Fusion CI Studio
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  • National Treasure interview with Mark Stasiuk
  • RealFlow
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  • Guardian Fluid FX Secrets
  • Next Limit Technologies

January 14, 2008

VFX ‘Secrets’ finally revealed in National Treasure’s Book


Asylum Visual Effects is one of the pre-eminent vfx houses in Hollywood, having worked on high-profile films like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Déjà Vu, Apocalypto, King Kong, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Master and Commander. For National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Walt Disney Pictures), Asylum delivered a dazzling array of visual effects from painting to set-extensions to digital doubles to building intricately detailed CG environments. Yet when it came to complex fluid fx, Asylum did what many experienced studios are doing, they called-in the expertise of Mark Stasiuk at Fusion CI Studios. As a result, Asylum produced fluid fx not yet seen in feature film.

“We had already decided to use RealFlow and were well on our way to creating all of the effects that were asked from us on National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” says Jeff Werner, head of CG for Asylum VFX, “but we really wanted to bring our water pipeline capabilities to the next level. We were impressed with Mark’s work on The Guardian and Poseidon and we knew his experience would be invaluable. With his help, I think we have achieved work that we can really be proud of.”

One of the set extensions Asylum created was a deep canyon that actors Helen Mirren and Jon Voight had to cross during a dramatic scene. To make the crossing more exciting, it was decided to include a raging river in the canyon – a digital raging river. “This is the first time this has been done for a feature film and the results were fantastic,” says Mark Stasiuk, co-founder/fluid fx supervisor at Fusion CI Studios. “Viewers will would never guess this is a cg river.”

“Using Python scripting, we set up a fluid flow containing dynamic moving vortices that we could control the distribution of,” says Stasiuk. “At the same time, we could run a high resolution sim that was multi-threaded. So rather than looking like flowing chocolate or lava (which is easy), the flows would look like turbulent rivers. I also set it up so that the river simulation was fast -- a few hundred frames would simulate overnight, which is really fast. Adding the foam layer would be another few hours on top of that. So in a 24 hour period it was possible to come up with a completely new version. This was all done is a very tight timeframe due to the methodologies we’ve developed at Fusion CIS.”

Asylum had about 40 shots requiring fluid fx -- a lake surface in the City of Gold, water streaming down the sides of temples & pillars, gushes & spurts of water, and a high-pressure flow bursting through gates. About 70 percent of the fluids in the shots were computer generated and they had to match perfectly with the real thing. Because Asylum had a small team and a tight timeline to accomplish this, Mark developed tools using python scripting that allowed Asylum to set-up scene files automatically and launch sets of sim files on a render farm with a single press of a computer key. “These tools increased the speed of the work by an order of magnitude,” says Stasiuk, “so artists could focus on making the water elements look good, rather than worrying about the technical details.”

Fusion CI Studios is the only studio in North America specializing exclusively in photo-real cg fluid and particle fx. Fusion CIS provides in-house fluid fx artists, fluid fx team supervision, tool & pipeline development, fluid assets and/or rendered elements for commercial work and feature film. www.fusioncis.com

Next Limit Technologies’ mission is to provide cutting edge simulation technologies for a broad range of applications in Computer Graphics, Science and Engineering. Next Limit Technologies are the creators of RealFlow, Maxwell Render and XFlow. www.nextlimit.com