• CGSociety :: Production Focus

    2 March 2012, by Paul Hellard

     

    Exclusive breakdown video below:



    Platige Image is known throughout the production community for developing the most astonishing short films, music clips, TVCs and cinematics. All the way back to Mantis and The Cathedral, many productions and those on staff in the history of the studio have won many awards. Tomas Baginski, Grzegorz Jonkajtys, Marcin Kobylecki, Damien Nenow are names peppered with productions and awards.  CGSociety is proud to make available an exclusive breakdown video of the creation of The Witcher 2 cinematic, produced by Platige Image in Poland.



    “Around forty artists worked on The Witcher 2 cinematic during the whole run of the production but the core team was much smaller still,” says Maciej Jackiewicz, the CG Supervisor for the project. “Usually we had around ten people working on the job at the same time. This is a relatively small team and it meant that each involved artist had quite a significant input into the final result.” Producing The Witcher 2 cinematic was one of the bigger projects completed by Platige Image for CD Projekt Red.    Following is the final video cinematic.





    There were a lot of characters on the boat environment and the simulations of destruction were the most difficult parts of the project. The whole set becomes part of the story. “We wanted the ship and its demolition to become a kind of character in itself,” explains Jackiewicz.

    Their client CD Projekt Red wanted to use the film to launch their campaign for the Xbox 360 edition of The Witcher 2 game which is being released this Spring, mid April. The Platige Image crew took as many hours in each day as they could to complete the production. “We had put great care into the animatics of each of the characters, perhaps more than usual,” Jackiewicz says. “All the crucial elements: camera positions and movement, timing and creating the low-poly version of the destruction of the ship was carefully planned and fixed at a early stage." This was particularly important because the destruction plays such an big role in the cinematic. The timing of the simulations had to match the music and the visual edit so a precise animatic set up was a big help for the FX team.

     

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    “We used our always-evolving pipeline based on 3ds Max, Motionbuilder, Maya and V-Ray,” adds Jackiewicz. All that was supported by some of the software that has been developed internally at Platige Image. “Shotbuilder is a set of tools that helps with assets management, compilation of the shots, automated caching etc.,” he describes. “With so many characters and heavy scenes it saved our lives. “We also use our in-house caching system called Meshbaker, which serves as a port between 3ds Max and Maya (or Softimage, Houdini and Nuke when required). It gives us some level of freedom in choosing the tools that best suit different projects.”

     




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    MoCap

    All of the animated movements in The Witcher 2 are based on MoCap, although some sequences had to be animated from scratch. And the especially slow-motion sequence required a lot of reworking. “We wanted to capture as much action as possible at the motion capture sessions.

    With only one day of MoCap shooting, the Platige Image crew decided to have six actors and stunts acting simultaneously. The whole MoCap session was recorded more like a live action shoot rather than the usual smaller MoCap arena. That was a bit more difficult to direct for Tomek Baginski, but it proved to give good results and a lot of material was generated to choose from. “It would certainly be more difficult to plan ahead for such interesting and spontaneous interactions between the actors. That was especially helpful in the first part – with the joyful party,” admits Maciej.

    Clothes and Characters

    There are almost twenty characters in The Witcher 2 cinematic, most of them based on the in-game models. This fact saved The Platige crew a lot of time on concepts and helped to stay close to the style and looks already carefully designed for The Witcher 2 game. But obviously there was lots of remodeling and tuning to be done. Platige Image first divided the characters into usual three categories: leading, supporting and background characters. But soon enough, they found that was just wishful thinking on their part. In such a short cinematic, with action everywhere, there was no distinction between the leading and supporting characters.

    The script for the cinematic assumed that each character “gets its own five minutes” in the film. That meant that Director Tomek Baginski had to pay the same level of attention to the main villain Letho, and his victim king Demawend, as to all other characters Archer, Mage, the Wrestlers and the Jesters.


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    Letho

    Each character had their own clothing setup, and some up to five layers of clothing. Most troubling was probably Letho, the assassin. His armour-like outfit wasn't very simulation friendly. It had no loose garmentry or anything that could act nicely in the cloth simulation. Yet all of Letho’s clothes had to be simulated otherwise he would look either too stiff or the deformations behaved badly.

    All the slow motion sequences were also tricky from the cloth simulations point of view. All the rapid changes in animation speed required re-timing of the cloth solver. There was other trickery of the TD's cloth simulation done in Maya with some custom scripts that helped to handle the large number of characters and shots in the cinematic.
     

    Breaking it up

    The ship was quite a detailed model with lots of heavy geometry, cloth simulated sails and sail rigging. All that became even heavier after adding the geometric ice and particles. Breaking all of that into pieces was quite a challenge for the FX team. Especially since they also had to exactly match the edit and the music. The main tool used for this was thinkingParticles along with RayFire, Fume FX and Krakatoa.

    Setting up

    Platige Image has done a few projects in the past on a similar level of complexity. Having said that, Jackiewicz admits there are always new things to learn. Platige is a medium sized studio roughly divided into three branches: film VFX, commercials and animations and each of these departments work closely together. “There are smaller specialised groups of artists within these teams, specialising in layout, animation, rendering, FX and compositing. At the moment we are cooperating with over 150 artists either working in Platige and freelancing for us, and many of them are great generalists,” says Jackiewicz. “With each bigger project we also try to improve our pipeline and set of in-house tools.”

    “Most of the 3D artists we employ here at Platige are self taught or learn during the production,” explains Maciej. “They are great self-made professionals but we feel the lack of good schools in Poland that should be teaching specifically the '3D craft' to a decent level. On the other hand many artists at Platige have strong backgrounds from traditional fine art academies or film school and that education pays off big time.” Platige Image has completed five cinematics and teasers for The Witcher game series. While this is only a small part of what Platige does, game cinematics is a genre that each time allows them to push that quality bar higher than ever.


     

     


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