Episode 1: Winterfell
In the first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, I developed the look of the CG environment portion of Dany and Jon’s joyride. Provided the key art, I focused mainly on the large canyon into which the dragons descend by creating procedural shaders, lighting all elements, rendering, and pre-compositing. I also created the shaders for Dany and Jon’s digi-doubles and a plethora of trees. Environment modelling: Image Engine Lead Devin Stoutley. DMP: Image Engine Lead Hubert Zapolowicz. Image Engine VFX Supervisor: Thomas Schelesney
For the Look Development of the terrain I used mostly procedural methods, utilizing tri-planar tileable texture projections inside of Image Engine's Gaffer. This project was a good opportunity to push that software's limits as far as sequence and shot-based procedural shading goes when dealing with an environment that is seen in many different angles and lighting conditions. Mari was used to paint art-driven, overall rock and snow separations, as well as the stream at the base of the canyon. Otherwise the shader is controlled primarily by isolated normals values, occlusion, and procedural masks. Substance Designer was used in order to translate personal Banff, Alberta mountain photographs into tileable textures for additional albedo variation and bump. An array of 3D scans and ZBrush maps are driving the main displacements.
The environment is one shader - including rock, ice, snow, and the stream at the bottom of the canyon.
The process of lighting these shots was interesting in that firstly, the lighting of the dragons should match the buck plate. However, the studio lighting wasn’t particularly flattering for the dragons in most cases, let alone plausible for the sequence’s lighting in general which you may have noticed was sort of all over the place. There was also the key art of course, which didn't fit the buck lighting or drone footage bill at all. So it went something like: matching the buck plate for the dragon, matching the key art lighting for the environment, until cheating further and further away from both in order for them to sit well with each other while also maintaining a level of believably in regard to the sequence's continuity. Thankfully these full CG shots were much more forgiving than a few of the others where drone plates were used.
The most challenging buck shot to integrate and subsequently match and develop was the initial dive. The camera starts off looking up at Jon’s face, and ends essentially inverted, looking straight down the canyon. The video below shows exactly how the actors were filmed on the animatronic bucks. See 13:57 for the buck section.
Extensive reference was collected in Alberta, Canada. There was also hours of drone footage from Iceland thanks to HBO, but I wanted a vacation.
Episode 3: The Long Night
For episode three I delivered the Night King’s digi-double, his sword, and his spear. They were used mostly for integration with the live-action prosthetics and props. In some cases the full CG assets were used, as with the Dany and Jon doubles, during some dragon shots.
Episode 6: The Iron Throne
The last sequence of Game of Thrones leaves us to witness Jon departing North of the wall. I was responsible for the procedural texturing, look development, scene assembly, lighting, and rendering of the Ice Wall and Castle Black shots, acting as a CG Sequence Lead. Modelling: Image Engine Lead Devin Stoutley. DMP: Image Engine Lead Hubert Zapolowicz. Image Engine VFX Supervisor: Thomas Schelesney
THE COLD ROOM
Bao, the 2018 Academy Award Winner for Best Short Film (Animated), is quite special to me because of the relationships I founded while working on it and the amount of responsibility I had. I don’t think there’s a shot in this short I didn’t work on. From the family’s house, to the city and the greenery, to the food and ingredients - I put my heart and soul into this one and I loved every second of it. It was my highlight of working at Pixar.
On Coco, the 2017 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Feature Film, I had the opportunity to carry out the Look Development of two sequences in full and an array of work in other sequences and the teaser Dante’s Lunch.
The first full sequence I developed on Coco was Shanty Town. This encompassed the entirety of the town itself with all of its dressings, as well as the interior of Chicharron’s Shack and his hundreds of possessions.
I developed several procedural global materials, the main one being wood, in order to efficiently address the sequence as a whole. Each global material had extensive reuseability, as any number of attributes from within the original shading graph could be targeted and utilized through child materials, variants, and overrides. The entire town was also built to interact with the water level - a detail barely distinguishable in the film but something I’m quite fond of. Imagine the flexibility of a Substance Designer material, but in Katana. Fun stuff. The wood could be incrementally weathered, colors dynamically switched around, artistic notes addressed quickly, etc., all with no texturing aside from baking masks in Paint3D.
No detail was overlooked in Chicharron’s shack. Materials were recycled when possible through my budding collection of starter-macros, but each prop was attended to and treated with care. All procedurally done in Katana
The second sequence in which I was responsible for Look Development was Cenote. It was another fully procedural environment that had to hold up for establishing as well as hero shots.