V for Awe-Inspiring VFX
AO: On the design side, another thing we did that was challenging had to do with mechanics. In the script, it mentions that something starts happening on the bottom of the mother ship, some panels start to flip and an image appears on the other side of the ship. Now, exactly how that happens and the exact mechanics of that kind of event was something that we had to figure out. So there was quite a bit of animanics and conceptualizing to get this panel flip effect to make it look realistic and part of the alien technology. And we found that you really had to see it from several different perspectives: from the person on the ground and also from up close to get an idea of the real technology that was happening.
So for those two types of shots we came up with a macro design and a micro design for the effects. And the macro design was to have the armor plating underneath the ship detach and move from the surface and reconfigure to make one smooth bottom surface and then have all the smaller sub-plates in between flip over in a close-up. So it wound up being a two-part effect.
BD: What tools did you use for this?
AO: All the mother ship and shuttle stuff was rendered in LightWave; a lot of it was modeled in modo and textured in Photoshop. We've been using LightWave successfully in a lot of our hard surface shows and we really utilized it with our CG supervisor, Chris Zapara, who was responsible for making the panels flip and also getting the look and feel of those ships in space correct. And also Steve Graves, who is our 3D modeler. We also used Pierre Drolet, who is the modeler from Battlestar. He did the shuttle.
BD: What else have you been working on?
AO: There's this F-16 plane crash at the very beginning, which is one of those shots where you're just basically looking at a blank plate and then creating an F-16 crashing into the ground. So there was tons of modeling, texturing, particles and particle fire, flame elements from our library, smoke elements from our library layered in there and also quite a bit of work sweeping out Vancouver mountains and buildings, because it's filling in for New York, and replacing them with New York buildings. This was quite a big job with shots you don't even notice in the pilot and then continuing into the series.
BD: How was the work divided between the LA and BC office?
AO: We split up mostly the ship shots and F-16 crash here at Zoic LA; we did all the design work here at Zoic LA; and they did all of the virtual set work up there because it was so essential to be close to production. Trevor Adams was the artist who did a lot of the mental ray virtual sets…
BD: What distinguishes the work on V from Battlestar?