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Autodesk Helps Shape Top Games, Films of 2008

Across multiple movie genres and filmmaking techniques, this year's holiday blockbuster movies demonstrate the wide-range of entertainment that is shaped with Autodesk software. Filmmakers are using Autodesk's animation, visual effects and color grading tools to enhance their creative process and enable sophisticated storytelling.

VFX studio CIS Vancouver led the visual effects effort on the teen vampire box office bonanza, TWILIGHT. Full of atmospheric effects, the 250-shot TWILIGHT required heavy rotoscoping and compositing to incorporate hyperkinetic vampire motion and augment stormy weather. For the previsualization stage, CIS extensively relied upon Autodesk Maya 3D modeling, animation and rendering software. A scene set in a ballet studio filled with mirrors created complex visual challenges, requiring tracking of more than half a dozen reflective bounces between the mirrors.

"Using Maya to conduct multiple camera pre-tests from many angles, we were able to save the production team hours of set time," said Geoffrey Hancock, CIS visual effects supervisor. "Autodesk's powerful tools gave us the opportunity to focus on the creative challenges of this scene rather than the technical ones."

CIS also worked on the historical drama CHANGELING. As the lead vfx house, CIS' dedicated team of artists worked diligently with a shortened schedule to ready the film for its Cannes Film Festival premiere and subsequent theatrical release. CIS used Maya for virtually all the modeling and animation, and Autodesk Inferno visual effects software for matte paintings.

Hancock said, "The graphics speed, multiple iteration-ability and overall robustness of Inferno was invaluable to our pipeline. The film's subtle visual effects allow audiences to become fully absorbed in the story. We actually enjoyed the constraints of creating a believable and historically accurate environment. It was so refreshing to create invisible effects, not solely for the spectacle."

In an imaginary animal universe, DreamWorks Animation's CG animated film MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA also relied upon Maya to tell its story. "Maya gives us a lot of control over our particle simulations. The software is deep in its programmability and very scalable for all kinds of visual effects, from the down-and-dirty two-day effect to the dam-breaking effect that took four months to perfect. Maya covers our needs on both ends of the spectrum and we rely upon it more and more every year," said Scott Peterson, Head of Effects for MADAGASCAR 2.

DreamWorks turned to the Autodesk Lustre system for the film's color grading, tailoring the film-look to augment the adventure of a motley crew of New York Zoo animals.

For CITY OF EMBER, lead vfx house Luma Pictures used Maya and several plug-in solutions including mental ray and RealFlow. These tools were used to create a fantastical world filled with complex CG water systems, full subterranean CG sets and an enormous CG mole. Payam Shohadai, executive VFX supervisor at Luma Pictures, remarked, "Maya is the backbone of our entire VFX pipeline. Its amazing power and scripting flexibility allowed us to bring the CITY OF EMBER to life in ways no one thought possible -- Maya is truly indispensable."

In the gaming world, most of the top games hitting the shelves this holiday season have been created with Autodesk products. Autodesk technology helps game developers execute their creative vision from start to finish. This season, it has been used by numerous developers to create games that offer the believable characters, wondrous environments and enthralling gameplay of FALLOUT 3, FAR CRY 2, GEARS OF WAR 2, JAMES BOND: QUANTUM OF SOLACE and MORTAL KOMBAT VS. DC UNIVERSE.

Bethesda Game Studios used Autodesk 3ds Max software to create the post nuclear role-playing game FALLOUT 3 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles and PC. The game takes place in Washington DC, 200 years after a global atomic war that has left the United States all but destroyed. "Fallout 3 offers an expansive world, unique combat, realistic visuals and a great cast of dynamic characters," said Istvan Pely, lead artist. "3ds Max allowed us to quickly explore our creative options to make the game's devastated world and hostile, mutated creatures as shocking and provocative as possible."

3ds Max and Autodesk MotionBuilder software were used by artists at Ubisoft to create FAR CRY 2 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. This unique first-person shooter game offers a non-linear story, set in a 50-square kilometer environment, which gamers can explore freely. "FAR CRY 2 provides a truly open-world experience, in a dynamic environment that includes a day and night cycle, destructible vegetation and realistic fire propagation," explained Alexandre Amancio, art director at Ubisoft. "The speed and flexibility of 3ds Max was crucial to the unconventional pipeline that was needed to populate the huge game expanse with highly-detailed art assets."

3ds Max, Autodesk Maya and MotionBuilder software helped Epic Games raise the bar for GEARS OF WAR 2 on a very tight schedule. In this Xbox 360 title, the studio explored the game's narrative on a deeper and more emotional level, paying particular attention to cut scenes that help the storyline to evolve. "3ds Max, Maya and MotionBuilder allowed us to iterate quickly and create content in record time," said Chris Perna, art director at Epic Games. "It also enabled us to go beyond anything we've done before. Without Autodesk's software, combined with our own proprietary UNREAL ENGINE 3 toolset, we would have been hard-pressed to finish the game in such a short development cycle."

Using Autodesk SOFTIMAGE|XSI and Autodesk SOFTIMAGE|Face Robot software, artists at Janimation created four in-game cinematics for JAMES BOND: QUANTUM OF SOLACE, available for the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS game consoles. In only five weeks the team produced more than four and half minutes of computer graphic content, which included dialog from the CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE movies. Janimation used Face Robot for over 85 percent of the facial animation they completed.

"Given our short deadline and the number of faces we had to both rig and animate for lip sync, I felt more confident in our ultimate output quality using Face Robot," said Bradley Gabe, senior technical artist. "Face Robot helped us to deliver a true likeness of the characters, and portray great emotions, which helped to amplify the dramatic nature of the scenes," added Ludovick Michaud, senior technical and creative director.

Midway recently released MORTAL KOMBAT VS. DC UNIVERSE for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For the first time ever, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and the Mortal Kombat warriors battle with Batman, Superman and other popular DC Universe Super Heroes. The Midway team used 3ds Max and Maya to create art assets for the game, and MotionBuilder for character animation.

Several other game developers used Autodesk solutions to create games shipping this holiday season, including the following:

-- Harmonix used 3ds Max, MotionBuilder and Maya software to create the 3D elements in ROCK BAND 2, available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and soon on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii.-- For WHEELMAN, TNA IMPACT! and BLITZ: THE LEAGUE II, Midway used both 3ds Max and Maya as its primary art packages, and MotionBuilder for character animation. Also, Midway integrated Autodesk Kynapse artificial intelligence middleware into the game engine of WHEELMAN, to give non-player characters spatial awareness.-- Silicon Knights used 3ds Max and MotionBuilder to create TOO HUMAN.-- Ubisoft used 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, Autodesk HumanIK animation middleware in the creation of PRINCE OF PERSIA and SHAUN WHITE SNOWBOARDING.-- Lionhead Studios used XSI in the creation of FABLE 2.

Autodesk also announced this week its new membership in Epic Games' Integrated Partners Program. This has allowed Autodesk to integrate its Autodesk HumanIK animation middleware with Epic's UNREAL ENGINE 3 (UE3). Kynapse artificial intelligence (AI) middleware was also previously integrated with UE3. Publishers and developers licensing this game engine now have access to a production-ready solution for dynamic in-game character animation, as well as 3D navigation and spatial reasoning.

Optimized for next-generation platforms, Autodesk HumanIK middleware consists of a run-time, full-body inverse kinematics (IK) solver, as well as a run-time retargeting engine for characters of differing size, proportions and skeletal hierarchy. HumanIK allows animators and game designers to alter animations on the fly, letting characters interact dynamically and realistically with their environments. HumanIK has been licensed for several titles including Ubisoft's ASSASSIN'S CREED, as well as Electronic Arts' DEF JAM: ICON, FIFA SOCCER 07 and NBA STREET HOMECOURT.