’12 Strong’ VFX Interview – Chris van Dyck, CVD VFX Founder
May 4, 2018 – Excellent Interview by CVD VFX. Interview by Chris van Dyck, CVD VFX Founder. Today, he talked about ‘12 Strong‘ Movie Interview. CVD VFX an award winning Vancouver based VFX Studio recently delivered VFX for Warner Bros movie 12 Strong. Along with CVD VFX 12 Strong VFX done by BUF, Creature Effects, ILM & MPC. CVD VFX created CG tanks, FX explosions & dirt sims to adding hundreds of soldiers in a dmp environment in the movie.
Warner Bros 12 Strong tells the story of the 1st Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after Nine/Eleven Incident; under the leadership of a new captain, Thor must work with an Afghan warlord to take down the Taliban.
Can you tell me about how you became involved with 12 Strong? What type of work did you do for 12 Strong?
CVD VFX initially became involved with 12 Strong when we received a call from Robert Weaver at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) asking whether we were interested in joining the production. We discussed the various sequences which were currently available and where we could add new ones to other shots with the show’s VFX supervisor Roger Nall. We primarily worked on tiling out armies of soldiers, CG tanks, CG explosions and combining explosion elements together with soldiers that were either running or jumping and a sequence of helicopters that needed snow and fog added.
Can you discuss how you approached the DMP shot containing hundreds of soldiers?
The goal of that shot was to establish a greater distance between the soldiers and the base than what was originally shot. We needed to also amp up the intensity and numbers of the army. We started by extracting portions of the plate and pushing them back into a digital matte painting (DMP) element provided by ILM. Once we had built those two key pieces, we added CG tanks, then took a couple dozen green screen elements and tiled them out to become several hundred soldiers. For continuity, we also added several fires and smoke stacks.
Can you discuss in more detail how you approached the CG tanks and FX explosions witnessed in the film?
We had a few practical tanks to reference so it made it much easier to match the look, all of the tanks were rendered using V-Ray from Maya. The FX explosions were done in Houdini with a small team of FX artists. My favorite part of the explosion work was the rock slide. That specific shot was another important point to the story and the following shots, and they needed to get out of the way as the rock pieces started falling down. To achieve that we reprojected the mountainside and were able to simulate the rock chunks that were flying and falling back down.
How long did the project take and how many VFX shots did you end up creating? How did you maintain the quality of the work that you produced?
We roughly spent two months on this project and completed over 100 shots. I truly believe that our commitment to quality and the years of experience is what sets us apart from other studios. All shots were reviewed at multiple levels and everything passed quality control before we sent them through!
What type of software did you use for 12 Strong?
We used Maya, Houdini, Nuke and Shotgun/RV.
What was the most challenging shot or sequence that you did and why?
I think the most challenging sequence was the main DMP crowd duplication sequence because we really pushed the elements that we had. There was a lot more uncertainty around the shots, this made it even more exciting to see everything come together. Roger had created these ideas and it was fun to get onboard with his vision, and to help bring it all together.
Were there any particular shots that empowered you to approach the scene in a new or different way, or explore new ideas?
There was a small sequence of shots that we needed to repurpose the plates and stitch out a valley. But the plate didn’t have the same pitch as the surrounding shots so we had to reproject and warp the plate to create an illusion of it going up a hill. To finish the shot we extracted and recomposited the explosions back over the top.
You were recommended to work on the film by ILM. What was it like working alongside them and other VFX Studios?
Aside from receiving a few assets, there wasn’t too much collaboration. With the stage of project, our task was primarily to match and repopulate. We did team up with studio BUF on the explosions as they did the missile trails on layers, timings and compositing of shots.
How long did you work on the show, what was the overall shot count, and what was the size of the team?
We worked on the show for roughly two months on over 100 shots with a team of 15 people.
What’s your favorite memory of working on this show?
My favourite memory of working on 12 Strong has to be the client calls with Roger – he was a lot of fun to work with and we pushed hard to always have great material to review.
Do you have anything that you can share with us about any upcoming plans and projects in the future?
We’ve recently moved into our new studio where we are really looking forward to enjoying the new space. We will also be celebrating our third anniversary on May 4th. In terms of projects, we’ve recently completed some work on HBO’s Westworld and finished a few cool cinematics for a game but unfortunately, we can’t speak about that yet.
A big thanks for your time.
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