LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Dragons reborn: cineSync and Game of Thrones

COW Library : TV & Movie Appreciation : Pixomondo : Dragons reborn: cineSync and Game of Thrones
CreativeCOW presents Dragons reborn: cineSync and Game of Thrones -- TV & Movie Appreciation Editorial


CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.





Transporting George R.R. Martin's fertile imagination from the page to the screen is no easy task - especially when that means creating three fully-grown CG fire-breathers. Thankfully one of the shows dragon wranglers, Pixomondo, has been on the show since season 2, and with cineSync on its side there's no challenge it can't tackle....




Murder, intrigue, Machiavellian scheming of the highest order - we've seen a great deal happen in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond over the past five years. And yet for all the unfurling of dramatic tension and heart-stopping plot twists, one of the most impressive elements of the show remains its CG centrepiece - the majestic dragons that emerged with Daenerys from that smouldering pyre.

Responsibility for the creation of these reptilian fire-breathers has been with VFX studio Pixomondo since season two. During the second season Pixomondo was the only vendor on the show, working on matte paintings, set extensions, dire wolf integrations and more across all ten episodes.




As the show has grown beyond a one-vendor set-up, and those magnificent dragons have increased in both size and complexity, Pixomondo has become primarily responsible for the CG dragons, and as you would imagine, that's no mean feat.

"The dragons started out as kitten-sized babies, then they grew to children, then teenagers - they've just become bigger and bigger," says Sven Martin, Visual Effects Supervisor at Pixomondo. "With that increase in size - and they really are big this year - there's much more screen space to cover, and that demands a much greater degree of complexity."

Rhaegal, Viserion and the hulking, black-scaled Drogon are indeed huge in season five, casting dominating shadows across the lands of Meereen and Old Valyria as they thump their wings against the sky. They also get up close and personal with Daenerys, demanding computational horsepower on a level not yet seen in the show.

We've got a lot of close-ups of the dragons, especially when they're coming into contact with Daenerys, meaning the facial performance has had to become much more evolved," says Martin of the creatures. "We've really had to refine our facial rig a great deal.

And of course, having these digital creatures so close to the camera meant a total rebuild of the textures," he continues. "For this season, all of the individual scales were modelled individually and then attached to the surface itself, meaning the animators could move the skin without them deforming. Overall these kind of enhancements have been huge - in season four we had about 74 textures for the whole dragon. In season five we're at about 740."

Across the Narrow Sea

The only feasible way to create three beasts of such complexity and size was to make sure everyone was working in sync - a proposition that can be quite difficult to achieve on a project as global as Game of Thrones.

With the Pixomondo team in Germany and the show's production visual effects team either in LA or preparing for shoots in Northern Ireland, Spain or Croatia, the latest in technology is required to keep everyone working as a single unit.

"When working on the same project from different parts of the world like this, it's important to be connected, and have everyone on the same page - or frame," says Viktorija Ogureckaja, Visual Effects Producer at Pixomondo. "With cineSync, the sessions have helped to make things so much more efficient. Even though there are hundreds of kilometers separating us from the Visual Effects Supervisor, Joe Bauer and the Visual Effects Producer, Steve Kullback, and we're living in different time zones, being able to talk about the same material right in front of us - it makes it feel like they're just a room away. The real-world measurements just don't matter anymore."

This global synchronisation allows the visual effects team to work across oceans and continents on every stage of the dragon creation process - even from the very earliest pre-production brainstorms: "From the initial dragon design by Dan Katcher to scenes blocking, animation and final compositing, cineSync is used to collaborate on all of the production stages of the dragons," says Martin. "From the concept phase we were doing a lot of cineSyncs together with the client. We share images a lot, even in the process of finding the right reference images in the animal world. We might like a certain texture on the back of a crocodile, for instance, so will want to mark out those specific areas."

For Martin, the visual nature and interactivity of the software is essential at this stage. Wordy, lengthy descriptions simply won't do the trick - especially not on the strict deadlines of an episodic television show.

"Not only is writing insufficient to demonstrate abstract ideas, but descriptions in the form of an email would take a lot of time to explain your ideas in an understandable way - and there's the potential of losing time due to the time zone difference, especially if questions arise," he explains. "This is where cineSync and features like annotations become very handy - a certain dragon pose might not be working, and you can immediately react on it and say 'change the tail to this side', and so on. It really is like sitting together at one table and drawing with pen on paper."




Once the concept of the adult dragons had been decided on, next came the sculpting, modelling and texturing of the model proper. Even at this technical stage, cineSync plays an important role in selling the dragon models to the viewer.

"We often prepare close-up turntable renders of the different elements that make up the dragons, which we can then use in a cineSync session for discussions," says Martin. "For example, we might want to judge the subsurface scattering of certain skin parts of the inner mouth. To see that you have to work with moving images, so the turntables come in really helpful - you can shuttle back and forth to see how the light is reacting through the textures and appearing on the final dragon.

"With cineSync we can watch and comment on these turntable QuickTimes at the same time in two different continents, meaning everyone knows exactly what everyone else is talking about."

Technical versatility

cineSync is a truly versatile tool. Although its primary use is found in group review sessions, Martin has also found it a quick-and-easy solution for jotting down ideas. "Sometimes I just use cineSync on my own," he says. "For instance, I might want to quickly sketch out some ideas on an image in digital form. I often find it much easier to drag the images into cineSync and sketch my ideas there, rather than loading everything into a graphics program - it's much easier, and any annotations I make are easily exported and shared."

Furthermore, on a shoot with as much media scrutiny surrounding it as Game of Thrones, security is a big concern. After all, no one wants that next big character death spoiled before the episode airs. Thankfully, cineSync is built to keep out any eyes that shouldn't be on the shot: "Unless you have the session key, there is no way you can connect and review the material with cineSync," says Ogureckaja. "We can always see who is part of the session."

Connecting Westeros

Peace of mind is integral on a project of this scope. Not only are the on-set shoot and post-production process incredibly demanding, but the expectations surrounding Game of Thrones are higher than for virtually anything else currently showing. It is the television show of the last few years, and if it falls short of the mark, it will be noticed.

Thankfully, Pixomondo's dragons in season five are more startlingly impressive than ever before - whether that's when they're swooping over the Smoking Sea; meeting Daenerys face-to-face atop The Great Pyramid; or emerging from the shadows in the red light of their own deadly breath in the dungeons of Meereen: they're a sight to behold. And it's largely thanks to cineSync for keeping the showrunners in sync.

"Working without cineSync would be really tough - probably impossible - so we use it heavily," says Ogureckaja. "We need to make sure that we have our collaborative ideas and solutions synced and that we're in some sort of communication harmony. It's one of the key solutions to working on a tight TV schedule like the one we have on Game of Thrones."

Meeting deadlines and staying on schedule is certainly a huge bonus, but the real benefit of cineSync to an artistically minded studio like Pixomondo is one geared more towards the creative mind-set: "We're in visual effects, so we speak images," concludes Ogureckaja. "Whatever is written down in text could be misunderstood in so many ways and lead in the wrong direction. But even if it's just an annotation; a scribble - an image never lies."

Comments

Re: Dragons reborn: cineSync and Game of Thrones
by Michael Buie
Nice ... I enjoyed reading the article
+1


Related Articles / Tutorials:
TV & Movie Appreciation
Favreau, Technicolor & MPC Make The Jungle Book Come Alive

Favreau, Technicolor & MPC Make The Jungle Book Come Alive

Todd McCarthy, veteran film critic and historian, in his review of director Jon Favreau's new, stunning adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book declared, "...the visual effects team led by Robert Legato and (MPC's) Adam Valdez has both created sumptuous settings that look as lifelike as any CGI ever presented in a studio feature and integrated both humans and animal characters in them in seamless ways."

Editorial, Feature
Jon Favreau
TV & Movie Appreciation
VFX Legion | Hardcore Henry breakdown reel

VFX Legion | Hardcore Henry breakdown reel

Remote post-production and visual effects studio VFX Legion has released its breakdown reel for the incendiary Hardcore Henry. The reel reveals the work that went into the first-person perspective action film, from augmenting violence to stitching shots together into one continuous sequence.

Editorial, Feature
COW News
TV & Movie Appreciation
Renaissance Masters Go 3D with Nuke

Renaissance Masters Go 3D with Nuke

VFX legend Steve Wright helped Italy's Sky 3D tackle an epic project, as Italian all-3D television station set out to present the city of Florence and the masterpieces of Renaissance art housed in the Uffizi Gallery in a spectacular stereoscopic 3D movie shown in 60 countries around the world. While the majority of the film was shot stereoscopically, Steve's challenge was to use Nuke to present some of the world's most precious artworks fully dimensionalized. Here's how he pulled it off.

Editorial, Feature
Steve Wright
TV & Movie Appreciation
The Sisterhood of the X-Files Fandom

The Sisterhood of the X-Files Fandom

As the first show to create a rabid, real-time internet fandom, devotion to "The X-Files" has been growing in intensity with each year since the original series finale, with a fanbase that is clever, thoughtful, and largely female. Not that there's any shortage of male X-Philes, but there's a generation of women who was inspired to technical careers by the Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully. Kylee Peña is among them, and additionally very specifically inspired by the production values of "The X-Files" to build a career in the technology of TV storytelling in particular. Here's Kylee's look at what it has meant to be a female fan of the art, technology, and empowerment of "The X-Files" in the 21st century.

Editorial, Feature
Kylee Peña
TV & Movie Appreciation
Peter Doyle: Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor

Peter Doyle: Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor

Peter Doyle, Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor, shares details of his upward spiraling career. His deep technical knowledge allows for a perfect blend of creativity and productivity in equal measure. Here he talks about his career, his aspirations, and his involvement in productions right from the outset.

Feature, People / Interview
FilmLight
TV & Movie Appreciation
Introducing Ultron: Trixter Builds The Avengers' Biggest Bad

Introducing Ultron: Trixter Builds The Avengers' Biggest Bad

At the heart of Marvel's biggest Avengers movie yet lies their greatest threat yet: Ultron, a self-constructing robot intelligence bent on destroying all of humanity. Munich's boutique-scale Trixter Film was given the critical task of introducing this epic-scale character, which they undertook from concept art through design, mocap, animation, compositing, and output.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Tim Wilson
TV & Movie Appreciation
The Walk: Largest Use of Cloud Computing in Film History

The Walk: Largest Use of Cloud Computing in Film History

Award-winning VFX Company Joins UPP and Rodeo FX to Recapture the Legendary Walk Between the World Trade Center Towers. Lead VFX vendor Atomic Fiction needed a more efficient way to do the compute-intensive, and traditionally very expensive, processes of rendering. The company used their cloud-based software Conductor, which allows artists to offload the processing from their own computers and send it to the cloud. By the end of the project, Atomic Fiction had completed 9.1 million hours of processing in the cloud, which equates to over a millennium of processing time!

Editorial, Feature
Shaina Ostroff
TV & Movie Appreciation
Milk's Epic VFX For Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Milk's Epic VFX For Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the acclaimed bestselling epic novel of magical realism set 200 years ago, was adapted by the BBC to a 7-episode miniseries that was itself quite epic, with over 1000 effects shots handled by London's Milk VFX. Creative COW's Tim Wilson spoke with Milk CEO Will Cohen about his team's work on the series, starting with his own enthusiasm as a fan of the novel. To use that word once more, it's an epic conversation about adapting novels, carefully managing budgeted creativity, and collaboration. Books, televised cinematic storytelling, VFX, good conversation, and magic: if any of those is your cup of tea, you won't want to miss this.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Tim Wilson
TV & Movie Appreciation
FuseFX & Emmy-Nominated Work for American Horror Story

FuseFX & Emmy-Nominated Work for American Horror Story

Burbank-based effects house’s freaky work for hit FX series continues to draw accolades.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
FuseFX
TV & Movie Appreciation
Pixels: Going From 8-bits to Epic is No Game

Pixels: Going From 8-bits to Epic is No Game

Classic video game characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong sent by aliens to destroy Earth? No worries! Digital Domain and Sony Pictures Imageworks are on the case. It turns out that integrating 8-bit characters into a world recognizable as our own is a lot harder than it looks. It was also a lot of fun for everyone involved, and hearing about it from the two VFX supervisors will be a lot of fun for you too.

Feature, People / Interview
Tim Wilson
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]