VFX Showreel 2011 Breakdowns
The glow of the descending light in Submerged Tunnel could have been achieved solely in After Effects. The advantage of doing the pass as 3D element is that it scales correctly along with the main object and retains it's form as opposed to extracting a mask from the stick layer itself. The trail effect was done using particles emitting from a cylinder slightly thinner than the core of the tube.
Born Again Thunderstorm
All of the rain elements in the Born Again thunderstorm shot is 3D particle systems. Reflections on the ground is a combination of a black and white pass made in 3ds max with an animated noise bump on the ground with lights placed to match the original plate and a mirrored layer of the actors. Both of these have animated masks applied in After Effects to make sure reflections are added in proper order of depth. The thunder striking in the clouds are made up of stock images of lightning on a similar sky with color correction applied and animated on and off with additive blending.
To get some extra atmosphere into the Forest Mist shot I used an underappreciated, and somewhat forgotten, feature of 3ds max called Fire Effect which can be used with a gizmo to generate puffs of fractal noise. While ignoring scene lighting it renders very fast and is a great way to add extra depth to a shot, without relying solely on the Z-buffer. The birds are made up of one single bird looping across 40 frames and distributed through a particle system with random size, speed and frame offsets applied to make their appearance more organic.
For the molten rock a big animated noise map was exported from After Effects for use in 3ds max as VRay Displacement on plane with a sub surface scattering shader. I find that the ability to create 2D maps and combine them with 3D displacement to be quite powerful. Most of the final look was achieved in After Effects with a few helpful extra passes from max. A depth pass was used to place the sparks onto a specific point in space by using seperate copies of the depth layer with a specific curves adjustment as a matte for each spark element.
The rocky islands was sculpted and painted in Mudbox and later exported as Vray proxies. The foliage is made up of eight variations of trees and bushes which was converted to Vray proxies and then manually painted onto low poly version of the rocks using a maxscript. Vray Environment Fog was used for the clouds surrounding some of the islands. The ocean surface was rendered separately in order to use a lower level of detail for the rocky parts being refracted below. It also made it easier to make tweaks to everything above without have to re-render everything as the scene ended up being quite heavy to work with.
Soundtrack used with permission:
Snake Charmer by Desert Dwellers
Extract from the album DownTemple Dub: Roots (White Swan Records)
Written & produced by Amani Friend