Cool 3D animation: Hoxton Redsox creates awesome Titanic experience
Hoxton Redsox has completed an immersive experience for the Titanic Belfast Museum, which involved rendering about 36,000 frames at near HD resolution! Read more about this mammoth CG project…
London-based VFX outfit Hoxton Redsox has completed an exciting CG experience for the Titanic Belfast Museum, which involved rendering about 36,000 frames at near HD resolution.
The immersive 180-degree surround animation takes you on a virtual tour through the decks of the Titanic. The new musueum and exhibition, called the Titanic Belfast/Cave project, has been pulling in the crowds since it opened in late March.
The Titanic project took Hoxton Redsox about eight months to complete - four of which were spent rendering
“ISO design in Glasgow approached us to do a fully CG four-minute film visualising six floors of the Titanic,” Hoxton Redsox’s lighting and shading TD/supervisor Giancarlo Bonati explains.
“They specilise in interactive displays and content for museums all over the world. This job would require three cameras back projected on to screens to be installed in a room known as The Cave. People could walk in to the room and have a 180-degree view of the elevator ride though the ship,” he says.
We used Maya and rendered using Deadline and Mental Ray, comping was done in Nuke.
The hardest part of the project was getting the motion blur correct: “There were three screens, all 1920 x 888 in resolution,” Bonati explains. “As the camera pans around and goes up through the ship, making sure that the motion blur was consistent at the edge of each screen was a challenge as we were using a motion vector pass and then dialling the blur in with Nuke in post.”
“Also we had quite a lot of buzzing from some materials. This was the first time we had used a linear workflow and on occasions the super bright highlights would cause problems.”
Most useful piece of kit was Mental Ray production shaders and the architectural shaders. “That together with the ability to bake Final Gather maps was key to the overall look coupled with the ability to finish on time!” Bonati continues.
The flickering objects were re-rendered using a little-known camera shader in Mental Ray called MIP rendersubset.
“It is hidden by default so you need to enable the production shaders,” Bonati says. “We were using Maya 2011. By connecting the transform node of an object or the shader node of a material to this lens shader you can render just that object in the scene.”
“You can use render layers to select individual elements for re-rendering, but doing it this way is far simpler, and you don’t need to start worrying about losing reflections or a light or whatever, as all objects and lighting are still there, but the camera is rendering just one element. The only downside is you need to render an alpha seperately as the rendersubset shader does not render one with the image.”
Watch part of the Titanic Belfast/Cave project here
Four months’ render time
One of the biggest challenges was the sheer number of frames the team needed to render, some 36,000 at near HD resolution!
“We decided to build our own renderfarm to cope with the project,” Bonati continues. “We decided on buildng 10 x 6 core AMD machines which were overclocked from 2.9 to safely around 3.5GHz.”
“This gave us the 24-hours-a-day rendering power we needed. That plus Deadline proved to be an invaluable aid in getting the job done. It took some four months to render all the frames and also having ‘LogmeIn’ in order to remoted desktop my machine at work, I could then check renders and reboot machines that had maybe stalled during rendering,” he says.
All the shots had to pass through an approval process which involved Titanic ship experts and historians looking at the models and textures to make sure they were as close to the original ship as possible.
“There was a lot of research done by all concerned, in order to accurately recreate the visualisation,” Bonati explains.
“At times it was quite hard as there were only very few actual photos from the Titanic herself, a lot of photos were taken from the sister ship, the Olympic (but these were mostly black and white), which survived right through the Second World War and was decomissioned soon after.”
Focus on The Grand staircase
Considering the scale of the project, the team didn’t run into too many difficulties, however, there were some slight technical issues that had to be resolved: “Our whole lighting process was based around using physical sun and sky within Mental Ray and then using Portal lights to transfer that light energy efficiently in to all the interiors,” Bonati explains.
“That way we didn’t have to start turning on interior lights. The only exception was the corridor which had no outside access so we had to use incandescent lights.”
“One of the problems we faced was what we would see outside of the windows, doorways. We did not want to go down that road so we decided to ‘expose’ for inside and ‘bloom’ or ‘overexpose’ anything that appeared outside.”
For more information on the Titanic Experience visit the Titanic Belfast Museum website
on Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 8:01 pm under Showcase.
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Tags: CG experience, Cool 3D animation, Hoxton Redsox, Titanic Belfast Museum, Titanic Belfast/Cave, Titanic experience