About My Blog

This blog will follow the creation of my Visual Effects work and eventually my Visual Effects Show-Reel.

Monday, 8 September 2014

My VFX Future Plans

I just wanted to make this post firstly, to Thank Everyone for all the positive feedback, Emails and Comments from my War Thunder Breakdown.

I feel so lucky that my first project was working on one of my "Dream" Projects! Since I uploaded my VFX Breakdown its had over 10,500 views. I've also had quite a few emails and messages from a lot of my VFX Idols, Thanks so much guys!
 Now I have got a good body of work to go on my Reel rather than it been full of personal projects. I've got more possible FX jobs lined up, however in the long term I really want to be hired and work at a studio.My blogs been quite quiet. instead of posting here a lot, like I used to, I'm spending much more time on each shot/RnD I do, to get it right. As well as working on freelance FX work I plan to work on a VFX sequence.
The reason why is at the minute I am just doing lots of RnD and uploading it, and its nice but I want to attract more clients (While I'm Freelance) but mainly to make my showreel shine, with a sequence plus a breakdown for the sequence. So I plan to do a 30 Seconds Max VFX Seqence based on a very cool idea! The aim of the sequence is for me to demonstrate my FX skills, but also been able to Light and Render And Composite the shots so they are realistic. I want to use as many technical tools as I can but making sure I can get the sequence looking to a Game Cinematic Trailer / near photoreal quality. However I will not be doing Modelling or Textruing!
I've also Started Learning Houdini's FLIP. So I hope to use it on the project, its defiantly not a replacement for RealFlow for now, its a very technical program, its easy to forget about your shot and get tangled up in node networks! I never thought I'd get to be able to use it, but now I am able to jump in and do fluid sims and export them for meshing and even export them to Max and use my RealFlow Meshing/Rendering Pipeline.
Saying all that, I have the biggest RealFlow sim I have ever done Rendering. So stay tuned for a making of article of it!
RealFlow Kaiju Breach Project, Coming Soon:



Friday, 15 August 2014

WarThunder GamesCom Trailer- FX Work Making Of

All Screenshots © Gaijin Entertainment
All Working Screenshots © Niall Horn VFX  

Hi Guys, So since June I have been working with the guys at Juice, Who are part of Platige Image on a WarThunder Game Cinematic trailer that has been released at GamesCom this year. Let me start of by saying what a pleasure it was to work with such a talented team on such a short turnaround of just over 2 months. This has been my first "Proper" freelance job, and working on a Cinematic Trailer for my favourite game was a dream come true. As you will see on my blog I've done some Tests in the past on WW2 themed shots (and I will continue to as I improve my FX and VFX Skills). Before I continue just want to say big thanks to my Supervisor: Adam Tunikowski and My Lead TD/FX Supervisor: Błażej Kowalski.

I Uploaded my FumeFX Summer Test/RnD Reel in Early June and a few days later got an email from Juice/Platige asking if I would want to work on the WarThunder Trailer. OfCourse I said Yes. I've learnt so much about working on a Studio Pipeline, Working with other really talented artists and in an FX Team, Learning a lot about how Platige/Juice setup there scenes, Also learning more about FumeFX and having dallies over Skype. Its been so much fun and a dream experience, My First job and I got to work on my dream project. I also got acess to use a second computer in Poland at Juice so I could leave renders and sims on the Farm overnight while I worked on my PC. This helped so much, Thanks Blazej! Render Farms are amazing!
First of all my Final FX Works on the trailer are:

* All the Flak Simulations, Flak Lookdev and RnD.
* End Shot Hero Bomber Engine Smoke, I also did my own Engine Fire sim and lots of RnD also.
* Part of the Bomber Crash Explosion/Fireball, Lots of RnD For the Explosion and Shockwaves.


FX- Making Of Process

Early in the project I was set to work on the FX for the Tank Crashing into the Jeep shot, However this whole shot got given to the amazing team at Bottleship VFX in Bulgaria lead by the amazing Hristo Velv!
Bomber Explosion
 Final Bomber Explosion in the Trailer 
So my first FX element to work on was the explosion of the Bomber (Before Time Reverses). I worked on this from Mid June to the start of July. For the explosion I was using FumeFX and PFlow to drive the sim. Very early on it was established that the client (Gaijin) and the Director wanted a fiery explosion that freezes in time as the bomber debris heads towards the camera and then time goes in reverse.
Bomber Explosion WIP Comp Screenshot 

My First thoughts were to have the burn rate really fast on the emission/s and then animate the burn rate and timescale down to very close to 0 over the duration of the shot, however this does cause a few problems. First is that you start getting weird patterns in the fire when the burn rate is keyframed for to long and there is no longer any fuel/particles emitting, so the fire started to look ugly and almost blobby towards the end of each sim. To try and combat this I made over 25 Fire Shaders testing them all out. Another problem was, which I told the guys at Juice, I said when you have firey explosions going into environments, they may look good on black backgrounds, but when they have to be cc'd to match an environment you get problems with the lighting but also with the fire edges in comp. At this point I was looking at reference of the explosions RealtimeUK did for the World Of Warships Trailer at E3 2012, very fiery explosions with little/no smoke.
At this time I had done quite a few iterations, lots of Fume Previews and some Lowres-Mid Res Renders, I was still having problems with the fire lasting for so long. After speaking with the TD and Supervisor, I decided to go down a different route of using not so little burn rate but use lots of Multiple Scattering which I rarely rely on, which worked well with my particle setup because I have two PFlow emitters emitting fire on the impact Frame, then about 5 frames later two separate smoke only emitters on the sides which then rely on the high multiple scattering to illuminate them, thus giving the effect of fire burning at a slower burn rate. The fire itself does last for over 100 frames, but the gradual falloff to the smoke that's created thanks to the scattering works really well. And that's what was used in the Final Sim. At Juice there was another FX artist working on this also, So mine and his explosion renders were mixed by the Compositor.
Its a lot harder to get an CG/Fume explosion looking good when the camera is pointing downwards areal instead of the camera facing the side. Also the explosion had to crawl close to camera whereas on a side view the fire would be crawling/rolling out of frame.
I also did a thin Smoke/Shockwave you see across the ground in the field. This was done using a object source of a Tourus with a noise Modifier on in FumeFX.
 Then I had KeyFramed High turbulence to get this^
Working Many Late Nights/Mornings. This Selfie took at 3:30am While Working on the Explosion. Cappuccinos +  Lots of Sugar!!
Flak Explosions
 My Flak Sims were a Key FX Element in the Final Shot
 After I handed over my Render/Scene Files to Juice I started working on the end shot along with some other FX Artists, I had to rolls FX wise on this shot, 1 Was doing all the Flak Explosions and the other the Engine Fire (See Below).
In my own projects I had been doing some basic Flak RnD but for the trailer I wanted to do better than anything I'd done before same goes for the Flak Sims. I started by looking at a lot of reference, Based on the Animatic and conversations with my TD We were going for the "Spikey" Looking Flak and not the Proximity Fuzed Flak which was developed later on in WW2. I referenced and researched the Flak that had been done in the RealtimeUK Trailers by Graham Collier and did very basic annotations of How I thought I could get that look. Also I looked at the Flak sims the Pixomondo did for there work in Red Tails (2012).
I really liked the look of these due to having the "Core" Trails which mushroom on the edges and then various different coloured Smoke trails that radiate out with different thicknesses. So my Fume FX Setups were using a Quick 2 Frame PFlow System to emit a quick Fireball which then burnt out really quickly. Then I have the Black smoke trails which mushroom on the edges (Like Real Flak Explosions Do) by using a PFlow Spawn setup and then a high Velocity Multiplier in Fume and high inheritance and Divergence values in the PFlow System.
Then For the Longer and Thinner Trails they were using the same system, just a lot less inheritance and Divergence, and longer lifespan so they "Shoot Out" More. In Fume I used Colour Caching to have different coloured smokes for each emitter. The Fire and Mushroom Trails would have black smoke, then the thinner trails would be white and grey smoke. I had a quick blast of turbulence at the start of particle emission for about 5 frames. A Key thing I did was using an animated the timescale so the Flak bursts and shoots out trails then by the 20th Frame we slow the sim right down and it really does look like Flak Then.
 Early Flak Tests
  Early Flak Fire Tests
 The Plan for the trailer was I would set up several Flak Scenes and send them over to Juice so they can merge the FumeFX grids into the FX scene, which was what they did at the end, but When they wanted even more Flak some of it was renders hand tracked by the Compositors into the shot. When we started testing this we realised that the flak needed to be more Turbulent so I used a lot of Turbulence throughout the Flak sims to get nicer motion, also did not have such a big drop in the animated timescale, Also I took out the longer trails and just kept the short grey trails in.
More Turbulent Flak
Flak Test Render and Comp
Overall for my Flak Sims I wrote over 5,000 Words of notes all about making Flak Sims! The Team at Juice Lit my sims using there setup and rendred them on the Render Farm. Credit goes to the amazing Compositors at Juice who made my Flak sims fit well into the shot.

B-17 Engine Explosion
Out of all the FX this is what I spent the most of my time on. Theres a few B-17s that get shot down in the final shot however I worked on the one that is closest to camera before the camera swings around.
Final Engine Fire In The Trailer
End Shot Concept Art- By Juice
 I worked on the engine explosion once I was happy the Flak sims were getting there. The big problem in the scene was how far in 3D Space the Bombers travelled it was impossible to use one long Fume Grid for the Engine Fire. I looked into using N-Sim in Fume but in the end went down the route of having the FumeFX Grid attached to the B-17s Wing, and then faking the velocity using Directional Wind and some Turbulence.
FumeFX Grid Attached to the B-17

The Grid However still had to be very long because as you see in the Final Shot the camera has to swing past the end of the grid. When the weeks and days were counting down I looked into doing Volumetric shaded particles using Krakatoa Voxel rendering and using PRT Volume. However its really hard to get the right result and is no competition for FumeFX.
Now it was clear I was going to have to make the grid smaller but not to short on the length. I also had to use really high substeps to avoid getting bad patterns in the smoke. All of this made the sim times very long, so when i was doing the hires sims towards the end of production I was leaving these sims on the the RenderFarm node overnight which sometimes led into two full days for one sim. Another Problem I had was the smoke was to fat, where as the Director and TD were looking for a lot thinner smoke like you see in the Red Tails Opening Sequence.
B-17 Engine Fire- By ILM- Red Tails

After some testing I decided to use a Cylinder to kinda Shape the smoke and keep it from becoming so "fat and puffy". To stop the collision along the edges of the cylinder, I tried to use animated noise on it to get rid of the uniform edges, however due to needing to have a high res cylinder collision so I could have animated noise, the sims were taking even longer. So I had to use really high vales of Turbulence and Vorticity to keep the turbulence throughout the sim.
Using the Cylinder worked quite well
With this success I was able to shorten the fume grid and after some testing I was able to hide the end of the grid as the camera pans past. Originally planned was some debris to fly off the engine and fly over the camera, however we did not go down this route in the end. I also created a sparks system based on the FumeFX smoke but that was not used by the compositors is the final shot.
 My Engine Fire/Smoke

 Early Slap Comp of the Engine Fire/Smoke

In the Final Shot there are Four Engine Fire/Explosion sims including mine, the others were done by the talented FX team from Juice/Platige. My Final Engine Sim got mixed with another Artists Fire sim.
Once Again, Just want to say what an Amazing Experience its been, It has been the most fun 2 months in my Life. Working with Platige/Juice has taught me so much about working with a studio and to a real life client. I've made a few new Friends and connections, and hope to be working with the talented teams again.
Heres the Final Trailer:

Update! Breakdown Now Online: WarThunder FX Breakdown


Thanks So Much For Reading This!


Friday, 11 July 2014

Doughnut- Hybrido Viscosity RnD- RealFlow 2014

I worked on this Fun RnD Project on my Days off from working on my FX work for a upcoming Game Cinematic.
The Doughnut man was modelled very quickly in Max, you can see I had some issues with the smoothing on the render due to the Rigid Bodies not exporting back properly to Max.
To Emit the Initial Icing on the Doughnut Man, I copied the doughnut base and then copied it and scaled it down and used an FFD to morph it around the Doughnut man base, then this was also exported to RealFlow to use as the Fluid Emitter.
The "Melting" Effect was achieved by using the Rigid Bodies of the eyes linked to a bounded gravity node, however the HYDomain with the Icing in was in its own network using a Bounded Noise Field, 3 Attractors pulling it in different directions and also Bounded Gravity. Also Used a Drag Force to slow down the melting even more and create more friction on the collisions.
Working In RealFlow 2014- See Hybridos Separate Network

I Deiced to mesh in Frost and use Velocity Shading, which may seem unessary however if you look at cake/doughnut icing when its moving, it has a really nice translucency in its refraction to it. So I used Frost to mesh, and Magma Flow to drive my refraction of the Icing shader using a Vertex Colour Map. I toned down the Refraction Vertex Colour Map down from 100% to 70% in the maps slot overrides, so the faster Icing was not too Translucent when it was melting because then it starts to look like Gel/Water.
 Frost Mesh From PRT Export From RealFlow
See Magma Velocities Driving Refraction Channel
Rendered in V-Ray and Comp'd in After Effects

Final Shot

Thanks For Looking!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Battleship Attack Shot- Version 2

Hi Guys,
I have been working on a new Test for my Showreel Seqence, this is the latest. I also have some very exciting news that I have got a job working Freelance as a FX Artist at Juice VFX / Platige Image, One of the main companies I look up to and now I am working with them on a Game Cinematic that's going to be amazing. I am very lucky and grateful!
I started by using the scene files from V1, I was debating weather or not to have the camera attached to the plane wing, which would of been cool however I wanted the camera to fly right past the explosion for a more Dynamic shot.
I changed the plane animation and had it fly over and then up past the ship, I even animated the pilot inside to move his head up and down, however its hard to see due to video compression and motion blur. I was planning to animate the ship and have some wake interaction, however due to working now this did not happen!
Scene Setup In Max
The Explosions were two PFlow Systems, in one Fume Grid, these were using Colour Caching, one smoke colour was black and the other a more grey colour. Then also the Smoke Trails which were a basic PFlow Spawn System. These were then put in there grid.
Scene Setup With Fume FX Grid

I did lots of sims to make sure the fireballs were not crawling to high, but also to make sure they had scale and that the fire did not burn out to early. In my past Shots I have had the problem of explosions looking too fast. Same for the Smoke Trails, However these were in the own grid and drive using PFlow particles that had gravity on and when they hit the ocean they delete. I animated some turbulence on the trails to get rid of the "Smoke lines" look and get a more smokey feel, but then key framed the turbulence off again to keep the scale and speed looking realistic.
Smoke Trails Fume FX Preview
Explosions Fume FX Preview
I also decided to generate a new Flak element for this shot, I went for the Spikey Flak look and although its not fully realistic it looks cool. The Basic setup for this was 3 PFlow Emitters emitting trails each with different inherited values, also another PFlow system just to emit a quick blast of fire.
Flak Setup- Max- PFlow
Flak Render

I rendered the FumeFX Passes under one Pass, Also I then used V-Ray to Render a GI pass of Fire illuminating the ship.
The Water Blast was done for the last version of the shot In RealFlow 2013.
Low Res Water Blast
The Rendering of the Ocean, Plane and Battleship was done in V-Ray, More details on the rendering of these can be found on older blog posts on previous versions of this shot, not much has changed other than, The BF019 (the plane) now has a reflection Map which makes it look so much nicer and more realistic.

 The BF109 Test Render
Another thing I did was add Distant ships in the background, these were just images of a ship on a card in Max with an Alpha Matte for the opacity.
Compositing was done in After Effects, I decided to Sharpen the explosion to try and get more fire detail, however it backfired! And gave my explosion pass really visible black edges. I faked all the Depth of Field by animating an adjustment layer on the horizon with blur and haze. All the Motion Blur was done with RSMB, All the Flak Elements were hand animated into the shot to match the camera move, usually I would merge different Flak Grids into a Scene and do a proper 3D Render but I did not have time so I faked it.


I just have got some great feedback on this shot and I will be leaving it for a bit due to my Freelance Work, but also so I can get fresh eyes and try and develop this shot up to a RealtimeUK Quality!
Things that I need to do next time:
Ocean Scale is to small, and there is Tilling Visible- So Instead of using one huge plane with a HOT Modifier on I will use many blended together each with there own modifier on so I can get a larger ocean scale with no tiling.
Explosion/s- Needs to have no awful black edges. And the Flak will be rendered as a fully 3D render using individual fume grids for each Flak Explosion.
Tracer Fire need work, need to use Facing Particles to get the long thin smoke trails you see in WW2 Footage.
Also More FX Elements like maybe some spary on the water as the plane is skimming across it and then more background ships and flak elements.
The Next time I do this shot it will be the scene I will use for my Reel Project, about a Battleship Attack sequence consisting of 4-6 shots. Also got my FX work I am working on right now for this project, Breakdowns for that will be coming after the project is released. I am also experimenting more with RealFlow as always so expect to see some more RealFlow RnD!

Thanks For Looking!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

UFO Crash Into Middlesbrough Docks

Hi Guys,
How come Aliens never decide to crash land there UFO's up North in the UK?
In Films they always invade London or LA, or New York!! This is my first shot of integrating a RealFlow Shot into a Live Action Plate, In this article I will be going into a detailed making of process on how this shot was created.
Modelling/Texturing of the UFO Asset
I made the UFO Asset last year Modelling was done in 3DS Max, and Texturing in Mudbox and Photoshop. I wanted to make my own Asset instead of downloading one as a personal challenge to get to know the basics of modelling and texturing.
Getting the Live Action Plate, Matchmoving & Animation
The Live Action Plate was shot while I was gathering reference pictures for a college project, Outside of my college is the Docks and theres this huge "pool" of water that links to the docks and I always thought it would be cool to have a UFO Crash Land in there, I then came up with a whole bunch of other ideas for a UFO attack sequence but this shot stuck in my head for the past 6 Months. The Live Action Plate was shot from a shoulder rig on a Canon 550D, The Shot was then Tracked/Matchmoved in After Effects using the 3D Camera Tracker that's built in, all the renders were comp'd as 3D Layers, there was no rendering from the camera in 3DS Max, it was kind of faked in comp, More on this below.
 The Animation of the UFO was done over 135 Frames to match the cameras pan down to the docks where the UFO would be crashing landing, but then it rises back to the surface to show that its ok and maybe the aliens are ready to invade?!  I rendred a simple test to check the animation worked well with the plate:
RealFlow Fluid Simulations
All the Fluid Sims were done in RealFlow 2013 with Hybrido. I have been using RealFlow and Hybrido for a year and a half. Most of the Production time on the shot was spent in RealFlow getting the splash looking nice! For Non RealFlow Users, Hybrido is RealFlows Large Scale Fluid Solver using FLIP simulation.
The first step was getting the Core Fluid sim looking nice, I knew I would be blending the Sim with Real water from the Live Action Plate so I made this fluid volume as large as possible while keeping enough detail in the sim. I ran several low res tests of the Core Fluid sim, trying to keep the scale of the fluid looking realistic, I ended up increasing the Gravity a bit due to the splash of the UFO making the particles go quite far into the air. When I was happy with the core fluid tests I let it sim a High Res Iteration over 12 Hours.
 Final Core Fluid Sim 01
 Final Core Fluid Sim 02
Next was the Splash and Splash and Foam Secondary Simulations, I wanted a very dense Splash for this shot so I used two Splash Passes one Dumb/Ballistic Particles and the other was a SPH Liquid Sim. I did one Dumb Splash and Foam sim this generated the basic splash and the main body of Foam. I also did a SPH Liquid Splash Sim to get the big splash you see in the final shot, The Actual splash sim also generates some foam, but due to some particles still be generated I gradually got rid of the splash sim in comp after the initial big WhiteWater impact, I used a mask with lots of feather in comp to gradually "Fade it out" kind of. Then the Dumb Splash and Foam sim is the foam on the surface.
  Dumb Splash and Foam Sim

 Splash Sims on the Bottom
The Mesh was generated in RealFlow and took around 4-5 Hours to Mesh. All of these sims were then brought back into 3DS Max for Rendering.
The RealFlow Mesh was loaded back into 3DS Max using the BIN Loader, and the Particles using Krakatoa's PRT loaders with PRT Caches for the Splash and Splash and Foam Sims. The main part of the rendering stage was getting the water shader to match the Live Action Plate's water. I used my Ocean Shader with no Displacement other than some noise on the surface. I decied there was no need for Velocity/Vorticty shading of the water due to the Large Splash cloud you do not see the fluid mesh to much apart from the surface interaction. As Said I used my Ocean Shader setup without displacement and just some Bump noise to get the CG water looking like the water in the plate.
Water Rendering Test 01
Water Rendering Test 02
In the end I took a lot of saturation out of the shader, the water starts to look almost grey but it works well in the plate. I also used a Still Frame of the Plate to make sure that the Camera in 3DS Max will line up with the plate when the renders are used as 3D Layers in Compositing. The Fluid was lit using a HDRI of a harbour of which the reflection look very similar to the plate, the HDR also was shot on a sunny day as was the plate.
The Splash and Splash And Foam Passes were rendered as Particles with Krakatoa I used Specularity on the Particles with a basic Material to get the particles looking more like white water and less "powdery".

Splash and Foam Rendering- Krakatoa
The UFO Was rendered on its own pass so that the fluid could be blended easily without affecting the UFO lighting/rendering. The Fluid Mesh pass also has the UFO in but using the V-Ray Mtl Wrapper it Masks the UFO like a MatteShadow Shader so that the UFO fits right into the fluid pass. The Splash and Foam passes also uses the UFO as a Matte Object so that they don't occlude where the UFO will be.
Compositing for this shot took a lot of work, the big task of blending the CG Water with the Live Action Water. The First thing was colour correcting, the water shader was close to matching the real water however it still needed blending, I used Masks on each side of the mesh to blend it with a lot of feathering.


 Its pretty hard to tell where the blend is when theres the motion blur on top also.
Trying to Achieve Seamless Blending- Early RnD Low Res Mesh
I comp'd all the Renders in there own comp first, before copying each pass to the live action comp, and then using them as 3D Layers.

Render Passes Comp
One cool thing I did is that because the UFO does not crash into the water until frame 33 I only rendered the Fluid Mesh from frame 30 onwards and I just used frame 30 as a still for the first 30 frames before switching to the render sequence of frame 31-135. This saved a good 3 hours render time.
As I said before, the camera tracking was done completely in After Effects, there was no exporting camera data to 3DS Max, What I did was used a camera in Max that lines up with the original live action plates perspective, I then made all the elements 3D Layers, made sure they all had the same transforms on. This then make them fit into the original camera move.
The Splash and Foam has some colour correction on also, also some more blur and motion blur using RSMB.  Then the UFO had its own colour correction on also a bit of RSMB Motion Blur to save rendering out motion blur. Also I added some Water on the lens, just with a still image of water droplets on black, then animated a mask, to quickly reveal them as if the camera lens gets splashed. I think it adds quite a bit to it all!
I also added a mini Breakdown onto the shot, just showing where the CG Water is and then how it blends into the plate.
Evaluation Thoughts
I am really happy how this shot has come out, not only have I got a awesome Fluid Sim shot but I have actually blended it into a Live Action Plate.
I really like the Splash Particles and how nicely they came out, When I get into the Relase Version of RealFlow 2014, I will then be able to render mist, which will add even more realism to my Fluid Sim shots, this is where I want to give a big shout out and thanks to Next Limit for all there support with my RealFlow work, and for giving me (A 17 Year Old Student) a chance to Alpha/Beta Test RealFlow 2014. Can't wait to see what amazing VFX images artists are gonna create with it, I know now with the success of this shot I have more ambitious ideas!
This shot I worked on over a month, but the bulk of the work was done in 2 weeks, this makes me think that maybe a VFX sequence for my Showreel will actually be a good and realistic idea!

Final Shot & Breakdown


Thanks For Looking, At my most ambitious shot yet, I hope you like it and enjoyed reading the making of process.