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Rainmaker CGI Rain Storm Assaults “Atlantis”

Provides effects for ‘The Eye’ episode of MGM’s “Stargate Atlantis” (January 03, 2005)

Rainmaker announces its completion of CGI effects for ‘The Eye,’ the second segment of a two-part episode of “Stargate Atlantis.” Rainmaker produced a stunning display of squally VFX, portraying realistic storm conditions in this episode of “Atlantis.” ‘The Eye’ airs Friday evening, January 21, 2005 on the Sci-Fi Channel.

In ‘The Eye,’ a powerful storm has reached the city limits and rages on while the key characters devise a plan to harness the energy of the storm’s lightning to power the shield. “One of the greatest challenges with a show like ‘The Eye’ is that many of the shots are all CGI. The water, the storm and the city all exist only inside the computer,” explains Mark Breakspear, Visual Effects Supervisor at Rainmaker.

“Creating CGI water is an extremely tough process, so as soon as we knew that we were going to be doing a CGI Storm, we started trying to mimic examples that we could see in the real world. Once we had the locked-cut, and the clock was ticking, we needed to devise a way in which we could do 100 shots in six weeks. Many of these were complex CGI with water and rain. We needed a whole new pipeline to accomplish our goals.”

Rainmaker answered the challenge by combining the 2D and 3D software in a very unique way, “We had to come up with an integrated solution because there really wasn’t anything viable out there,” Breakspear states. “Our CGI solution could get you only half of the way there. We needed to use various 2D solutions in conjunction with the 3D in order to create the look of the storm. We would use the 2D environment to create the complex dynamics that take place on the surface of the water, but then map that back in to the 3D world. That all then got rendered in multiple passes and went back to 2D for final compositing… There was a lot of back and forth!”

After watching a lot of films featuring inclement weather along with footage of the recent Florida hurricanes, the Rainmaker team had a clear vision of how water needs to look in order to accurately mimic a storm. They then developed their own pipeline that would manage the complex process between their CG software and compositing systems, Fusion and Inferno. The artists constructed an environment which created water at various stormy levels, making it possible to vary the amount of foam along with wave movement and see how that interacted with the objects in the scene, without waiting for a shot to go to final compositing.

“We just couldn’t afford to go about this episode in a traditional way, because inevitably you get changes and then those changes each take time to render,” says Breakspear. “With this process, I could sit there and look at the city and the artists could create great looking CG waves crashing into the city, our unique 3D/2D process allowing us to see spray, foam and splashes. This way of working made the impossible, possible.”

These effects were previously very tough to do. A combination of deadline and number of shots meant that you would always have to set a level of quality that you could deliver for every shot. The way Rainmaker built the pipeline for this episode meant they could dial the quality higher.

“The storm effects in ‘The Eye’ are some of the most complicated visual effects I’ve seen on TV,” concludes Breakspear. “This show was very complex, but it completed on time in 6 weeks with a team of ten working efficiently and without creative compromise. Dan Mayer our CG lead, pulled it all together and he, along with our incredible team of artists, made it happen.”

Dan Mayer, Lead CG artist on Atlantis has been working on the show since the beginning. “Being a new show, ‘Atlantis’ requires a lot of builds --gearing up, there was a lot of new content – the city, the ships, everything had to be built from scratch,” he states. The trick for ‘The Eye’ specifically, was the schedule, Mayer continues. "It’s a case of producers coming to you looking for feature film quality shots, done in a tenth of the time with a tenth of the people, but that still maintain the same high quality you'd expect at the movies – in ‘The Eye,’ I think we’ve delivered what they were after. ”

About Rainmaker
Rainmaker is a post production and visual effects company with a twenty year history of technical excellence and outstanding service. From its origins in the pioneering west coast post house Gastown Productions, Rainmaker has grown into one of North America's pre-eminent post production service providers. Rainmaker's facility in Vancouver provides producers with an array of post production services ranging from traditional film developing to the very latest digital image processing techniques.

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Related Keywords:Rainmaker, MGM, The Eye, Stargate Atlantis, CGI, effects, VFX, Mark Breakspear, Fusion, Inferno, compositing, Dan Mayer, visual effects,

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