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Break+Enter Taps Maya for ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ VFX

Autodesk software’s robust toolset and scalable virtual workflow enabled the studio to deliver 40-60 shots in under nine months on the Warner Bros. film; invisible effects were used to winterize scenes and cleanup period work that recreated 60s and 70s-era New Jersey from where TV’s mafia boss Tony Soprano hailed.

New York-based VFX studio Break+Enter recently used Autodesk’s 3D model and animation software, Maya, to deliver invisible effects for The Many Saints of Newark, the origin story of television’s mafia boss Tony Soprano of HBO fame. Effects included winterization of scenes and period cleanup work. Led by VFX Supervisor Gabriel Regentin, the studio’s team tapped Maya and a virtual workflow to transport audiences back to the 60s and 70s era New Jersey.

The New Jersey work included winterization, such as crafting snowfall, dusting environments with fresh snow, and leaf removal from trees.

“The process for winterization involved tracking, getting shot layouts, and then laying a fresh covering of snow on top of everything,” explained Regentin. “After tracking, we transferred shots into Maya, built out any sets that we’d need for a sequence, then laid snow down using particle simulations created with Bifrost. To further enhance the shots, we also created leafless trees in Houdini, then brought the assets into Maya for additional sculpting for a more realistic appearance.”

The VFX studio was also responsible for period cleanup work involving removing anachronistic objects that went unnoticed during production.

“Ultimately, our goal with cleanup was to create a seamless and natural look for the film’s time period,” added Regentin. “We used Maya to add objects like trees and mailboxes to help cover any modern elements that looked out of place for the 60s or 70s. This included the removal of many air conditioner units from shots. It was a heavy workload, so we collaborated with Nice Shoes’ Flame department to help with the work and keep the project moving forward.”

One of the challenges faced by the team during production was transitioning from an on-prem to fully virtual infrastructure running on AWS Cloud. The shift to the cloud allowed the team to collaborate with top talent regardless of location, including artists in New York, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, India, and South Korea.

Regentin continued, “Our servers are unique in that they can move from data center to data center. This allows our virtual workstations to get created dynamically every day in whichever data center is most advantageous to the artist. We’ve had times when there were storms in Maryland that would bring down specific data centers, but our team was able to keep working by transferring our workstations to a different one. It’s worked out well and has kept our productivity at the forefront. Artists are able to work quickly and in real-time with zero latency.”

During the infrastructure overhaul, the team developed proprietary Maya-based tools to create new workflow efficiencies, keeping the project on schedule.

“For example, we built a custom tool in Maya that allows artists to publish directly into our production software,” noted Regentin. “Artists get shots that are automatically set up for them with the correct plates and other details pulled directly from our databases. It’s a great tool that helps keep us on track.”

In total, Break+Enter delivered 40-60 shots for The Many Saints of Newark in just under nine months, made possible by Maya’s robust toolset and a scalable virtual workflow.  

Source: Autodesk

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.