Our first project in School


Alright. It's been a couple of hectic weeks but now it's finally over. It sounds very negative when I say "finally" but that's not really the case.
Approximately 6 weeks ago, our teachers revealed our first class project that turned out to be a real client. Unfortunately I can't tell you what client and I cant show you the result due to it being a secret internal project. All I can say is that the client ordered explosions - and lots of it! The main task was to blow up a building in sequences, floor by floor under a pressure of time and finally end it with the big explosion finale where the entire building would collapse in a cloud of fire and smoke. How the heck can we do that and make it look realistic after just a couple of months of studying? Well, that was our challenge to figure out! 

What tools did we have? 

Well, we had all the tools we needed but we did not have the knowledge - yet. Our teachers started by dividing us into small teams: Concept, Animatic, Tracking, Modelling, Simulation (FX) and Comp. In short we we're supposed to mimic a real pipeline as close as we could. I got the honor and the challenge to lead the Simulation/FX-team and figure out the explosions. At first we where supposed to use Bifrost in Maya to make this happen, but the team quickly decided to take a leap of faith and dive into Side FX's Houdini instead. Ironically, none of us had even seen the interface of Houdini, but we knew the power of it and what opportunities it could open up for us.
The learning curve was long and steep. Since none of us had worked in a node-based program before, we had to learn it from scratch. Each node was something new and we couldn't find the perfect tutorial to teach us exactly what we needed to learn. We googled, went through hours of youtube-videos, read forums and actually managed to end up with a final explosion in time! Well, 10 minutes over deadline but that's something I rather not talk about! 

The point is, that we made it. My team made it. Even if we had higher expectations where we wanted each explosion to be simulated, we had to cut down on our dreams and let comp do all the explosions before the huge final. If you wonder why comp could do the explosions instead of us, it depends on them using pre-rendered assets instead of simulating, caching and then render each explosion. There was simply not enough time and knowledge to manage six explosions in a software we barely knew how to use. We stumbled across so many problems but figured it out together and actually had a final version to show for the client and that's something I'm proud of. I'm proud of the close collaboration we had with the modelling team for example. When we had simulation and UV-problems, the modelling team figured them out so that we could continue with our demolition. 

The big challenge was the communication between each department. Since we all depended on each other, I have now learned that communication is key to success. Without the hard work of all the teams we wouldn't have tracked camera shots. We wouldn't have concept art, animatic nor a previs to visualize the final product. We wouldn't have a 3D building to blow up with simulation if it weren't for everyone so to speak. It was a nice challenge and I personally learned a lot when it comes to workflow and how a pipeline can work.
Well, I didnt even manage to finish this post in time before another project started. This monday we were thrown right into another project with new teams and new challenges. It's time to learn rigging and focus on 3D Animation in this project. All I can say about this right now is Merry Christmas and a happy new year!