An Exploration of Prometheus Previs
CR: Exactly. So we had all three inputs going all the time. Art department, back and forth. Often we would take assets from the art department, slim them down, then sit with Ridley and find a few cameras and realize, “This is not working.” I remember in one case the floor of the engineers’ chamber kept moving up and down as we tried to find different angles he had hoped to do. We said, “Well, then we need to move this platform up, or down, move the floor up, or down.” We played with that and then handed it back to the art department so they could update all their materials and continue from where we had left off with Ridley exploring in the full scene. They were just focusing on individual assets. So then we had this round robin effect where the art department would support us with assets and we would come back with notes from Ridley, give it to them so that they could be up to date with everything Ridley had asked for and where he was at with the scene and carry that into their set design. So we had a really great circle of communication with the art department.
DS: It sounds like you worked quite closely with them?
CR: We did, and it was really beneficial and I think it showed and helped a ton.
DS: What were you animating with, what were you using for modeling, can you tell me a little bit about the tools you guys used?
CR: Yeah, we model in Maya and do most of our work in Maya. In some cases we jump into Mudbox to do some texturing or some high quality modeling for creating better textures. In the case of Prometheus we had a guy on the team who had a particular skill set on Zbrush and so we had him work on a couple of things just so that we can keep that skill set. We don’t spend a ton of time in Zbrush or Mudbox. It’s just support software. I edited the previs in Adobe Premiere and used Photoshop for texturing and painting. Our three primary tools would be Maya, Premiere, and Photoshop. And After Effects, in the case of Prometheus, because we did spend some time trying to make it look nicer and that’s where we would split things off into layers and use After Effects to comp them with depth of field blurs and some lens flares and such.
We had a neat opportunity on Prometheus to try several different tools. In the beginning, we started with just keyframe animation. I had good animators and good modelers and we put the scenes together by hand, manually keying and animating the characters. However, at our studio, we have a motion-capture stage as well as a virtual camera volume where we can shoot things virtually. We were talking to Ridley, trying to warn him up to that [the virtual camera] so that we could use it with him.
So our sequences were scattered with some mocap and some keyframe animation. By the third sequence, we had gotten Ridley’s approval to set up a motion-capture volume just to demonstrate it to him. A motion-capture volume for the virtual camera in terms of like what they did on Avatar, where you look into the virtual world with a screen mounted on a shoulder rack or a handheld so you can fire on the scene and find your shots. So we showed that to him and then he went off to London so he never got the chance to use it directly except for the demo. But I used it for one of the sequences after he left for London. One of our scenes, the med pod scene, has some of the virtual camera work that we did. We got to use a number of our technologies scattered throughout those four sequences with Ridley. That was fun, and notable.
DS: Now those were virtual tools you guys created on your own that you were able to use on this production?
CR: Right. For a about a year and half prior to the show, Halon had invested in Opti