In January 2009 I was asked to create the VFX for the CBBC series Spirit Warriors.
-vfx bidding and script breakdown
-recruiting teams of artists
-setting up production pipelines
-storyboarding and previs
-directing VFX and miniature elements
-hands on 2d and 3d post
-post supervising plus 1000 shots
Click here for a “best of Spirit Warriors” VFX reel
Only because we worked along the key creatives and director (and brilliant storyboard artist) Jon East from the beginning, we were able to make some important key decisions on how to approach the vfx. And make the best out of the relatively small budget. The show called for a lot:
-digital doubles for fight and action scenes with untrained child actors
-to create various establishing shots of four fantasy worlds
-various CG creatures including a speaking dragon, a giant dragonfly and a woman with a snake torso
-effects work like fast aging of characters, magical chi blasts, fire and explosions
As we started shooting, I managed to convince the producer of Spirit Warriors, Nick Pitt, to use some of the portable rock elements created for the show and shoot them as miniature elements for the various landscapes.
This gave us plates that we could add onto (instead of creating everything from scratch) with a look that matched the look of the show.
Whenever possible I tried to avoid bluescreen and rely on difference keying and rotoing.
Some sequences required high speed footage of the actors,sitting on that bicycle seat did hurt. We created 3 digital doubles of 3 of the main actors mainly for short takes of them flying relatively small in frame.
Legendary Bert Kwouk (Kato in the pink panther movies) voiced Shen, the waterdragon. The design is a mix of him, a chinese dragon and my sideburns.
We set up the facial rig to work with the image metrics production pipeline.Lewis Young ended up hand animating all shots as we couldn’t afford Image Metrics (and trust me, they were not expensive). More info on Shen here.
Mothballdesign did a brilliant job in adding particles and normal lighting in After Fx. This is how the miniatures worked out in the end.
Mattepainting by Michael Wyle
Parachute did a brlliant job with helping out on the envriroments I was able to bring a lot of students from the animation courses Of Westminster University, Citylit Institute and Londonmet, where I am teaching every on and off. These students were helping in modelling and texturing the Spirit World.
What I like about this shot is:
-real miniature elements in midground
-mattepainting to blend elements and add background
-the (on set) snow brings the elements together
A good example of departments working together: For a sequence of the young actress aging the makup department provided us with very good reference that were a starting point for the texturing. After doing a test early in preproduction, Rob Willott at Mothball suggested a cost effective way to do this sequence,by simply tracking a textured mesh onto the actors face.
Again, a good example of the departments working together: As I was involved early on in the design of the sequence, I was able to suggest a costume that allowed the integration of the CG tail easily.
The decision to shoot the actress element in the original set and not on the bluescreen stage helped as the lighting (obviously) matched.
Still, a big compositing job for Javier Cid Vidal, who, as usual, pulled all the plugs to create a beautiful comp.
I was also able to bring the lead Maya artist on this sequence, Christopher Maslen, on set. So he was able to get all the reference he needed himself.