Team members at Sydney digital production company, Animal Logic have received an Emmy nomination in the category ‘Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Mini-series, Movie or a Special’ for their visual effects work on “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars”.
Animal Logic Nominees Jeremy Howdin ( 3D Supervisor), Lynne Cartwright (On set VFX Supervisor), Brett Margules (Lead Animation Artist) and Dominic Bean (2D Lead Compositor) were members of the 58-strong team at Animal Logic who completed over 340 shots for the 4 hour mini-series for the SciFi Channel (US).
After completing animation and visual effects for Farscape Series 2, 3 and 4, Animal Logic were again invited to work on Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, a mini-series to appear over two nights.
Animal Logic spent eight months on the project which involved building 3D battleships, creating planetary and deep space atmospheres, building 3D characters such as Rygel and the living ship Moya, and designing and creating the complex galactic wars between the enemy Scarrans and the Peacekeeper forces.
Animal Logic worked with Director Brian Hensen, Producer Andrew Prowse and Visual Effects Producer Benita Carey from the earliest stages of filming.
The opening sequence of the mini-series was one of the more complex sequences of the project. It involves a large space battle fought beside a planet surrounded by asteroid belts where Peacekeeper forces attack the Scarran forces and a spaces battle ensues.
One of the challenges was building a sense of perspective, because in space this is lost. Perspective was built with atmosphere and elements such as rocks and planets.
The finale of the show involves a ‘wormhole’ that slowly absorbs all of the ships taking part in the space battle and then starts to absorb the planet by breaking it up. As for the opening sequence, blocking was used to give the Directorial team a vision of what this complex scene might look like after its final render. “We needed to design style frames to work out what the wormhole might look like in the various stages of its growth and what the planet might look like as it starts to break up. By taking a style frame from 2D, and creating it in 3D, then by further designing it with our Research & Development department we achieved the final look. From a technical and design view point, it was probably more challenging than the opening sequence,” said Animal Logic Producer Pat Egerton.
3D Supervisor Jeremy Howdin was responsible for building and overseeing a team of animators that grew from four at the early stages of the project to a total of 30 by the productions wrap. Animators were recruited from around the country to work at Animal Logic’s facility at Fox Studios in Sydney as the demands of the production schedule intensified and more sequences were delivered.
“We built our team based on the need for a broad skill base. The skills required by the animators for this project ranged from visual effects to lighting and compositing. Farscape also lends a lot of creativity to the 3D artists. For example, for the wormhole sequence we really needed to develop the whole look of that and we went through numerous stages with the Director based on style frames we created for it as we moved into the 3D space. As a 3D artist, it’s very rewarding to know that you created the whole shot from scratch,” says Howdin.
The 3D animators were responsible for compositing their own 3D shots. Says Howdin: “With the 3D artists compositing their own 3D shots, it enabled us a lot more control because we knew what we could do in 3D and what we could do in compositing, so if we needed an extra matte or some more highlights on a spaceship, we knew which layers we needed. It gave us more control and we could also integrate effects more easily.”
Animal Logic also employed a smaller crew of 2D compositors to work on key sequences of the project that combined live action with 2D effects such as matte paintings. Their work can be seen in those where CG elements appear in live action plates and in the final sequence where lead character John Crichton sets off the wormhole and effects are added to the practical machine that he sits in.
Animal Logic 3D animators worked in 3D Studio Max and Maya, with Inferno, Digital Fusion and Combustion used for 3D compositing. 2D artists used Inferno, Flame, Henry, Shake and Combustion.