Igor Gonzalez is the brilliant winner of Battle:London, an internet contest announced by VFXlearning, http://www.vfxlearning.com/, the goal of the contest was setting up London city center being attacked by Aliens in the style of recent film Battle:LA, mixing real footage with 3D models and effects. In this article Igor tell us how he managed to got his great clip,
My initial idea for the clip part of getting a frantic pace in the video because the movie Battle: LA, the source of the challenge, is featured by close-ups and fast action. That’s why I decided to overlap the movement of combat ships in a few frames, just enough to be intelligible, also to show as many of them as possible on screen, that’s the way I made my first animation.
The first thing I had to do was match-moving of real camera, and it was not easy, since due to the shutter speed that was recorded was a lot of blur and I had to do a manual tracking almost frame by frame. Due to the lack of parallax in the footage I had to choose a camera tripod type and the integration of 3D elements was more complicated, I had to use Google Earth satellite maps for the location of the elements in the match-moving.
For the clip I made a few buildings, or pieces of them, and some detail of the ships and tank, battle ships are from my colleague Jorge Sanchez. The shading of all elements is mine. It would have been great to have more time to work on it because I think texture is most noticeable in the integration.
ANIMATION & RIGGING
All the rigging of the scene are mine, the ships have a basic rig just to control the turbines and parts of the wings, and some MEL scripting to automate the animation of the guns recoil when shooting and control its speed. The tank has a simple rig will implement a system that allows the wheels to rotate with the chains if the tank progresses. The animation of the fall of the ship is made with Maya rigid bodies, along with animation keyframing. To achieve the best possible physical realism, the pieces were generated with Pulldownit.
The destruction of the arc of the terrace and the rear building are done with Pulldownit free plugin, this was my first attempt with this tool and honestly I was pleasantly surprised, both were modeled so that they are thoroughly realistic break (the fragments were generated with Voronoi-based free script though), there is an explosion in the rear term above that generates thousands and thousands of glass fragments (sadly hard to be appreciated). However, I didnt like the final timing of the simulation so I modified it after baking keys.
DUST & SMOKE
Maya classic particles were used for generating the secondary debris as instances of other fragments and some basic MEL for turns, variation of mass, size, etc.. they were also used for smoke of missiles, especially PP-ramps, and finally added collision events to generate sparks in the tank due to impacts. For the caps of the ships I used nParticles instead, because its dynamic behavior allows them to bounce on impact with the ground. Finally I used Maya fluids in the smoke and fire from the building on the right, the dust generated by the ship in contact with the ground (particle emitting fluids) and the meteorite falling from the sky. I used near 6 GB of memory for all of this.
LIGHTS & RENDER
The lighting was done with the IBL technique, using an HDRI image downloaded from a free site and retouched in Photoshop, to better simulate the floor of the scene and to darken the bottom of the ships and adapt it to the tones of the real camera footage. All shaders count with tone-mapping with a gamma correction as the camera has and exposure control and lighting gradients are more realistic. Thanks to the render layers manager of Maya I could do the render in the time required, as are a lot of layers and it allows to launch render queues with various configurations (software renderer or mental ray) at a time.
I used After Effects, because although such a project would have NUKE best result, in the end I have more experience with After Effects and given the short time that I had not wanted to risk. I must say AE behaved very well, was stable with near 200 layers, great!!
I had to fix the automatic change of exposure of the real camera also added some Action Essentials to give more prominence to the computer generated effects, because eventually I had no time to generate all of them.
Finally, look closer to Terminator Salvation than Battle LA, but I wanted to risk a little and give a more aggressive look. And I couldn’t resist the temptation to make a nod to Michael Bay, I put a lens flare in the purest style Transformers.