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3D Production Pipeline

3D CGI isn’t just used for unrealistic animated films such as ‘toy story’ and ‘finding nemo’. It is used a lot in modern film to create realistic looking environments and special effects. These are just some of the things involved in making a computer generated 3D environment for a film such as The day after Tomorrow: A New York City data base was obtained from a company called ‘urban data solutions’ who are part of a bigger company called ‘earth data’



Earth Data work from a huge fleet of aircraft, collecting aerial photography and using imaging radar technology to produce high quality, accurate 3D terrain models of the earth surface. They also use thermal and multispectral data collection for 3D city modelling for use in planning, zoning, asset management and engineering. The company employs over 300 people with contacts all over the world, including asia and the far east so they can produce 3D mapping of virtually anywhere. They can offer 3D city models like this:

3D model city

Once they have one of these accurate 3D city models, they get accurate details of all the buildings measurements in New York using a powerful LIDAR VFX scanner with a 3 mile radius. The laser is mounted in an aircraft and by deflecting the laser beam (using a mirror), from left to right, a range of points can be measured. Commonly the laser scanner can take around 5000 measurements per second.

Laser Scanner

The final rendering of the measurements and textures on the buildings is then done by visual effects studios using programmes similar to 3D studio max. The day after tomorrow used shaders in Auto desk Maya rendered in Auto desk Mental Ray – a high performance rendering engine for creating photorealistic imagery such as the environment below:

Maya Environment

Around 12 different visual effects companies were used in the making of the day after tomorrow: Crack Creative – is a Hollywood based production design and effects company Custom Film – Effects is a post-production house specializing in optical and digital effects, based in Burbank, California. Hunter Gratzner Industries/New Deal Studios – miniature and mechanical visual effects. Some of the other visual effects studios used were: Digital domainHydraulxIndustrial Light & Magic (ILM) The OrphanageTweak FilmsZoic studiosYuco The skills of all these studios were put together to create these amazing photo realistic environments:

Day After Tommorow


3D special effects can also be used to create amazing computer generated graphics. A prime example of this is the new Spiderman 3 movie.  A lot of the stunt scenes aren’t 100% computer generated like you might think; a lot of the scenes are actually live footage with heavy computer generated editing.

 As always the Spiderman 3 pipeline began with detailed drawing, storyboarding and modelling:

Venom drawings

Venon Modelling

 Then once the film footage is being filmed, a lot of the scenes are live footage rather than 100% CGI. Scenes begin with the stunt men being hoisted up on cranes and filmed being swung through the air to create the dramatic scenes:

Spiderman 3 filming


On the close up scenes a lot of the texture is live footage of the suits and make up:

 Make up - Spiderman 3

Special techniques are used to film the inhuman facial expressions. The actors faces are manipulated using thin wire as opposed to special effects:

Special Techniques


Then once as much as possible has been done using special techniques and live footage the 3D, the footage is handed over to the texture artists. The close up scenes of Spiderman, when he is fully masked are created from scratch in Maxon software:

Maxon editing - Spiderman 3


Then detailed texture is added using Maxon body paint 3D:

Maxon Editing - Spiderman 3

While this is happening the artists in the matte department are creating realistic 3D environments and painting in sky elements using Maxon 4D cinema to create amazing photo realistic imagery like this:

Finished product

I also looked at the 3D production pipeline of computer games. I decided to look at the production process and the timescale a bit more as opposed to the software and creation process.  The game production team consists of: 

  • An external producer who works along side the game production coordinator.
  • A lead designer who controls departments of 3D modellers, Animators, Builders, texture artists and the audio departments.
  • A lead programmer who controls the Level and game play set up, the user interface, and the Al scripting and engine programming. 

 Heres is a quick overview of game production: Looking at the production process of the Hit man Games, the process begins with the idea stage. This takes around 3 months and consists of:·        Deciding on a graphical style·        Game play Sketches

·        Storyline write up


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