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Breakdown: A Cinematic Trailer For A Fictional Breaking Bad Game

Piotr Tatar spoke to us about The Last Batch, explaining how he combined CGI and traveling by visiting the show's location in New Mexico for drone photogrammetry and employing a variety of software, including 3ds Max, ZBrush, Substance 3D Painter, Marvelous Designer, and Houdini to create a stunning cinematic.


Hi, I'm Piotr Tatar, a generalist with professional experience at esteemed studios like Platige Image, ILM, Imagedendary, and more recently, Distillery VFX. Throughout my career, I've had the privilege of contributing to blockbuster movies like Black Panther, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and the Mandalorian TV series.

Originally from Poland, my passion for 3D modeling and CGI has been ingrained in me since childhood. Discovering that I could turn this passion into a career was a game-changer for me. This article delves into my journey of bringing to life a short cinematic featuring the iconic RV from Breaking Bad, a project that has been brewing in my mind for years.

Join me as I share insights into the creative process, the challenges encountered along the way, and the joy of merging my love for CGI with my passion for exploration and travel.

The Last Batch – Idea

As a big fan of Breaking Bad, I've always dreamed of creating something within this universe. So, I decided to craft a short cinematic featuring the iconic 986 Fleetwood Bounder RV from the TV show. But I wanted to add a little twist to make it more intriguing!

The project itself took me quite a while to finish, and I completed the first animatic below about 2-3 years ago. I knew it would be a lengthy endeavor, which is why having a subject that keeps you engaged and interested is crucial if you want to see it through to the end! In this case, I aimed to make the whole process more captivating by combining two activities I enjoy the most: CGI creation and traveling/exploration. But I'll delve into that a bit later!

RV aka Crystal Ship 

You've got to start somewhere, and for me, it was the RV - that famous vehicle from a TV show I've always loved. Despite its basic shape, this iconic RV holds countless options for customizing the interior! The details you can add are endless. I first created a version of the RV nine years ago for a car render challenge hosted by 3dmodels.org.

Initially, I thought I could just recycle it for my animation, but I soon realized how inaccurate and lacking in detail my old model was. After seeing the real vehicle in person and doing a rough photogrammetry pass, I was able to remodel and retexture my old model to make it closer to the real thing.

For modeling, I relied on good old 3ds Max, and for unwrapping, I used RizomUV, which turned out to be quick and fun to use! Knowing I wanted high-fidelity textures and shaders, I opted for Substance 3D Painter as my texturing tool. At the time, the support for multiple UDIMs was a new feature, and it proved incredibly useful, allowing me to pack in as much texture detail as I needed.

The interior was a collaboration with my colleague Michał Bończyk, who did an amazing job modeling the dashboard, shelves, and other electronics.

Meanwhile, I focused on details like seats, which I found ideal to model in Marvelous Designer, treating them as cloth to achieve better results. I also enjoyed creating details like wires and additional props to fill up the space with clutter. You can never have too many details!

Once we were satisfied with the interior model, Michał handled the UVs and textured the interior in Substance 3D Painter to ensure consistency with the exterior shaders. The enjoyable process of look development was completed in 3ds Max, where I used the Redshift renderer to finalize all the shaders.

Landscape – To'Hajiilee, New Mexico

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted the creation process to be enjoyable, allowing me to test new workflows not typically available at work. I also aimed to find the right balance, spending time exploring new locations that I could later recreate in 3D using drone photogrammetry. This was my goal for the project, and I believe I managed to find that balance!

Part of it involved locating a real spot from the TV series where Walter and Jessie first took the RV into the desert. After some research, I discovered it was called To'Hajiilee, about 40km from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I suggest using Google Earth before such expeditions; it helps plan the shooting and can prevent some future mistakes (though not all). I selected specific rock features essential for recreating a believable location. I spent a total of three days shooting, making sure to capture as much footage as possible (you can never have too much; it can save you later on!).

The first day involved a rough scan of the entire valley for animatic purposes and to establish the layout of rocks and cliffs. This also provided natural elevation data that would be difficult to recreate procedurally. Over the next two days, I focused on scanning the hero assets – massive cliffs that would be challenging to capture without a drone. Due to their size, capturing them proved quite challenging, with a constant battle against sunlight, harsh shadows, battery changes, heat, and the occasional encounter with rattlesnakes. However, these challenges added to the excitement and made the endeavor very memorable!

After returning from my New Mexico trip with all the materials, I shifted my focus to building actual 3D assets. I utilized RealityCapture to create the initial 3D models. I was pleased with the results and the level of detail I could maintain.

However, the assets had numerous bugs that needed fixing. Fortunately, I was able to address them using Substance 3D Painter and ZBrush – lots and lots of ZBrush! I had to eliminate all the mesh bugs and foliage before moving on to texturing. This involved using ZBrush and various flatten brushes, which proved to be quite tedious work. However, it also allowed me to add extra details that were lost during the photo-shooting process.

Next, I turned to Substance 3D Painter to remove any harsh lighting, shadows, and GI spills. I created a procedural shader that mimicked the real asset, allowing me to paint over the flawed areas. And there you have it! After many hours of manual labor – fixing bugs, recreating shaders, and fine-tuning in Redshift – you've got yourself some cool assets ready to use!

What's a desert without plants, rocks, and other small items? I love this stage of the process because it's when you can bring your environment to life. The next step was to build a library of these assets, which I could then scatter across my landscape.

Knowing I didn't want to spend most of my time building them from scratch, I focused on a few key tree and bush assets that I created in SpeedTree while purchasing the rest from online libraries. Megascans were also helpful for obtaining small boulders and rocks, and adding some cliff texture details in shading. Finally, I made full use of the amazing Forest Pack tools, which provided me with enough control to scatter entire vegetation and other assets.

Additionally, I heavily relied on tyFlow's scattering capabilities, which were fantastic for adding an extra level of complexity by distributing rocks and pebbles using PhysX collisions. If you want to take your scattering to the next level, in my opinion, this is the way to go.


I've never considered myself a character artist, but I knew I'd need to challenge myself to create one eventually. My goal was to present Walter White as the driver inside the RV.

It didn't have to be perfect, as I only intended to show him from a certain angle. I began with a rough, free scan of a head bust I found on the Sketchfab website. Though it resembled a toy, it had certain features that made it somewhat similar to Walter White. I then started tweaking it in ZBrush, cleaning up the model and adding details.

Once I was satisfied with the initial look and resemblance, I started adding texture details and skin displacement using resources from 3D Scan Store. These really brought the character to life. Creating other elements like the beard, glasses, and respirator filter also contributed to the overall look.

One of the most crucial steps in this character creation process was choosing the right outfit for Walt. I opted for the yellow hazmat suit, which is as iconic to me as the RV itself. Marvelous Designer was the perfect tool for this task. It not only helped achieve realistic fabric folds but also allowed for cloth simulation for the interior shots. Initially, it seemed like an easy task, but simulating cloth inside a fast-moving vehicle proved challenging and caused many issues. After numerous attempts, I managed to stabilize the character so it only moved up and down (reacting to road bumps), providing more predictable results.

I also used Marvelous Designer for other assets like curtains, Walt's green shirt outside the RV, seats, and even creating a tourist paper map seen on the dashboard! Overall, I'm pleased with the result of Walter as an asset. Although far from perfect, it suited my needs perfectly.


Having spent a considerable amount of time in the VFX industry, I understand the importance of an animatic when considering a cinematic animation. Not only does it provide an almost finished draft and edit, but it also helps avoid unnecessary work (though that's not always the case!).

For my animatic, I utilized a rough 3D scan of the terrain I captured from the actual location, as mentioned earlier. It was low poly enough to play around with and provided some details to guide camera placement and shot planning. I approached this rough scan with the mindset of a film crew, aiming to stay true to the actual layout created by nature and shoot as is.

For the RV animation, I used an old-school 3ds Max plug-in called Craft Animation Tool. It's a useful toolset not only for car simulation but also for cameras. After rigging the car, I utilized splines to control its path, ensuring more predictable movements and speed.

The great thing about this plug-in is the ability to link the camera to the vehicle with specific logic. Sometimes, I wanted the camera to lag slightly behind the car, while other times I desired a realistic camera shake. It served as an excellent starting point, although some tweaking was necessary afterward.

For Walter's animation, I opted for the traditional biped rig system within 3ds Max. From the start, I knew my character wouldn't be doing any wild movements, just driving. In fact, the entire character animation is procedurally driven, with only a few keyframes for his head.

Let me elaborate: the entire character rig automatically responds to the car's suspension and steering wheel. I utilized various constraints within the biped to link Walter's hands to the steering wheel. His body (pelvis) is connected to the seat, which reacts to suspension movements with a slight delay. I aimed for subtle, delayed body movements and inertia, so I utilized some point helpers from the Craft Animation Tool once again. These helpers can be configured to filter out any jittery movements, resulting in smooth and delayed animation. I relied on this workflow in many cases within the RV. Additionally, I applied several noise modifiers to each animation for added realism.


For my main renderer, I opted for Redshift from Maxon. It has been my go-to choice for personal projects in recent years. I've always been impressed by its speed, especially considering the amount of unique geometry and textures you can incorporate into the scene, thanks to its out-of-core rendering technology.

Originally, I planned to render the final frames on the render farm, and Maxon graciously supported me in that endeavor. However, due to some plug-in compatibility issues (like Forest Pack, etc.), I had to rely on my own PC for the final render. Therefore, I used a single NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 with 24GB of VRAM. Render times varied from 5 to 25 minutes per frame.

Rendering on my own machine was definitely one of the bottlenecks and reasons why this project took so long. Quality is always determined by the number of iterations you can undertake and how much you can improve the shot.

FX Simulations 

I feel like this part would need a separate article to explain the process, so I'll keep it brief. When envisioning this cinematic, I always knew it would require lots of FX and simulations to achieve the desired result. Almost every shot involved some sort of simulation, which tended to slow down the overall process.

That's why I decided to collaborate on some tasks and reached out to my friends Orion Terry and later on to Jarek Dawidziuk for help. This allowed us to focus on different tasks and make progress more efficiently. Orion handled most of the hero RV dust shots and ground destruction using Houdini, which handled more complex dust and destruction shots well. Unfortunately, he lost most of his data, so I don't have much to share from his work.

On my end, I was responsible for bringing RBD simulations and dust VDBs to 3ds Max and making them look good using Redshift. Additionally, I added extra simulation layers and passes I created in tyFlow to enhance the ground simulations. Initially, I simulated small particles and debris using the grain solver inside of tyFlow with proper physics. This helped integrate all the elements together and added extra complexity and proper motion blur.

I also used tyFlow's scatter capabilities to set dress our destructions with foliage, rocks, and pebbles. tyFlow was also helpful for secondary destructions using the newest solvers – Prism, and for physically scattering rocks, debris, etc., throughout the scene.

When it came to dust simulations (apart from the hero ones from Houdini), I wanted to try EmberGen and its real-time capabilities. It was super fun to use, and the real-time feedback was helpful for understanding specific parameters and achieving the desired look more quickly. I also used it for additional dust passes in many shots just to enhance the scene. I will definitely use this software in the future.

Overall, the FX part of this project was the most challenging stage, and I have immense respect for this specialization, given the technical knowledge and artistry it requires, not to mention the large amount of data needed to store all the simulations and other assets. The project grew rapidly, requiring almost 10TB of storage at its peak.


Here's what I've learned from this project: sometimes, it's important to let go of the pursuit of perfection and enjoy the creative journey. For me, it was all about having fun along the way, with each accomplishment being a pleasant surprise.

Every shot seemed like a separate personal project with new sets of challenges on the horizon. Trying out new tools and techniques, like working with my friends and experimenting with different software, brought great rewards. Collaborating with Orion Terry, Michał Bończyk, Bartek Suchy, and Jarek Dawidziuk not only made the work lighter but also made it more enjoyable. Choosing a subject that truly excited me ensured that I stayed motivated, even when things got tough. Yes, the project took longer than I expected, but sticking to my vision and seeing it through was incredibly satisfying.

Remember, perfection may not be attainable, but seeing your vision come to life is priceless. Don't be afraid to explore new tools and expand your creative boundaries – that's where the real magic happens. Stay true to your vision, dream big, and enjoy the creative journey. As long as you're having fun, you're on the right track. I'm excited to continue this journey, exploring new projects and sharing insights along the way. A big thank you to everyone who has supported me, and here's to many more adventures in the world of CGI!

Piotr Tatar, Senior Generalist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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