustrated modern person, trying to find a moment for himself. As fate would have it, the man is not alone, and is soon to be greeted by a creature of the forest, who finds himself on the opposite side of the spectrum, bored and looking for a new pastime, and curious about the newcomer.
A lot of time and effort went into the troll character itself. The asset creation process spanned around half of the project timeline, although not active for 100% of this time period. All cloth garments were created using nCloth simulations and later touched up with displacement maps, which allowed for clean and deformable cloth geometry. Covering the entire character in cloth allowed the team to focus on larger animations, with secondary motion and deformations realistically being taken care of, and the added bonus of not having to render as many complex materials!
Apart from creating the character, the team was
intent on telling an interesting story that would
showcase both the beautiful landscapes of the north as well as the classic depictions of folklore created by artists such as John Bauer. In the end, this would result in a 2-minute short containing a cg character for almost half of the runtime. With an ambitious idea, a short time span and a lot of research, the team went head on into the project!
Snow simulations were achieved using Houdini grains, and rendered separately in Mantra as a volume. The Alembic pipeline allowed Houdini to cooperate with the rest of the disciplines.
PROPER PIPELINE PRACTICE
By far the biggest obstacle that the group would have to overcome came with the amount of shots planned for the short. Not only did 12 shots star a full CG character, but all of these shots would need to pass through multiple disciplines and work on multiple PCs. The group chose to tackle this by emulating a larger production pipeline, strictly defining required inputs and outputs for each discipline and assembling the outputs from all disciplines in a final render scene. Due to the similar nature of each shot (most only requiring new animations and simulations), they compare the idea to factory production, where the same raw material gets processed in multiple departments separately but similarly, and finally assembled to a final product. In practice, this meant that varying disciplines like animations and simulations were set up in all-purpose rigs, which were then modified per shot and output to alembic caches to would drive a final, look-developed model for render. Combined with elements photography and simulated snow, final results were achieved quickly. Throughout the project, these methods rested on a foundation of planning and communication, allowing pipeline to stay hassle-free!
BELIEVE IN THE CHARACTER!
The main goal of the short was to tell the story of two characters, which put large pressure on both character being believable. Getting the human character across turned out simple enough (even if the film was acted out by Kristian himself!) but selling the troll character to the viewer stands as the most important challenge of the project. A lot of on-set data was captured to make this happen, including using accurate HDR lighting for all scenes and shooting extra plates for elements like snow and fire on set to match the look of the original footage. Combined with other challenges like simulating dynamic snow, the team is confident that these challenging areas are extremely impactful for the overall image and ultimately worth it. With this experience behind them, the team now moves on to finalize their bachelor thesis’, and join the world of the living as they set their sights on the VFX industry!