cebas brings shattering effects to the movie Snow White and The Huntsman... Literally!
The unmatched thinkingParticles perfects Snow White and The Huntsman's Knights Shattering shots!
Paul Hormis has been doing 3D and Animation for 23 years and is currently a Visual FX artist, Rigger, Scripter and Pipeline TD with Pixomondo in Los Angeles California.
He started in Chicago doing Architectural and Industrial visualizations before moving to California to work for Autodesk as a product support specialist when 3d Studio Max was released.
"So if you called during the first week of Max's release then you talked to me!", he says.
After a year, he became an Application Engineer in the Southern California Region before making his move to Blizzard Cinematics to work on the cinematics for Diablo II and the Diablo II expansion. He also worked on Warcraft 3, World of Warcraft cinematics and trailers.
He then made the move to Blur Studio where he worked solely on Character Rigging and scripted tools development.
Since his time at Blur, he has been working for himself on many projects with many customers. Some of the highlights were the movies: 2012, Avatar, Final Destination 5, Red Tails, Snow White and the Huntsman as well as Game of Thrones and many other game titles.
cebas: It seems that Snow White and the Huntsman was an important project for you and Pixomondo. Can you tell us how you were involved?
On Snow White and the Huntsman, I was tasked with developing the Shattering Knights effect. This entailed getting the look right, then developing it into a system that could be easily repurposed for all the remaining shots - either for me or to hand off to others.
(click images to enlarge)
Images courtesy of Pixomondo and Universal Pictures - All rights reserved.
cebas: Which shots/images/sequences in particular were you involved in?
As I stated earlier, I developed the look for the entire opening battle sequence as it related to the shattering knights. I worked on most of the shots, but specifically the first shatter shot where King Magnus slices though the first Knight to the shot where he moves the helmet with his foot as it disintegrates. Those two are my favorites but I also really like the shot where the knight gets his leg shattered from beneath him. That was a very fun shot to carry out.
cebas: What cebas software did you use and why?
The Knights Shattering was ALL thinkingParticles. I spent time in Vancouver last year learning tP for Final Destination 5 and when I was tasked with creating the look for the Shattering Knights I knew that the only real solution for this task was thinkingParticles.
cebas: How did you use our software to achieve the effects?
I was easily able to take the animation of the knight then bring it into tP and turn each of the body parts into particles that could be shattered parametrically. Not having to “pre-break” the objects allowed me to replace objects as need be even after the effect had been completed. This allowed for any topology changes to be sent through to tP without any hassle at all.
cebas: What features in particular helped you achieve your goal and how?
Using the Volume Break node gave me the ability to “shatter” the knight on the fly without having to pre-break the knight. This was instrumental in getting the look exactly the way the Director wanted it. If I needed larger shards it was just a matter of changing a number or two. If I needed to change the shape of the shards it was also just a matter of changing two or three different numbers.
In the end, a larger variation of shards was requested and all it took was duplicating the VB Nodes and feeding the particles into random VB nodes with different settings. It was AMAZINGLY easy to do so. As a programmer, the logical process that you take using tP came incredibly natural and making changes to an already established system was trivial.
cebas: What was the most difficult aspect of this project and how did you solve it?
The most difficult thing to do on this project was developing the look at the beginning. To give you an idea; the version of the Max scene that I ended up with was 294. In all my years I don't think I ever had to pass 100 much less reach almost 300! By difficult I do NOT mean that thinkingParticles made the work difficult - on the contrary; it made things MUCH easier. The difficult part was noodling the look until it looked just right.
cebas: How did the cebas tools perform for you and how was the experience of working with them like?
thinkingParticles worked EXACLTY as expected. There really isn't anything else that needs to be said about it.
cebas: How did it compare to other software you may have used?
Honestly, nothing compares to thinkingParticles. The ability to, basically, do whatever your mind can think of (and more) makes it one of the most versatile plug-ins that I have ever used. At this point I could not see doing anything, particle and dynamics wise, in any other package other than thinkingParticles.
cebas: How did cebas software integrate into your production pipeline?
Seamlessly. Where it showed it's biggest strength was in how I was able to take my initial work and turn it into a template that could be easily repurposed to work for any other shot. Being able to pull values out to the modify panel to easily tweak the speed, spread and timing of the volume breaking helped tremendously. Being able to designate which body parts would even need to be in the sim also made repurposing the simulation a breeze.
What I ended up doing was taking a shot with the Knight Rig in it and setting it up with tP.
After that, all I needed to do was load the animation onto the Rig then tweak when the shattering needed to start and how fast the shattering would travel across the body. I even had helpers as part of the rig that initiated the Volume Break Activation - this allowed me to control where the breaking would start.
In the Magnus slice shot, the Shattering is initiated at the Knights waist. In the Knee sweep shot, it is initiated from the knee. In the helmet shot, I had helpers animated across the surface of the helmet that would initiate the Volume Break across the surface like a zipper.
cebas: What was the most fun or rewarding part of this project for you?
Using thinkingParticles and perfecting my knowledge of it! Seriously, I have been using it for less than two years and I can confidently say I could do whatever I need using tP.
cebas: What do you wish cebas software did that it's not currently doing for you?
A few things that I have asked for and are currently in Beta so I can’t really say. Hehehe!
cebas: What new projects can we expect from you in the future? (if you're able to tell us).
I could tell you but, as they say, I would have to kill you ;-)
Check out the final look of the shots featured in the movie's official trailer:
Thank you so much Paul for your time, we really had fun doing this interview with you :)
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