How was your collaboration with director Tomek Baginski?
After CD Project Red, the game developer, asked us to make the teaser for their new game Cyberpunk 2077 we prepared a dozen of ideas Unfortunately we were very limited by the deadline and most of the scripts were too complicated to be produced on time. On the other hand we didn’t want to make just another fancy title reveal which was also an option. Cyberpunk deserved something stronger even for a teaser. So we started looking for an idea that would be both interesting and simple. We decided to make a very short, poster-like teaser with just one frozen scene, one or two shots. It soon turned out that idea started to evolve during the production and one shot wasn’t enough neither for us nor CDPR. We were adding more and more shots in the layout. Quite in the middle of production we also completely changed the soundtrack, re-edited the film and… added another bunch of shots. Generally this was quite crazy workflow and a lot more work than we initially assumed.
What were your references for the characters and environment?
The most important reference is the drawing of the girl from the original pen and paper Cyberpunk 2020 handbook. That was the starting point for the whole teaser and a wink to the fans of the original game.
Can you tell us in details about the creation of the different characters and especially the woman?
Character creation started as usual with concepts and research on clothes and equipment. After that we took a bit unusual approach, at least for us, and we prepared a casting for the main character of the girl.
Once we found our perfect candidate we’ve set our small party for a trip to East England to make a scanning session at Infinite Realities run by ingenious Lee Perry Smith. There we’ve scanned our main character as well as the psychosquad soldier and all of the massacre victims. This was quite fun since we could play those poor corpses ourselves.
Scanning changed the whole process of the creation of the characters quite a lot, putting more attention to the preproduction and I believe it helped to achieve this extra level of ‘truth’ in characters which you can easily loose in CG. Technically there was still a lot of work. 3d scans were treated more like a 3d reference and lot of retopologizing, and remodeling had to be done.
The woman has great hair and eyes. Can you tell us more about those?
Again we started with good photo references and scans. Then we used a variety of tools for 3dsmax Hair was modeled with Hairfarm then converted to Ornatrix and rendered with Vray.
Eyes were another story. We have only two shots with eyes but these are quite extreme closeups and as you can imagine a lot of attention had to be put to texturing. Animation required a mixture of blendshapes, hand animated deformations, and a special rig for eyelashes.
How did you create the various cloths?
Cloths were not a big problem here since there’s no movement and cloth simulation involved and we had those precious scans to work with. Still there was quite a lot of remodeling and changes in proportions and detail. For example the girl was scanned in a quite different outfit. She was wearing an old school corset and stockings but just before we started final rendering CD Projekt Red realized that it doesn’t really fit the vision and the outfit was remodeled to something simpler and modern.
Can you explain to us more about the bullet disintegration on woman face?
This effect was a bit difficult concept wise. We started with ultra slow motion references of the real bullets hitting concrete walls and tried to recreate that effect. The problem is that bullets observed in extreme slow motion behave not like one you could have imagined and seem ‘unrealistic’. Metal disintegrates and for a short time behaves almost like a liquid. This is very interesting effect but our tests in CG seemed unconvincing for us. Finally we ended up with something different. The outer copper shell of the bullet was hand animated and then filled with simulated particles This is still perhaps not the most realistic effect. But fortunately Cyberpunk is about style. You get shot straight in face yet your hairdo stays intact (laughs).
How did you create the FX such as the muzzle flash and the bullet trails?
This is a mixture of Fume simulations and Krakatoa.
How did you design and created the police vehicle?
Concept of the vehicle and all of the guns was delivered by CDPR. They are in love with those designs so we tried to recreate them in 3d very carefully and treat them with the same respect as characters.
Can you tell us more about the creation of the beautiful environment?
When we started production of the teaser CD Projekt Red was at the very beginning of their concept work for the game. This is quite unusual. For example when we worked on THE WITCHER 2 cinematic last year the whole conceptual process was finished months before that. We could also use lots of assets from the complete game. This time creation of the teaser was actually a part of the process of the concept work for the game. That was interesting but at the same time required a lot of changes until the last day of the production of the teaser.
We have only one location in this cinematic but since it’s one of the streets of the game setting – Night City – it was very important for CD Projekt Red that teaser would be as close to their vision as possible. The architecture was important, the specific coexistence of an old, historical buildings with futuristic structures and references to the original Cyberpunk 2020 like trademarks of the companies eg Militech, Kiroshi Optics. The use of intense color and the level of technical advancement were also the key points. As to the technical details the whole street and the buildings up to the 3rd floor are a pure rendering only wide panorama of the skyscrapers is a matte-painting.
What was the biggest challenge on this project and how did you achieve it?
Perhaps for me it was the question how to make a lot of cliche elements work together and still seem interesting. You can add slow motion film, with almost no action but flying bullets, muzzle flashes, with a sexy girl kneeling to complete the picture We’ve all seen that, many times. Have we achieved to add anything fresh to that? – That is a different question.
Was there a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleep?
I didn’t sleep very well during the whole production (laughs).
What do you keep from this experience?
I had an occasion to go back to the roots and do some basic work with modeling, layout, rendering etc. It’s a good thing to refresh the skills.
How long have you worked on this cinematic?
Preproduction took about 1 month, then we spent 3 months on actual work in 3d.
What was the size of your team?
About 30 artists were involved. Less than 10 artists for a more than few days and only two of them worked on the project for the whole time.
What is your next project?
I’m involved in production of another cinematic, but I can’t say more right now.
A big thanks for your time.
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// CYBERPUNK 2077 – TEASER – PLATIGE IMAGE
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2013