MAN OF STEEL: Chad Wiebe – VFX Supervisor – Scanline VFX

In 2011, Chad Wiebe talked about his work on FINAL DESTINATION 5. He has since joined Scanline VFX and worked on BATTLESHIP. Today he explains his work on MAN OF STEEL.

How did Scanline VFX get involved on this show?
Scanline first met with VFX Supervisor John DJ DesJardin and VFX Producer Josh Jaggars in the Spring of 2011. Bidding was just getting underway, so the timing was perfect. We’d worked with Josh before, on Roland Emmerich’s 2012, and that was a fantastic experience. And though we’re big fans of DJ, we hadn’t yet worked with him. So we were excited when they eventually proposed having Scanline VFX handle the Oil Rig and Tornado Madness sequences, in addition to the Primary School sequence.

You have worked previously with director Zack Snyder and ProductionVFX Supervisor John “DJ” Desjardin on Sucker Punch. What was your feeling to work with them again??
It was great to be able to work with DJ and Zack again. The creative vision and aesthetic they push for always makes for amazing visuals, so it was exciting to be part of that.

How was the collaboration with them?
It was amazing. I’ve have been fortunate to have been able to work with DJ a number of times on past projects, and with Zack on SUCKER PUNCH, so the flow was really already established. What I really enjoy about working with them is that they have a very clear vision of what they are looking for, but also allow enough create freedom so that any ideas or thoughts we had on what might look cool were always welcomed. Overall it was a great experience.

What have you done on this show?
We completed around 90 shots for about 4 different sequences. The tornado sequence, the oil rig destruction, the X-Ray vision, flashback, and some smaller one offs.

Clark is going on a oil rig to save the people. How did you create the huge environment and the helicopter?
The oil rig environment was a huge undertaking. The oil rig model itself had immense amounts of complexity and details that you would find on real world rigs, so keeping in line with that was crucial. The only part we received lidar for was the helipad, so the rest of the oil rig had to be built from scratch.
The helicopter was built using a previous model which was of the same type of chopper, modified to match the lidar we received of the chopper used on set.

How did you create the fire and the smoke on the platform?
We used Scanline’s proprietary software Flowline. Having the developers on site was a huge benefit as it allowed us to really customize the look and motion of the fire and smoke to be very specific to how real world oil fires look.

At a moment, Clark has fire on him. Can you explain more about this impressive shot?
We started by matchmoving Clark which proved to be challenging given the amount of muscular deformations which happen over the course of the shot. Once we had that locked down, we emit fluids off the model using a series of bitmaps which allowed us to art direct where the fire would emit from, to ensure we could keep key areas either clear of fire, or engulfed in flames.


This spot features many oil rig shots

What was the real size of the platform sets?
The only parts of the oil rig that was physically built was the helipad and a small section of interior rig.

How did you create the digital doubles of Clark and the other characters?
We were provided lidar or clark and a number of oil rig workers that provided a base for our digital models.

Can you tell us more about the destruction of the oil rig?
The oil rig destruction was an extremely complex set up which was done using thinking particles for the RBD’s and Flowline for the fluid simulations. A series of rigid body simulations and jointed systems were the foundation for the destruction, and we also had a number of individual explosions happening throughout the sequence. Flowline was used to emit smoke and fire off the geometry as well as for simulating the ocean simulation as the rig came crashing down.

How did you create the beautiful underwater shot with the whales?
A lot of what really made the shot work was done in comp. Using god rays, atmospherics and lighting we were able to create a very specific mood which I think helped sell the shot, which consisted of all digital characters.


This spot features the whales shots and oil rig shots

What indications and references did you received for the X-Ray view?
We researched a number of different technologies when starting on this sequence. Everything from X-Ray, thermal, MRI, night vision and CT scanning was researched, since we were aiming for more than just X-Ray, but a combination of various different types of vision that young Clark cycles through.

Can you explain in details about its creation?
We had to create a full internal body structure, which included everything from bones and muscles, to organs and veins in order to literally see through any part of the bodies internal structure. From there we rendered in a number of different passes and rendering styles which allowed us to cycle through different looks and technologies as the visions shifted from one style to another. Additionally we had to animate the hearts and lungs in each character so that when we are seeing through to the internal organs, they were realistic moving as they should be.

Clark and his family faced a tornado. Can you explain in details about its creation?
The funnel was created using a system which was developed specifically for this sequence where we would create a number of individual fluid sims which were added to a library. From there we would select individual elements which we would deform and wrap around the funnel volume using splines. This would allow us to art direct and customize the look and feel of the funnel by picking and choosing different simulations which all had different attributes, and it also allowed us to control the size and speed of the funnel per shot without needing to resim.

Have you received any specific indications from the production for the tornado?
We were given a large selection of reference material to review along with some picks which helped us to determine the size and look of the funnel before starting on the actual build.

Can you tell us more about the destruction of the cars and the environment such as trees?
We created digital versions of all vehicles that were shot on set as well as a number of additional vehicles to suggest a longer line up of traffic stopped on the freeway. As the sequence progresses most of the vehicles end up getting damaged or destroyed to some degree so in addition to a typical vehicle rig for the basic motions and wind buffeting, we also created a system where we could dynamically damage the vehicles based on collisions with one another or based on forces as was the case with the Kent truck which gets destroyed at the end of the sequence.

The trees were set up with a jointed system in thinking particles for the trunk and branches, which allowed us to bend and break the trees, and then we set up particle systems to populate leaves on the branches. Both the branches and leaves were set up in a way that they would either break procedurally depending on certain thresholds reached, or we could have specifics events happening as needed over the course of a shot.

Which offices of Scanline VFX have worked on this show?
Vancouver and Los Angeles.

What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
From a development standpoint the tornado was definitely the most challenging. We had to really think outside the box and approach it in a way that initially seemed liked might not work, but given the size and complexities of the funnel itself, proved to be a very successful solution. The shots with the oil rig collapsing were also some of our most complex shots. The sheer number of systems and set ups needing to have all the various elements working in unison was an enormous undertaking which spanned across numerous departments in both the Vancouver and LA facilities. Luckily the team I was fortunate enough to work with was able to make it much less stressful than it could have been and I think the end result is amazing.

Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
None that prevented sleep, but definitely a couple that were more challenging than others.

How many shots have you done?
90.

What was the size of your team?
40 artists.

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Scanline VFX: Official website of Scanline VFX.





© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2013

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Vincent Frei

Founder & Editor-in-Chief // VES Member // Former comp artist

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