Frantic Films VFX Battles John Woo's Red Cliff
Frantic also created a Massive pipeline specifically for the film. The artists were able to integrate and utilize the AI-driven crowd simulation software in a unique way that speeded up the production process without sacrificing quality. For the characters, Frantic had about five weeks to set up a Massive pipeline and get the 70,000 soldiers animated over 2,500 boats. To do this, the team used Massive to animate various boat crews. Thinking Particles was then used to modify each crew's animation and then propagate these crews throughout the fleet.
At the heart of this unique methodology was Frantic's approach. Frantic used Massive to generate thousands of frames of the virtual performers doing what it needed them to do, and used Thinking Particles to randomly propagate them onto the boats -- grabbing random frames and positions and so forth. Massive became the engine for animation, while Thinking Particles was the distribution.
Frantic collaborated with The Orphanage in San Francisco, delivering shots for review and approval to Visual Effects Supervisor Craig Hayes. Because both director John Woo and VFX Producer Jack Geist were in China during post-production, Frantic had the additional challenge of managing the 15-hour time difference. Because of this, working directly with the team at the Orphanage when delivering its work for review and approval was extremely beneficial because it allowed the Frantic artists fairly immediate feedback.
"The challenge of creating an entire pipeline for managing the water, fire, smoke, thousands of CG boats and tens of thousands of actors -- not to mention cloth simulations for the flags -- all in a time span measured in days and weeks, was an incredible effort," concluded Chris Bond, Creative Director and President, Frantic Films. "I want to thank the team enormously for all of their work and applaud Jason and Bridgitte for their leadership!"
The Frantic team was led by VFX Producer Bridgitte Krupke and VFX Supervisor Jason Crosby and comprised 15 3D artists and 11 compositors. While most work was handled out of Frantic's LA office, the company's Winnipeg studio was responsible for all the water simulation work.
CG models were imported from Autodesk Maya into Autodesk 3ds Max, in which the bulk of the 3D work was done. Compositing was done with eyeon Fusion. Plug-ins included Cebas Thinking Particles, Final Render and FumeFX. Frantic also used Massive Software and SynthEyes from Andersson Technologies. In addition, Frantic utilized several propriety tools, including Flood: Surf for the fluid surfaces rendered in Final Render, and Flood for the fluid dynamic interaction of wakes and the quintessential shots of performers diving overboard.