Calif. - Prime Focus VFX, formerly Frantic Films VFX, has contributed
124 visual effects shots for the Stephen Sommers-directed movie G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra
from Paramount Pictures. Prime Focus' Los Angeles, Winnipeg, and
Vancouver visual effects studios provided expertise in previz, digital
environments, fluid simulation, and high-volume particle rendering for
the movie's action-packed finale sequence involving a complicated
G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra starring Channing Tatum (Duke), Sienna Miller (Baroness) Marlon Wayans (Ripcord), and Rachel Nichols (Scarlett) premiered in theaters on August 7, 2009.
Prime Focus contributed roughly 70 visual effects shots for the finale's aerial sequence, which features a plane being eaten away by Nanomites, a U.S. developed bio-weapon usurped by evil forces that disintegrates metal on contact. Says Chris Bond, senior visual effects supervisor and president
of Prime Focus VFX, "This sequence was particularly challenging because we weren't relying on any aerial photography, which would be nearly impossible to shoot at these speeds, but instead created nearly everything digitally--the plane, sky, clouds and the destructive Nanomites that eat away the plane."
In addition to developing a custom tool set to generate 3D cloud and sky environments, Prime Focus built a Nanomite animation pipeline and a hybrid matte painting, environment, and 3D animation pipeline. The company also dedicated extensive R&D to improving its in-house scene collaboration system that allowed its LA and Vancouver offices to work seamlessly together.
In addition to providing previz for the aerial sequence, Prime Focus artists, with VFX supervision from Bond and Harvey, built a Nanomite animation pipeline using Prime Focus's proprietary volumetric particle renderer Krakatoa, along with Autodesk 3ds Max, to render out the billions upon billions of particles that make up the Nanomite cloud. Functioning as an intelligent swarm, the Nanomites are able to track their movements to
avoid retracing their steps, leaving no metal untouched until whatever they're consuming crumbles and collapses. To produce this complex destruction, Prime Focus created a series of particle systems, shader
networks, and procedural level set tools that would all talk to and affect each other. This created a true geometric volume with thickness and surface properties that would be eaten, rather than paper-thin transparency texture maps.
Using footage of actor Wayans shot on set in a chair with only the practical cockpit around him, Prime Focus artists digitally built the Night Raven plane, including its inner-workings and engine, which are revealed as the Nanomites eat away the metal. Ken Nakata headed up the digital matte painting department in Los Angeles to create the CG sky and clouds using a combination of fluid dynamics, matte painting, CG simulation and particle simulation. Prime Focus also created missile contrails and built the White
House and Potomac River entirely in CG. In addition to the finale, Prime Focus also contributed to the opening sequence in which a tank is destroyed by Nanomites and provided interior shots and set extensions for the Cobra base. Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya were the tools-of-choice; eyeon Fusion was