2012: The End of the World as We Know It
As a result a lightweight rig was built in Maya for placement and timing approval of the bombs. Once approved, the data from these rigs was then dispatched to Houdini, where all the rigid and soft body simulations of lava-bombs impacting turf, soil and bedrock layers, along with all their interactions was solved. Then artists in Houdini would look at the trajectory of each bomb, calculate the point of impact on the ground and then run several simulations of lava bombs breaking through the turf area, into bedrock. In turn this bedrock would then break apart and rip through the turf layer and throw up a concoction of dust, smoke and lava that would be expelled for the impact. This was then parceled up and sent back into Maya for rendering, using Double Negative’s proprietary DNB and RenderMan.
Meanwhile, Sony Imageworks was primarily responsible for the interior station inside the Himalayan Mountains along with modeling and texturing the Arks where the lucky survivors get to start a new civilization.
"We modeled everything in Maya and texture painted and passed on huge Photoshop files," says Peter Nofz, Sony Imageworks' vfx supervisor. "The biggest challenge was to actually fit all that geometry that was built almost into memory because it was quite a bit, and we tried to use matte paintings wherever we could to get our poly count down. We couldn't use too much proprietary tools because we had to pass our stuff on. Then we did use Arnold, our in-house ray tracer, as our renderer. And we threw more geometry at Arnold than ever before, so we had quite extensive render times. But at the same time, it allowed us to do all these little incandescent lights and an overall richness."
And what has been the impact of 2012 on Emmerich? According to Engel & Weigert, the director has a better understanding of how vfx can be art directed and controlled in a much more interactive way. This will certainly help in his next project: Soul of the Age, which tackles the controversial authorship of William Shakespeare's plays by suggesting that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author. This may be a more intimate film with a lot less vfx, but Engel & Weigert are already hard at work trying to figure out how to virtually recreate 16th century London in Berlin. But that's another story.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.