MPC Vancouver was the primary vendor for the 3rd act of ‘Justice League’ – set in the fictional town of ‘Skrunda1’ (a mix of Chernobyl and Pripyat). The Environments team was tasked with dressing a full CG city, 12km square
To allow such a large area to be fully dressed in only a few months, I proposed using a new toolset, based around Unreal Engine 4. At peak, 5 artists were working simultaneously in Unreal, with the final layouts exported back to the MPC pipeline for rendering.
This daytime shot is one of the few where our work is really visible. A lot of the rest of the team’s efforts is hidden behind FX, motionblur, and a heavy red grade.
The full scene had over 400,000 instances, and in some aerial shots almost all of them were visible – so we had to use every optimization technique we could think of to keep the scenes interactive.
I oversaw a team of 13 artists, who created more than 240 unique assets. I textured around 40 of them myself in ‘Substance’.
This was the first show at MPC to make use of a game engine for VFX production.
I also created a 5-layer blend shader for Unreal, which allowed artists to edit the terrain texture interactively. The vertex map was exported as a primvar, and the shader was duplicated in Katana, giving a precise match between Unreal and Renderman.
There is actually a fairly detailed matte painting in the background here, but (as is often the case) the DI grade makes it virtually impossible to see anything.
One of the great things about using a game engine is getting a lot of additional functionality for free. At the very end of the project, it was noted that none of the utility poles had cables, so I wrote a tool in blueprint to procedurally create a plausible network of simulated softbody wires.
The final shots of the movie required the city to be covered in ‘beautiful alien plants’. I created four plant types in ‘Plantfactory’, which were animated by Andrew Bain.
Myself and John Vanderbeck gave a talk at Siggraph 2018 titled ‘Accelerating Film Environment Creation Using Game Development Tools’. The work described here formed a large part of the presentation.