Radical 3D Delivers Previs for Red Tails with LightWave
Announcement from NewTek:
Just as WWII united powerful militaries from around the globe, Red Tails brought together some of the best talents and brightest minds in the business worldwide. Various remote studios contributed computer graphics imagery (CGI) and visual effects (VFX), while one firm—Radical 3D in Venice, California—handled all the pre-visualization (previs).
Mike Blanchard, head of post-production at Lucasfilm who works closely with Producer Rick McCallum and George Lucas, was creating the video storyboard for the film with the help of "Dog Fights," a series that Jason McKinley, owner of Radical 3D, a high-end computer graphics (CG) animation company specializing in television and movie special effects, created and directed for The History Channel. McKinley’s work on the series won him an invitation to Skywalker Ranch and to "take a run at the opening sequence" of the film, he says.
"We pre-vised 100 to 130 shots using NewTek’s LightWave 3D, and they were really happy with it," recalls McKinley, pre-vis supervisor and technical consultant on Red Tails. They were so pleased, in fact, that they asked McKinley and the Radical 3D team to previs the last 600 shots of the film, the climactic end sequence with flight dynamics, planes, and aerial combat. "Originally, it was going to be 300 shots, but they kept expanding it and said ‘keep going.’"
McKinley oversaw pre-vis of all the shots, as well as a staff that averaged six artists but extended to 10 at times, with modelers and others working on the project. "You can do a lot more with a small crew with LightWave than you can with any other software package," he affirms. "You have a great pool of generalists and it enables you to do things on a budget better than the other software packages that I’ve dealt with. LightWave helps us get the job done for the tight budgets that are out there these days."
Filming took place over five months in 2009 in the Czech Republic, Italy, Croatia, and England. Pre-vis spanned roughly six weeks for the opening sequence, and 12 weeks for the closing sequence. McKinley credits his software tool of choice with helping speed production.
"LightWave is the fastest software out there, period," McKinley mentions. "There are a lot of very good software packages out there, but they all take longer to do things. Nothing can touch LightWave." McKinley and his team were able to streamline their work flow further by taking advantage of the assets and experience gained while working on "Dog Fights."
"We have one of the largest CGI libraries of military airplanes in the world," McKinley describes. "We already had a lot of those assets built and we also had seen almost every air combat maneuver. I interviewed more than 100 pilots, almost all of them aces. We had really strong insight into the kinds of maneuvers they used."
LightWave has been McKinley’s tool of choice since he started his career in 1992. "It has always been my tool and it has done really well for me," he says. "You can get great looks out of every software out there if you have great people, but for speed and getting a good look, LightWave is untouchable.
"It helped me sell ‘Dog Fights,’ helped us produce Armageddon, and helped us really well on Red Tails, especially with the motion tools that are good for flying things around. In fact, it made my career on flying things around; LightWave has done really well for me."
McKinley and the Radical 3D artists relied on LightWave’s Graph Editor, a Virtual Studio tool introduced in version 10 that enables hand-editing of live-captured and virtual performances, for Red Tails. "The ease of the motion graph editor was really strong for us," he explains. "We used it a lot; it just makes flying things around very easy."