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Discreet Creates Deep Freeze For Day After Tomorrow

Weather-gone-wild visual effects for summer blockbuster film. (May 28, 2004)

Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc. announced today that some of the most stunning, seamless computer-generated effects for the new climate-change-themed blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow, by Director Roland Emmerich, were created by many of its post production customers using Discreet's family of tools, including its professional 3D animation, modeling and rendering software and its visual effects software and systems.

Faced with a flurry of difficult shots and a tight three-month deadline, artists at Dreamscape Imagery Inc., the visual effects arm of Los Angeles production company Uncharted Territory LLC, took advantage of the robust modeling and animation features in Discreets 3ds max software to create convincing elements like frost, snow and ice, and seamless digital extras and set extensions.

The Day After Tomorrow sees human kind weathering the disastrous effects of continued global warming, with the simultaneous onset of killer tornadoes, tidal waves, floods and a new Ice Age. Artists at Dreamscape frequently tapped into the vast toolset in 3ds max, including its procedural texture mapping, modifiers and particle flow systems, to create necessary visual effects for the project. These tools, along with the softwares powerful array of scripting, plug-in and rendering options, enabled scenes to be completed across the team, and enhanced back and forth with the five other visual effects houses on the production.

?3ds max was crucial to us on this show, said Lead CG Artist Brandon Davis. ?No other package would have enabled us to stand up to the technical challenges this job presented in the amount of time we had.

Those challenges included encroaching frost, which, once mapped photorealistically to surfaces using the 3ds max software UV Unwrap tool, was animated and tweaked procedurally via OpenGL to meet Emmerichs specifications on the fly. Dreamscape was able to assert total control over the frosts look even through to final rendering by using SplutterFishs Brazil Rendering System.

Another impressive scene, a highly realistic 15-second shot featured prominently in the films teaser-trailer, reveals the metropolis of Manhattan in the clutches of a deep freeze. To complete this eerily detailed sequence, Dreamscape imported base geometry of the city (more than five million polygons and 9,000 objects) and remodeled it to include heavy snow drifts (two million polygons of finer detail) in 3ds max. To send snow wafting off rooftops and building surfaces, the artists relied on a combination of the 3ds max software particle flow system, animated textures, and Sitni Satis AfterBurn volumetric particle effects plug-in for 3ds max.

?Our job was to make it look like New York had just been pummeled by the largest snowstorm ever to hit Earth, Dreamscape Technical Lead Adam Watkins explained. ?Using the Push, Noise, and Melt modifiers, as well as numerous Selection modifiers in the 3ds max Modifier Stack, we devised a technique to shrink-wrap ice to the sides of the buildings. In this way, any changes we made to experiment with the look were automatically affected downstream without extra adjustment work.

Discreets 3ds max software was also put to task in populating crowd scenes with thousands of digital extras. Creating variations by mapping unique clothing and accessories to 50 CG humans, Dreamscape animated each according to their physiology using a combination of motion capture data and the character studio Mixer tool.

The city crowd scene was further populated with cars, helicopters, tents, and other structures, using the particle flow tool in 3ds max and extending it via a 3D matte painting. Tricky lighting and rendering of the twilight-set shot was accomplished, again maximizing Brazils built-in global illumination tools.

?We definitely plan to continue doing enormous and amazing things in 3ds max, commented Marc Weigert, who co-owns Uncharted Territory/Dreamscape with Academy Award winner Volker Engel. Like the first film Uncharted Territory produced, Coronado, the next movie we are producing will have about 600 effects shots; many more of them will be in 3D this time around.

Discreet clients that also worked on the many challenging visual effects shots in The Day After Tomorrow include: ILM (14 shots utilizing ILMs SABRE visual effects and compositing system, where Discreets inferno and flame are integral components), Hydraulx (110 effects shots on two Discreet flame systems, three inferno systems, 12 burn licenses with backdraft and combustion), Ring of Fire Studios (36 breath shots in combustion), The Orphanage, Digital Domain and Zoic Studios.

Digital Domain used Discreet's flagship flame visual effects system and combustion visual effects compositing software on The Day After Tomorrow. "Discreet's flame system was great for look development on The Day After Tomorrow, Said Sonja Burchard, a compositing lead for the film at Digital Domain. ?Using the flame system, we were able to achieve quick turnaround and get buy-off on a look before committing time and resources to a final 3D solution. The sparks were perfect for visual effects which required compound manipulation of multiple elements. When used in conjunction with flame's paint module we were able to achieve timely 2D solutions to complex problems," said Buchard.

Zoic Studios completed 47 digital breath scenes for a frozen New York. ?Discreet tools were key to the project, said Zoic Producer Raoul Bolognini. ?For our work on The Day After Tomorrow, we used combustion primarily as a Roto tool for the composition of the CG breath. Once we established the look, we moved into flame for final composite and color correction of the shot, added Bolognini.

?Today, Discreets products are deeply entrenched across film production pipelines from 3D modeling, animation and desktop compositing to high-speed compositing and real-time color grading, said Martin Vann, vice president of sales and marketing for Discreet. ?The combination of creative functionality and interactivity makes Discreets solutions a preferred choice amongst digital film companies and artists worldwide.

About Discreet
Discreet empowers media professionals to realize the visual experience and transform their most evocative and ambitious visions into reality. Discreet's award-winning solutions are designed for digital media creation, management and delivery?across all disciplines from film and television visual effects, color grading and editing to animation, game development, web/interactive, and design visualization. Discreet - based in Montreal, Quebec - is a division of Autodesk, Inc, the world's leading design and digital media creation, management, and distribution company.


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Related Keywords:Discreet, Day After Tomorrow, Autodesk, Roland Emmerich, Dreamscape Imagery, Uncharted Territory, 3ds max, Dreamscape, Brandon Davis, SplutterFish, Brazil Rendering System, Sitni Sati, AfterBurn, Adam Watkins, Marc Weigert, Volker Engel, ILM, Digital Domain, Sonja Burchard, Zoic Studios, Martin Vann,


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