Friday, November 22, 2013

Last Day at Digital Domain

Its been 5 years since I began working at Digital Domain.  I can hardly believe time has gone by this fast.  I have made great friends, worked on lots of cool projects and learned a bunch.  I'll be starting a new chapter for my career December 2nd at Pixomondo's Santa Monica studio.  I'm excited and looking forward to working in 3dsMax again.  ;)

Sunday, March 25, 2012


click on the cropped image above to see the full composition.

Things slowed down just briefly at work recently and I saw an opportunity to create some personal artwork again. This was a really fun project and allowed me to learn Mari which I'm pretty happy with.

Everything was modeled in 3dsMax and rendered with Vray. Textures were either created in nuke or Mari. Surprisingly, this is the first project I've ever done that didn't require any photoshop at all. Compositing was done in Nuke. The final render was done at 4k. Below is a link to a breakdown that shows the raw renders and the comp build up. I've also included a link to a higher res render.

Tim J

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cisco "Human Network"

For this project I came on about halfway through to set up the master light rig for the environment and robots as well as help setup up render passes and settings for the lighting team. This project was a quick one with only 4 weeks total to complete. This show ran very smoothly with only a couple minor and simple to fix issues along the way. Most importantly (for me) was that on this show I learned a new method for keeping the entire team organized as well as greatly simplifying all of the usually complex setups for creating all of the different render passes we would need. As usual its all Maya/Vray/Nuke.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Just before the holiday break I was pulled off of a very cool project (temporarily) to supervise a commercial for "Call of Duty." At the time I was pulled off I was knee deep in modeling and texturing Optimus Prime for the latest trailer for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. I was bummed to get pulled off of Transformers, but I knew I'd be coming back to it later. The Call of Duty spot was really cool though so it worked out that I got to be on both projects. :)

When Call of Duty ended I went immediately back onto Transformers right as lighting was about to begin. Some lighting had be started by the show's CG sup but I was asked to help develop the look of all the shots on the "lower level" where Megatron first appears through to the end of the trailer. I started with the first shot of Megatron as he stands above an autobot he has just destroyed. This was an important shot and it would help to set the look of the following shots on the lower level of the environment. These characters were particularly difficult to light. For the most part the models themselves did not have small bevels on their sharp edges (although some of the hero characters did). Because of that it was hard to get highlights and shapes to read. It was also a bit difficult in that everything in the scene was reflective metal with a lot of flat surfaces. It took some experimentation and I also went back into the original published textures for Megatron and reworked them to bring a little more diffuse back into his metal shaders so that we would see a little more direction to the lighting. We ended up with a nice balance between lighting with diffuse light and also with reflections.

The hardest shot I worked on was the 360 degree spin around Bruticus as all his parts come together and transform into the complete character. The environment used in other shots was not designed for this shot. Which meant this shot needed to have a completely custom environment built for it. Originally, I started off by taking a bunch of the existing environments parts and duplicating and positioning them around a central platform that Bruticus is on. The shot was over 1000 frames long and done in super slo motion because we were applying a bunch of speed ramps in the edit. So i was rendering every 50th frame at first just to get some feedback for how the environment was coming together. My first attempt was ok, but the environment was just too vast and open. So I went back in and started moving all the buildings and pieces closer to the center so that everything was much more closed in and we were seeing up to these large building tops instead of to just the sky. The environment was fairly easy to light, but felt like I was lighting 4 shots in one because it had to look good from every angle. When it came to lighting Bruticus though, things got really complicated. Unfortunately, Bruticus's model really needed more work done to it, but there just wasn't time. So his character was missing all the micro bevels that would help catch highlights. To start we picked some key moments of his animation and decided we wanted to use the lighting to help show off these key poses. So as the camera spins around I placed buildings that were going to be exploding as well as lights that would rim light Bruticus when then went off. This was good for interactive lighting, but he also needed a base light rig that would look good from all angles as well. So to keep him rim lit I started by creating a light rig that would spin exactly opposite to the cameras motion so that he was always rim lit. This worked ok, but because it was constant it felt like a cheat. It just never changed at all. So I came up with a different trick that felt more natural and interesting (even though it was also a cheat). What I did was place some large area lights in roughly the places where the environment was brightest. Then I put a sphere around Bruticus that had him completely enclosed inside, but the area lights were outside of it. I then linked this spheres rotation to exactly match the camera's rotation. Then I deleted the faces of the sphere that the camera could see. What this ended up doing was hiding all the area lights from being able to light the front faces of Bruticus, but as we spun around it would reveal those lights only when they would be rim lighting him. This trick worked nicely because the large area lights were slowly revealed and would appear to get brighter and dimmer as the sphere rotated revealing and then concealing them.

I have to give much respect to our compositors who really knocked it out of the park on this project in a very short amount of time. They did a fantastic job of integrating all of our cg lighting with real smoke and fire elements, adding lens effects and overall just balancing out all the lighting and FX to make the shots look as real as they do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Call of Duty

I was approached not long ago about the possibility of working on "a cool live action project" which would involve some set extensions, smoke and other FX. I didn't know at the time it was going to be Call of Duty, nor that it would be as cool as it ended up being. I was beginning look development on a new game cinematic for "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron" and really wasn't expecting to get pulled off it. However, that is what happened. I was asked CG sup the latest Call of Duty commercial. It was a very fast project. Only 3 weeks from the day I started till delivery. The first week the live action hadn't even been filmed. My team put in some long hours and worked weekends, but in the end we worked on roughly 20 shots in one way or another creating everything from set extensions, helicopters, jets, missiles, mines, explosions and rocket launchers. Nothing was particularly difficult about this project with the exception of the time frame we had to do it in.

So here is the spot.

Not long after this was released Jay Leno did a spoof of it which was quite fun to see.

After this commercial was finished I did get to go back onto the Transformers cinematic which I'll post about in the near future.

Tim J

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Project Challenge: BMW Refuel

BMW Refuel Commercial

I recently had the privilege to supervise a very fun commercial for BMW. It also marked the second time I got to work with Eric Barba (VFX sup) and Joeseph Kosinski (Director).

This project wasn't all that challenging as projects go, but it was a lot of fun. In the early stages of the project I was asked to head out to Riverside CA to an aircraft museum and shoot reference pictures and textures of a KC135 stratotanker. At the time we were planning on having one fully CG shot that would be from inside the boom operators station. So we asked for permission to actually go inside the plane and take pictures. Fortunately, our contact at the museum not only allowed it, but used to be a boom operator himself. My co-worker and I spent a good 3-4 hours documenting every inch of that aircraft while our guide told us about his experiences as a boom operator and showed us how things worked on the plane. It was really cool to get to crawl into the underbelly of the plane and into the boom operators seat (if you can call it that since you lay on your chest) and get a lesson on how to operate the fuel boom. I'd never seen the inside of boom operators station before and let me just say...It is really small and tight. You basically lay down on the floor of the aircraft and then slide sideways onto this very narrow seat. You lay on your stomach on what I can only describe as being similar to a very narrow masseuses table. You place your chin on a chin rest and your arms dangle down on either side of this thing to operate the controls. It was very claustrophobic in there. Right next to the museum is an airforce base where KC135's were taking off and doing touch and go's right next to us. So we were able to get some great pictures of the latest models of the plane in action.

As far as the visual effects went we pretty much were just dealing with a CG plane and car. For most shots all we needed to do was animate the plane and cast shadows on the ground. These were very straight forward shots but it did become a bit of a challenge to get the plane to look like it was flying at a slow enough speed to both match the car and still stay in the air. Ultimately though it is sometimes more important to make the plane just look great instead of be 100% accurate. The plane model itself was very detailed. The tail section of the plane and boom operators station were the most detailed because we got the best look at those areas. The boom operators station was modeled down to individual bolts and screw heads. The flaps and ailerons on the wings even had the mechanisms inside that drive them modeled and rigged up so that they moved and hinged correctly so we could see glimpses of the pistons and mechanics inside as they moved. Because of the amount of detail this plane model needed and a very short schedule I teamed up with our lead modeler and we both tackled different parts of the model and combined the different parts in the end. He handled the fuselage, wings and tail, while I modeled the boom operators station, boom and retractable boom nozzle.

We were never planning to actually render the car itself. We only intended to use it for getting shadows from the plane to cast properly over the live action car. We did end up rendering a CG car for one shot in which the plane flies over the car and we needed to see the car in shadow. In that shot the live action car was lit by bright sunlight and we couldn't just grade the car down because the sun was clearly visible in the reflection. So for that one shot we rendered the CG car with the shadow of the plane creeping over it. Then in the comp we used a shadow pass to blend between the live action car and the CG car in shadow. Major cudos to our compositor who seamlessly blended the live action with the CG in that shot.

This project really was a blast to work on. Even though the schedule was short we had a great team of artists who had a lot of experience and just made everything go very smoothly. The lighters got to wear many hats on this show which was great. The three of us did all of the animation, modeling, texturing, lighting and FX. :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Recent work

Recently two projects I had the pleasure to work on were released. A commercial for Nicorette, and the debut trailer for Gears of War 3. My first cinematic done completely in-engine.


Gears of War 3