Wireframe UAV

Whether a movie scene involves live actors or CG models, decisions about camera placement is required. The following shot is of a CG UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) fly-by for an action sequence over Las Vegas in our independent movie, “Dominant Gene“.

Only a few years ago, a typical director’s job was over once principal photography was done. In some cases, decisions about character placement, camera selection and even colour timing and mood were deferred to the computer effects people… I’m thinking of “Vidocq” here (one of the earliest all-digital, theatrically released movies).

your UAV is ready for its close-up

your UAV is ready for its close-up

One reward of directing digitial special effects scenes is that you get to defy physics and budget in getting the camera in impossible positions with sets that are impossible to build with the highest correlation between one’s vision and the shot that is eventually captured for the edit. This Air Force Drone is 100% computer generated using 3ds Max for the model and Photoshop for the UVW maps.

A simple wideshot of the new Predator C (Avenger), hunter-killer, air force drone flying over our heroes.

wideshot

wideshot

This is a test render to determine what type of daylight lighting is necessary to make the model photorealistic.

Lighting Test

Lighting Test

We placed a matchmoving camera inside the 3ds Max scene to match our CG with the live-action footage. Our movie is micro-budget, so, over 80% of our live-action footage are nodal, rotation-only shots (ie. on a tripod without much parallax). This helped us generate easy camera-match solutions.

matchmoving

matchmoving

A quick animation was created to ensure accurate cruising speeds.

animation curve editor

animation curve editor

Then, the animation path was linked to a “flight path” proxy that we could move around. The flight-path proxy maintained the integrity of the original UAV animation… but, we could quickly move the proxy around to get different dramatic angles. One consideration was to pick a path that didn’t evoke too many comparisons to the 9/11 flight path in our scene.

directing the camera

directing the camera