KARLSRUHE, Germany, Aug. 02, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — From fight club at man, David Fincher is a master at using muted lighting and dark palettes to explore the pitfalls of human morality. Now the director has taken his signature aesthetic to bad tripa thriller about a dishonest crew sailing alien seas – and a monster who makes a murderous deal with the ship’s captain.
The Love, Death + Robots The episode marks Fincher’s first fully computer-animated film. It is also the first time that he has contributed directly to the Netflix anthology he is producing alongside Tim Miller. To create the nautical world of bad tripFincher worked with the team at Miller’s animation and visual effects company, Blur Studio, which used V-Ray for 3ds Max lighting tools to help Fincher embrace the dark.
“David Fincher read the original short story that inspired bad trip 15 years ago, and I guess the idea never really left his mind,” said Blur Studio co-supervisor Jean-Baptiste Cambier. “Even though bad trip was his first animation project, we quickly realized that Fincher was naturally curious, always looking for new ways to explore his craft. However, there were definitely new things for him to learn about working with animation as a medium. Unlike live action, animation often doesn’t leave much room for happy accidents on set or instinctive decisions – it’s all thought out, planned and calculated.
To counter this, the Blur team used V-Ray’s Light Selects and Physical Camera Exposure controls to bridge the gap between live action and CG. By rendering footage this way at an early stage, they were able to achieve more intuitive results with shots that didn’t seem cluttered. The team also built a proprietary tool for Nuke called Light Rig, which allowed them to process V-Ray’s Light Selects like a cinematographer would on set. The exposure of each individual light could be controlled interactively, without re-rendering, ensuring that the fluid environment, characters, and simulations could be illuminated on the fly, in real time.
Lighting like Fincher
Lighting work began early in Blur’s lookdev process, which involved refining the aesthetics of each sequence before the assets were created. “Fincher is keenly aware of the practicality of different textures, surfaces and materials, and the physics of how they react to light in the real world,” said Nitant Ashok Karnik, compositing supervisor at Blur. “His eye for color is incredibly precise. For example, when we were setting the lighting for the ship’s hold, Fincher made it clear that he only wanted oil lanterns and moonlight – in particular 1,800K and 4,000K respectively.And of course, they were all perfect in terms of look and feel.
In addition to lighting and color, Fincher was also very intentional about how the audience should feel during key scenes. The sunset in the story, for example, must have been ugly with greenish hues reminiscent Se7fr. Meanwhile, the ship where the film is set was to be disgusting, with a dark cargo hold below deck that would feel hellish and dank – exactly the kind of place the story’s crustacean monster would be found.
“We worked hard to make these characters feel like they were in a horrible, miserable place, and to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as the characters looked,” Karnik said. “We also played with the lighting on the characters. For the anti-hero, Torrin, our art director came up with the idea of using a 50/50 lighting style, where only half of his face was lit. Conceptually, we thought this lighting reflected how morally gray his behavior was. You can see this transition from the start of the short, where light shrouds Torrin’s face, to the end where he’s murdered his entire crew and his face is half-lit.
swing the sea
Being able to create a realistic and horrifying seascape was also key to ensuring the final animation was immersive. To do this, the Blur Studio team used V-Ray’s infinite VRayPlane to define the horizon lines throughout each sequence.
“All in bad trip happens on a boat at sea,” Cambier said. “It represents a relatively confined space, so we knew our representation of parallax and scale was key to making the final render look realistic.”
Once the horizon lines were set, the team had to create the illusion of constant rocking ocean waves, which needed to be verified in the animation previews. There were two ways to do it: swing the whole boat and all the characters on it, as well as the fabric and the hair; or just move all around the boat to give the illusion of swinging.
“The choice was quickly made to rock everything around the boat, as it would have been a nightmare to animate everything on deck,” Cambier said. “Using the VRayPlane was also essential for this. It allowed us to do simple coding to include and capture this infinite ocean in all our renders, from animation to lighting to final composition.
Delivery in record time
Despite only having six months to deliver 386 shots, the Blur Studio team was able to complete bad trip on time by optimizing their workflow. “Chaos has been our partner in crime for a very long time. Even David Fincher’s relationship with V-Ray goes back a long way: his video for Nine Inch Nails’ “Only” (created with Digital Domain) was the first time V-Ray’s photorealistic ray tracing was used in a commercial project. Cambier said.
“For a studio like Blur, each new version of V-Ray has a faster render time, which is a real game-changer. We can either decide to render our shows faster, thus allowing us to move more quickly from one project to another, or we can decide to push our quality, by enabling features such as shutter imperfections, caustics or textures in the fog. Either way, we have more power to keep a show within its original scope and schedule, giving artists time to strike a healthy work/life balance, without sacrificing the quality of our final rendering.
To read an in-depth interview with the team at Blur Studio, check out the Chaos Blog.
Chaos develops visualization technologies that enable artists and designers to create photorealistic images and animations across all creative industries. The company’s physical rendering engine, V-Ray, received both an Academy Award and an Engineering Emmy for its role in the widespread adoption of ray-traced rendering in film and television.
In 2022, Chaos merged with Enscape, a leading provider of real-time rendering and design workflow technologies for the AEC industry. Enscape offers innovative solutions that connect directly to modeling software, seamlessly integrating design and visualization workflows into one. Together, the newly merged company is creating an end-to-end ecosystem of 3D visualization tools available to everyone.
For more information, visit chaos.com and enscape3d.com.