Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Show Reel

Currently I am in the midst of compiling my work together from the 9-10 months I spent working on Singularity. I like to try and keep a record of the work and break it out like I did for Wolfenstein, but it takes some serious time to do this.

Visual Effects Artist Tim Elek Show Reel 2010 from Tim Elek on Vimeo.

I enjoy editing, and sometimes I wonder if I worry too much about the edit vs. what I am supposed to be showcasing. Either way I think a good VFX artist needs to have a sense of timing and a sensibility to context...I guess timing the shots to the music, and trying to contextualize the visual to what the music is doing is my justification for this reel.

Plus I try to put all of my energy into my work, and this song just happens to fit my current disposition.

As with any reel there are some effects in here that are the culmination of one or two peoples work, but each effect in this reel constitutes my work in the final form.

For example, some of the time wave effects were originally executed by another talented VFX artist who left Raven. Unfortunately the original version of this time wave was entirely too expensive bogging down the PS3 to 15-20 fps. We really liked the original intent the artist had, and it was my job to bring the particle FX into a reasonable budget while maintaining as much of the original vision as possible.

Being a lead VFX artist I do not believe that getting performance in line is the job of an intern or of a more junior person. I have heard many other technical/FX people talk like this, but I am of the opinion each member of the team is responsible for bringing their work in-line with technical limitations regardless of team hierarchy.

No one under my personal leadership/on our VFX team on Singularity had the luxury of making it shit-hot while leaving it up to someone else to get it to run.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

General VFX info

I thought I would throw up a quick post relating to process and just do a brain dump now that Singularity is out for the public to see. It was an interesting 9+ months and I am very proud of the work my team accomplished in such a short period of time. We were behind the 8 ball in many ways, performance in general being the biggest hurdle, but we managed to get it all finished.

The following work represents items that might have made it to production, were part of the process along the way, are tests representing my most current push to improve my work, or just never made it past the chopping block.

Often times as I am working I make efforts to take a snapshot of a moment in time during the life of an effect or scene I am working on. In this particular case I was working with Derrick Hammond on the environment side of things blocking out the path through a burning building. Derrick and I worked closely with the designer to ensure the main player path was long enough to make the player feel the space was accurate to reality, while maintaing a solid base for performance tuning.

We knew from the get go this particular area was going to be a performance challenge so we worked hard to expand the perception of space via side rooms which were unaccesible yet visible, and blown out sections of roof etc. which looked through to other areas on fire.

The fire itself was primarily rendered using a Maya Fluid sim flipbook I created for use on geo. Using geo eliminated the extra overdraw cost involved in constantly spawning a series of sprites and had zero CPU/GPU evaluation cost. I worked closely with my Tech Artist Mike Gilardi to get the right look. Mike created a material and we put our heads together to get it looking good, Mike doing the heavy lifting on the shader side with input from me.

The movie below represents one of our early tests of the scene where we were pushing to see just how many fires we could get in the scene prior to post processing.


I like this particular movie because even at this very early BSP block-out stage you can see the potential in the process we were employing, and it was at this point we knew we could accomplish our goals.

This next movie showcases some VFX rendered in a newer version of Unreal using Lightmass and finely tuned gamma settings with some additional post processing turned on.

I really enjoy working in this particular scene because the post process bloom is finely tuned and allows me to visualize a full color range in my textures. Bloom and intensity were also handled via a custom shader which allowed me to control which luminance values would receive bloom and which would not. This particular movie in my mind represents the direction I would like to see more of my work moving in the future. Finer control over the color/saturation/luminance/bloom over each sprite, over the life of the system.


Finally I am posting a quick video that I think represents any good VFX artist. I often find myself just standing at the stove staring at the steam coming from the tea kettle, or the way the water flows out of the watering can breaking up as gravity takes its effect. Lately I have been trying to capture these moments with my iPhone when I see them. My wife often times asks me if I can turn work off and I of course accommodate by putting away the phone, but I cannot seem to go through a day without noticing the most menial of environmental effects...for instance the raindrops on the window of my car, outside the grocery store...


I don't often get time to update this blog, but I think it might be fun to do some more posts relating to VFX. I have a ton of ideas relating to the industry and my particular place in it. Also working on my 2010 show-reel and getting some more Singularity work out there.