It has been an exciting year for us at Weta Digital with several big films under our belt and a variety of research and development initiatives that continue to allow us to push the quality of our work. Here are a few of our key contributions to SIGGRAPH 2017. We had a great time sharing our latest work and learning what others in visual effects and the wider graphics community are achieving. We look forward to seeing you next year in Vancouver.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Weta Digital Visual Effects Supervisor Guy Williams spoke as part of a panel for the final production session at SIGGRAPH 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, alongside Victoria Alonso (Executive Vice President, Physical Production, Marvel Studios); Damien Carr, (Visual Effects Producer, Marvel Studios); Christopher Townsend (Visual Effects Supervisor, Marvel Studios); Nordin Rahhali, (Visual Effects Supervisor, Method Studios) and Simone Kraus (Animation Supervisor, Trixter).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the 15th film in the ever-popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the sequel to 2014's much-loved Guardians of the Galaxy. The film combines a wide variety of visual effects techniques from a number of vendors which the team discussed on an informal panel. In particular, Guy Williams shared how we handled the complex fractal environment in the third act, and Kurt Russell’s character ‘Ego’.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF THOUSAND PLANETS
Visual Effects Supervisor Martin Hill was part of the production session for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets with Sophie Leclerc (VFX Producer); Jose Burgos (CG Supervisor, Industrial Light & Magic); Christian Alzmann (Visual Effects Art Director, Industrial Light & Magic); Peter Nofz (Associate VFX Supervisor, RodeoFX) and Olivier Martin (Concept Artist RodeoFX).
Valerian is set in ‘a Universe without boundaries’ and this aptly describes the films diverse and abounding digital environments and creatures. Visual effects and animation are integral to the film - out of the 2734 shots only 100 do not contain visual effects. This presentation described the technology, experience, artistry and outside-the-box thinking that was required to pull off such an abundance of different environments and the eclectic array of creatures and characters.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Weta Digital took part in the newly initiated recorded production session to present War for the Planet of the Apes - the third chapter of the critically acclaimed Planet of the Apes reboot series. The story is centered around an epic battle of the species and has the explosions and destruction that one would expect, but the heart of the film is focused on Caesar and his inner battle with his darker instincts as he resolves to avenge his kind.
Over the course of three films, we have nearly mastered the art of translating human actors to apes. The apes level of sentience has developed throughout each film and so too have our techniques and toolsets. Visual Effects Supervisor Anders Langlands talked through some of the most advanced techniques in the industry and explained how Weta artists took advantage of these tools to create exceptional CG characters.
The full presentation will be released online later this year.
Ken Museth is one of the worlds’ leading researchers in simulation technology, and Weta Digital’s recently appointed Head of Simulation and Research Development.
Ken is a prolific contributor to the science of visual effects, and sharing his expertise kept him very busy at SIGGRAPH this year.
Ken took part in two talks: Novel Algorithm for Sparse and Parallel Fast Sweeping, in which he described parallel computation of sparse signed-distance fields; and Production-Ready MPM Simulations which discussed two complementary techniques to speed up material-point-method-based simulations: a special GPU implementation that can run simulations up to five times faster, and a significantly reduced computational workload while adding artistic control with a novel particle-activation scheme.
He also presented his paper Fluids II: Multi-species simulation of porous sand and water mixtures; and ran a course on VDB, - software invented and developed by Ken that allows for high-resolution volumetric visual effects using limited computing resources.
The four contributions cover work that was mostly carried out as part of his previous role with DreamWorks Animation. We are very excited to see how all this material will evolve in the future.
Luca Fascione is Senior Head of Technology & Research at Weta Digital, where he oversees Weta’s core research and technology efforts including simulation and rendering research, software engineering and production engineering.
Luca is also the recent recipient of s Sci-Tech award received for his work on Weta's facial motion capture system FACETS. He took part in The Academy's Scientific and Technical Awards Panel to discuss the technology.
Luca also partnered with Johannes Hanika for a two-part Course: Path Tracing in Production.
Justin Israel took part in the talk Pipe Dreams: Large-Scale VFX Pipelines.
He discussed how Weta ensures peak utilization of hardware resources and handles the increasingly dynamic demands placed on its render farm infrastructure. The solutions Weta Digital has developed include custom queuing, scheduling, job description, and submission systems. Justin presented the scalability issues encountered and detailed the strategy, process, and results in solving these problems.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Birds of a Feather are graphics-related, attendee-organized, informational discussions of shared interests, goals, technologies and/or backgrounds. This year we had two participants: Frankie Liu on Bridging the Gap Between Production and Technology and Peter Hillman for ID Map Solutions.