Monday, April 9, 2012

Recreating the Past...

Apologies for lack of posts, actually been working. Managed to secure a couple of CG gigs on a Tony Robinson ('Blackadder', 'Time Team") documentary series exploring Australian history - historical recreation rather than science fiction interpretation!

First up was to recreate the 'Female Factory' - a women's prison from late 19th century Hobart. The brief was to have the building emerge from the remains of the site as it exists today. The buildings were built from supplied floor plans heavily supplemented with historical photographs.

This was then textured as could be best estimated from existing buildings surviving from the period - the reference photographs were, after all, only grainy black and white. I fully admit that there is visible repetition in the texturing, but the required camera angle to match the supplied live action plate hid most of this.

The idea was to have the building rise up from the ground in to their original positions. The tricky part was to match the voice over of the local historian who was being interviewed by the aforementioned Mr Robinson. The building was split up in to parts that matched the ongoing description and animated to match the voice over beats.

Once rendered in Cinema 4D, off in to After Effects to put in dust and debris effects to underline the effect of the buildings rising from the ground.

The second gig was to prove a little more technically challenging. The episode covered the history of gold mining at Bendigo and the brief was to show the mines that honeycomb the ground beneath the city. I initially came up with a static model of the mines that the camera could fly around in time to Mr Robinson's voice over. However, the style of his voice over did not suit the static models and called for the mines to appear to grow as the camera moved past. Time for Cinema 4D to step up to the plate. I needed a system that would allow multiple levels of the mine shaft to grow in sync with one another over time. Luckily, C4D has a 'grow along spline' system which can be used to extrude a shape along a spline, the growth can be controlled using the in built Xpresso node based programming system, and the whole thing then linked to one slider to control one tunnel system. A number of base tunnels were created which could then be mixed and matched to recreate the three main tunnel systems that exist under Bendigo.

There was a request to see 'nuggets' of gold that the tunnels were seeking out. Initially I thought of doing this in C4D, but eventually ended up using Maxon's excellent AFX plugin to transfer the camera motion from C4D in to After Effects and do the 'nuggets' as particle effects in post.

All that remained was to link the live action footage to the CG tunnels, accomplished via a match move of Mr. Robinson's hand tracking down a map of the Central Deborah Gold Mine which was then tracked to a CG model based off the map in the footage. The last frame of the match move was then matched to the second camera move that pans out and around to reveal the growing tunnels and eventually the tunnel complex.
All in all, an interesting technical exercise.