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A VFX artist Danil Krivoruchko gave a talk on his latest project ‘Blindsight’ and the way he’s generating effects in Houdini.
Originally Ukranian I’ve spent 6 years in Moscow, Russia doing print/interactive/motion design. Five years ago I moved to New York and have been working as an Art Director / VFX Artist at Charlex company. Starting this year I decided to go 100% freelance and now do basically the same tasks as an independent artist.
I read the novel for the first time in 2009 then it was translated into Russian. It had some kind of cult status in 3D-community back then and a friend of mine recommended it to me. I was blown away by the amount of technical, scientific, and psychological details Peter packed in the novel still keeping it so tense and interesting to read. It felt like it had enough good provoking ideas not just for one book but for five. And having so many vivid details in the text I literally was watching a movie inside my head as I went through the novel. I never had ambitions to actually make the movie I imagined, the task was just too big so I patiently waited if someone in Hollywood picks the story and make a movie out of it.
Couple years ago I realized that my English skills had improved a bit so maybe I should read the original text instead of Russian translation. Digging through the internet I found that in the years passed Peter had some argument with the publisher and decided to make the novel freely available for everyone under Creative Commons License. There was a donation link to show some gratitude and support to the author which I was more than happy to do. To my surprise, Peter wrote back and that’s how the project has started. I talked to some of my friends who do 3d/animation for a living too and we decided that making some renders for the best sci-fi novel out there is a good way to show our love to the book.
Initially, we wanted to make just a bunch of still frames, creating full-CG animated short felt too time-consuming and ambitious. But as time passed more and more images were made which helped us to attract even more extremely talented people. As the team grew we realized that now we have enough resources to pull animation tasks. The project still goes slowly though because everyone involved only doing it in spare time in between of commercial projects.
The alien mothership (The Rorschach) is a weird beast. It has half organic half alien mechanical design and Watts described it having loose torus shape kept together by magnetic fields. Building such a thing using classic modeling approach wasn’t a good idea so I switched to procedural approach. The whole ship was made in Houdini and it was more like a growing the thing and dealing with algorithmic shape generation than pulling polygons back and forth. It allowed me to do a lot of quick iterations searching for the right shape and balance of masses. Peter was kind enough to give us some feedback on early concepts so I am proud that at some point he approved the design saying that it looks very close to how he imagined the ship.
All effects are made in Houdini. On top of that a lot of modeling, scene layout, animation, and rendering are in Houdini too. Because all parts of the app are highly integrated it was relatively easy to add effects to the shots. For example, in the lab explosion scene, the force field of the explosion drives the way how the cloth tears apart and how the internal rigid structure is broken.
And we actually developed project pretty far. The script and shot list are all set and already storyboarded. And we have a lot of progress on actual shots, some of them already finished. I wish I can show more than we put into the teaser but we don’t want to spoil the story too much.
We aim to release a full CG short and have an interactive piece supporting it with some additional materials which didn’t make it into the final cut.