Project 2 Post Mortem

ANI220 Project 2 Post Mortem

Jacob Duncan


Project Overview

The task required for the students undertaking the VFX major in Animation Studio 2 was to produce a shot for the fictional company Extropolis Entertainment to be used in their upcoming disaster movie “Melbourne Apocalypse.”

The footage must

  • Match location photography provided (day).
  • Appear to be handheld footage.
  • Feature the landmark collapsing as it would during an earthquake.
  • Feature people in the foreground reacting to the destruction.
  • Feature an overcast sky
  • Be at least 10 seconds in duration.
  • Be 1080p 25fps.


Key Accomplishments

Was able to get PDI functioning – After running into a variety of issues trying to accomplish the project using Maya’s “Shatter” and “nCloth” functions I decided it would be best to attempt it through other means. However due to the limitations of the brief I could not work in Software other than Maya for the 3D elements, so I decided to do some research into plugins. After some time I was able to find the plugin “Pull Down It” or ‘PDI’ and eventually got it working. It served as an effective means of achieving the 3D destruction I wanted.

Was able to find a work around to create shaky footage – During the project I decided it would be best for me to take a still from my back plate footage and use that as the back plate of my composition. This would allow me to implement effects onto a still composition making it easier to work with. However this method meant my composition no longer met the ‘shaky cam’ requirement. To achieve the requirement I tracked the previous back plate footage and then using a null object was able transfer that movement onto the still composition, effectively giving the still composition a real life shake.


Key Problem Areas

Maya’s Shatter – Maya’s ‘shatter’ and ‘ncloth’ functions proved a large challenge for me over the course of the projects development, often I would get all kinds of errors, crashes and a few times be unable to open a file due to the amount of shattered pieces it was loading. This issue become so frustrating to me and debilitating to the project that I decided to search for a plugin as an alternative method.

Creating a material for the building – This was an element of the project I was not sure how to approach. Due to the model of the building I created not being life like, no structural elements such as clear distinctions between concrete and metal, I was unsure how I would texture the building to make it look realistic. Andrew suggested a method of using layered textures of structural elements such as metal and concrete and layer them together using a geometric noise as an alpha channel. I think this method would have been a nice work around however I believe due to my techniques and choices in applying this method I was unable to produce an effective result which resulted in an unconvincing 3D building.

Lack of experience and knowledge in filming for VFX – A large element of many issues I and the other VFX students run into was our lack of knowledge and consideration when shooting our back plate which became most evident in shooting green screen footage. When it came to shooting the green screen footage we each discovered we had a severe lacking of data from the back plate shoot. Essential elements such as the distance from the focus of the shot, the height of the camera and the focal length were all elements we were unsure of. This resulted in many issues down the line especially prominent with our green screen footage essentially being done by eye to varying degrees of success.


Post Project Tasks/Future Considerations

Much more time dedicated to planning and perfecting back plate shooting – This is a huge element for me, this created many issues throughout the project that could have been avoided due to simple taking of measurements and considerations of elements I previously ignored or was not aware of. Although this was my first time attempting a VFX project like this one I do believe that my choosing to not reshoot my footage to correct mistakes was lazy and resulted in many issues that could have been avoided. In the future I plan to take much greater consideration when undertaking these elements to ensure I am able to produce an effective result.

Consider using software other than Maya to achieve building collapse dynamics – Due to the experience I have now had attempting a building destruction in Maya I think in the future I am much more likely to consider other 3D software for this kind of project. When searching for solutions online often I would find sites and individuals suggesting instead that I use another program such as 3DS Max due to its reliable plugins for building destruction.

Creating a more accurate building and texture – I think that when next attempting an effect similar to this one I would ensure to model the building much more accurately. This would allow for a much more convincing result in the final product. Much of decisions I made in the modelling of the building throughout this project was due to the limitations of the destruction dynamics I was using.


Brief Requirements

Requirements Achieved
Match Location Photography Yes
Appear to be handheld footage Yes
Feature the landmark collapsing as it would during an earthquake Yes
Feature people in the foreground Yes
Feature an overcast sky Yes
Be at least 10 seconds in duration Yes
Be 1080p 25fps Yes





Project 2 Post Mortem