Siggraph 2015 Rewind - Patrick Longstreth: Hellyfish VFX Breakdown in Cinema 4D

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C4D Deformers, Projections and Hair in an outrageous Sci-Fi short.

See how Patrick Longstreth used Cinema 4D to achieve the visual effects in his short film Hellyfish.

05:06Preproduction and Previs
06:46Principal Photography
09:47Jellyfish Animation
17:26Jellyfish Rig
24:11Hair Dynamics
26:44Emitting Water Particles from Hair
27:32Pier Destruction with Projections and Deformers
30:15Projection Mapping the Credit Sequence
42:50Title Sequence (Realflow)

Patrick used Cinema 4D in pre-production to visualize shots, and then turned to the application again after shooting the film to accomplish the visual effects. Patrick shows a simple jellyfish rig and animation techniques using C4D deformers. He shows how C4D's Hair helped to surface the jellyfish tentacles, and a C4D preset to emit Thinking Particles from Hair tips helped to simulate water splashing from the hairs.

Patrick shows projection mapping used both in the visual effects of the film (pier sequence) and also to provide some depth and motion in an otherwise flat end-credits sequence.

Finally, you'll see some of the compositing process, and how Realflow was used to create liquid simulations in the main title.



- [Patrick] How's everyone doing today? I'm Patrick Longstreth, and today I'm going to tell you about my short film that stars radioactive, mutant, killer jellyfish, all created in Cinema 4D. So it's really great to be here, I'm really grateful that Maxon decided to invite me and let me show you guys how we made this really fun short film. First I'm going to show you guys my little demo reel. And this is a reel that includes some of my work, along with two of my colleagues: Andrew Mitchell, who's here in Los Angeles, and also Pryce Duncalf, who's in London. And we've collaborated on some stuff, so this is our work right here. ♪ [music] ♪ All right, so as you can see, you know we do animation, motion graphics, visual effects. Everything you see there was done in Cinema--all the 3D at least. There's also a lot of compositing in After Effects and Nuke. But, you know, we do it all. So I've been using Cinema for 10 years now, and a few years ago I decided I wanted to make my own short film. And this is what ended up happening. And I'll just show you guys the trailer, and then I'll show you, you know, break downs of how we did everything. ♪ [music] ♪ - [Female] Stop. Here is good. - [Reporter] An exceptionally high number of jellyfish has local biologists stumped. - [Male] If the Defense Department would clean up their act back there in the Cold War, we wouldn't have all these freaks out here washin' up onto shore. Sleepin' dogs is fine, as long as they sleepin'. ♪ [music] ♪ - [Girl] Guys, maybe we should get out of the water. ♪ [music] ♪ - So, that's just a little taste of the Hellyfish. You can watch the whole film on YouTube right now if you want, or you can go to and watch it, and see more behind the scenes stuff. I even have DVDs here today that I'll be giving out for any of you who want to watch it at home on your big TV. So yeah, we put it into some film festivals, got into about 25 film festivals, and now we're in the process of developing it into a feature film with this company called Pod Intermedia that's helping us produce it, so that's exciting. And so right from the get-go, before I even started filming, I started using Cinema to plan out the film. I did a lot of kind of pre-vis scenes like this that, you know, look kind of goofy, but they really helped us figure out the composition and timing. You know, there's even music on this clip because we wanted to see exactly how long the shot needed to be to match up to the soundtrack that was at the end. We ended up getting rid of that Ferris Wheel, by the way, but this was a great tool for me, my co-director Rob, and the DP to kind of talk about shots. I've got to stop opening Photoshop, there. I even did some overhead layouts in Cinema, especially for the bigger shots where we needed to know, okay what time of day are we shooting, which direction is the sun going to be? And then, our first opening scene was all in green screen. So actually, I recorded the... - I do not understand, why you think-- - Recorded the... - Have you ever been with a virgin? - I recorded our rehearsal and then timed it out with all the different camera moves in Cinema. And I know this looks kind of silly, but again as a director, a filmmaker, just being able to just crank this stuff out really quick, even faster than storyboards, really helped. And I'll show you guys this shot later where we go underneath the boat and come back up out of the water. So, this really helped me plan out the film. We then went and filmed for about 15 days on the beach in Tybee Island, Georgia, which is near Savannah, Georgia, where I got my degree in visual effects at the Savannah College of Art and Design. So let's take a look here, just kind of show you a taste of what the shots looked like. We had some green screen stuff, as I said. We shot at an underwater scuba instruction facility. Luckily our actor who was in the water was scuba certified. We had a lot of shots that were in the sand, so like really down in the sand, which is why we shot on a 5D and 7D. It also just made production go a lot faster than it would with some bigger cameras. Shot a little bit on this news ENG-style camera. This is me looking really serious with a walkie-talkie in my hand. We had a lot of, you know, thumbnail sketches to collaborate on these big scenes. We had our 10 by 10 green screen out on the beach a few days. We had it in the water also. Our set got attacked by horseshoe crabs, and miraculously nobody quit. This is my brother. So basically I wanted to cast as many of my friends, so I could watch them get killed in the movie. This is my friend Brady who's a great kiteboarder. We had to film a lot of running shots so then, hence the steady-cam. We brought out this fake RPG on the beach, which attracted a little bit of attention. This is my co-director Rob, building. He loves building props like this. We shot some practical elements on a green screen for our title sequence of blood and dead fish. We had to create some slime to throw on some of our actors. This is Gary who plays the sea captain, and he's also a real sea captain in real life, and that's how we got the location for the marina, which was nice. We had to build a lifeguard stand on the beach because we're filming in the winter and they removed all the lifeguard stands. So, you know, a lot of work went into the production, and the visual on-set design of everything. And I still don't know why Photoshop is opening, we don't need Photoshop today. All right, so here we go with the animation process. So I want to show you guys first how I used some deformers to build this small, I call it the baby jellyfish. And I didn't use any dynamics for this. There are actually some really great tutorials. There's one on digital tutors for building a jellyfish in Cinema 4D using all the right dynamics and cloth-like surfaces, but this is just all deformers and it was a great fast solution for us for the few shots that we needed this in. So I'll show you the process for that. Give me a moment here. All right, so this is a real simple setup. I started with a mospline, and if any of you guys have used mosplines before, you know there's some controls here for adjusting the curve and bend and twist. And then if I put that inside of a sweep nurbs, I get some actual geometry here that I can still adjust and animate using that spline. And then I can put that inside of an array, and I get an array of tentacles that I can still, again continue to animate or in this case basically just reposition to get them to look the way I want. And then the next piece of our jellyfish is the kind of inner flaps, which I built, I just modeled by hand and, let me see here. So you can see the geometry there. I have two levels of detail. This is kind of the base geometry and then when I turn on my hyper nurbs it gets a little more detailed. And then there's the top dome part of the jellyfish which is just a sphere which I extruded the tentacles down, and again that also has two levels of detail here in the geometry. So I'm going to turn off the hyper nurbs while I'm animating here, and I'm going to start with this squash and stretch deformer that I can just drop inside the hierarchy here, of my jellyfish. And let's see, there we go. I'll reposition it a little bit. And you can see that I can go to the factor value and just start to create a squishy animation, here. I'm going to adjust the smooth start and smooth end here, to kind of smooth that out, and I have a couple values here I've got to type in. Okay, so I'm going to animate the, again the stretch factor, so at frame 28, just be patient with me here while I set a few key frames. We'll set this to 70. And then at frame 52, I set it to 100. And then, oh maybe 110, actually. There we go. And then I'm going on a--creating a 60 frame loop here with these deformers. And at frame 88 I'll set it back to 70. So there we go. So now when I press play I've just got this quick squash and back out. And then I'll pull up my timeline here and we can see the curve there. I want to make this loop so I can just, real quickly change my track factor to repeat after. I'll set that to 10. Repeat before, one, and now you can see that curve now is a looping curve. So that's great, that's a good start. Now I'm going to set some key frames to make it bob up and down. So at frame 0 I'll set this to 350, then at frame 36 I'll just move it down a little bit to 330. And then at frame 60 back up to 350 on the y. And then I'll loop that animation, too, same way, just adjust my track properties here. And now we can see it bobbing and squishing. And then we're going to add another bulge deformer to make a kind of a ripple run through this jellyfish. So if I set that to 30, you can see that as I move this thing up and down you see the jellyfish kind of pulse. So we're going to make a loop out of this also and this is going to go at frame 0, we'll set this to 275 so it's kind of just above the jellyfish there. And at frame 60 I'll set this to negative 475. So basically it's just going through the jellyfish like that. I can adjust a few of these settings, I can turn the fillet option on there for this bulge, and I can again set this to repeat. And if I look at my animation here it's got a nice smooth curve on that animation. I'm going to adjust that so that it kind of accelerates as it goes through. So that's basically the idea. To fine tune this, you know, I added a few more deformers. I'll just show you one more deformer in here that works really well for this kind of fluid look; the wind deformer. And just adjust a few settings on here, turn the frequency up, and now you can see we've got some nice kind of fluid-like wobble here. I'll turn off the other two deformers so you can see this. The wind deformer creates this nice quick just fluid-like movement, and so, you know, there's no caching dynamics or cloth simulations here, it's just real quick and animates real nicely. So let's move on to some more complicated stuff. So once it came time to actually get these jellyfish running down the beach--oops. Hope that's not me, sorry. Sorry, a little feedback there. The jellyfish needed to be running down the beach, jumping onto people's faces, attacking people, so we had to create a really nice rig. And that's a little bit outside of my area of expertise, so I brought on a guy named Pryce Duncalf who runs Munk Studios in London. And he's a Cinema 4D superstar, so I'll show you this little animation that he sent me. And once I saw this I was like, yeah this is the guy I've got to get on my film here. And this video is also featured on the website. ♪ [music] ♪ There you go. And I think that was on the BBC, I'm not totally sure about that. So the process for the back and forth between me and Pryce went like this. I would start by building this model, very procedurally, just using some arrays and this dome, here. Which actually the dome was modeled by my friend Trent Stroud who did some Z-brush texturing on it for the displacement map. But, so I sent this model to Pryce with no rigging or anything on it and then he sent me back this rig, here. Which, if you watch it, I created just a quick movement cross-screen, here. And so we would create the animation of it going through the scene and then Pryce created this great motion system that he labeled "Flubber Dynamics, " here. So when I turn on the flubber dynamics now, you'll see that there's some actual, you know, reaction. And he also gave me some great soft body controllers here to stretch and move this thing around however we wanted. You know, and so I can play it back again and even as I'm playing I can make adjustments to this and watch it, you know droop or sag or change. So we could really fine-tune the movement of these creatures. We also had controllers for each of the tentacles, so we could make them grab on to things. There's fur on these tentacles that worked really nicely for us. So I'll show you a shot here where we really put this rig to use. Let's see here. This helicopter scene... And it might take a moment to load this, but you know we have this helicopter that flies through the scene and the monster jellyfish jumps out of the water, grabs onto it. I should load that one up. Well, so I'll give you guys a preview of what I'm going to talk about, in case you're thinking about leaving. I'm going to show the actual breakdown of the final pier shot that includes hair dynamics, deformers, and all sorts of great stuff. Okay, so here's this shot, where... I'm also going to go into some compositing, too. I'll talk about Nuke, C4D to Nuke. So the jellyfish jumps up out of the water, grabs on. So there's a lot to animate here, and we needed to have full control. And so, I'm not too big of a rigging person but I know that after working with Pryce I feel like we can do anything, we can rig any creature in C4D to do whatever we want which is kind of a neat feeling. All right, so before I show you the big shot, I'm going to show you this tentacle here. And I love working with hair in Cinema 4D because you can just create it so quickly and comb it and get it to do whatever you want right away. So the goal here was to make some hair that would react to this ground surface, this ground plane without falling through it, and that was really important for a few shots. So I'll show you the start here. So I've got this tentacle that's got a dynamic IK-Chain inside of it. And I already created an animation. And I'll just show you the process here for creating some hair on this thing. So I can grab the object and I can go to render, or sorry simulate hair objects, add hair. And right away we've got some hair we can work with here. It's looking a little bit uniform. We don't want it to be coming out of every vertex so I can change this to polygon area and now it's a little more randomly assigned. Then I can go to my dynamics tab here and go to the animation menu and just hit relax. And I can create a nice starting point for this hair and then I can set that shape by going to hair, edit, set as dynamics. And then, let's just watch this animation here. So it's sticking onto that tentacle real nicely, but it's crashing through the floor there, which is not what we want. So it's real easy, we just go to our ground object, here. And I can right-click and go to simulation tags, no--hair tags, and create a hair collider. So I've got a hair collider and a rigid body collider on this same object. And now you can see that the hair doesn't go through the floor. So this was, again really easy for us to set up and it worked really well even on eight tentacles all at once. So I'll show you that, here. Oh! And then another thing. On a couple shots we wanted to have water particles spewing off of the tentacles. And I found this great preset inside the content browser inside Cinema. And this is the hair-tip emitter. So it's really amazing. Just on every frame, a new particle gets emitted from the tips of the hair. So I was able to easily just take that preset and apply it to my animation, and then, you know right when it hits you can animate the number of particles, and then create that into a nice water spray. So all right, now I'm going to show you the big mamma jamma shot here. I'll show you kind of the process. This is the shot early on, just kind of getting the camera track and the animation right, not really doing any texturing yet. I've got a little bit of lighting on here now, and the animation for the pier, which again, we used all deformers for that instead of dynamics. And then this is the final shot, which includes some stock elements comped onto the pier. And a lot of rotoscoping on the foreground characters, or foreground subjects. All right, so let's look at that in Cinema. So we had to take a still image right when the tentacles hit the pier and project it onto the geometry. So we built all the geometry for the pier, and then chopped it up so that the deformers would split it the right way. Okay, here we go. Not sure why the texture isn't coming in for the dome there, but you guys can kind of see what's going on. So this is just the animation here. I don't have the hair turned on yet. You can see, here's the pier, and I can zoom in a little bit. Again since I'm just using deformers, I can actually move around in the viewer while it's playing. And C4D handles all this geometry really well. So let me show you this same thing with the hair. So that's a lot of hair. And these are cached. This hair is dynamic because it's reacting with the ground. But, you know, getting all this hair to cache took five or six minutes and, you know, it really gave me a lot more time to focus on finishing the shot, texturing it, compositing it, and not having to worry about how all these pieces were going to fit together just right. So let's see. So moving on. That's kind of all I had as far as the animation of these creatures, but I wanted to show you guys a little bit more about the compositing that we did on this film. And I'll show you the end credit sequence here where we did a lot of projection mapping with some artwork, some comic book artwork. It's a little bit inspired by the Captain America credit sequence from a few years ago. ♪ [music] ♪ So you know it's a little bit flat, but we wanted to add, you know just a little bit more than the basic After Effects 2D, 2 ½D look. So I'll show you how we did that with projection mapping here. So in this scene I've got four different plane objects just kind of laid out on flat planes in 3D space, here. And here's my camera move. Kind of starting close up on the jellyfish and zooming back. And it's got some 3D movement, but the big thing you'll notice is that that ship is kind of floating above the water. So the best way to get this to fit into 3D space is to use some projection mapping. So I've already created a projection camera, here, and it's placed in the right spot. And the way projection mapping works is it can think of a projector projecting an image right onto that surface. So this is my projection camera and it's going to project this same image back here. So I'll go to my material, and I'll change my projection from UV mapping to camera mapping. And now if I select this, I can hit see to make editable, and now I can kind of reposition it and actually move the geometry, but that image is going to stay in the same perspective as that camera. And so I can start to pull this water surface up to the base of the boat there. So it looks a little bit stretched from up here, but from the view of our camera, now that boat is resting on the water and it doesn't look skewed. I can also take some of these other planes here and I'm not going to do the projection map technique, but I'll just show you how easy it is to just deform this using, like, the soft selection here. There's the preview. You can see the yellow area is what it's going to move. But I can turn off the preview and still adjust this geometry here. You can push this middle back. I'll do the same thing with the tentacles here, kind of pull those forward so they're kind of climbing over the boat a bit. Oh sorry, there we go. And this artwork is done by my friend Jose Ray. Oh, I should show you guys the original artwork here. He did all these illustrations in layers, just black and white, and then we colored them in in Photoshop. And then I can take the ship here and maybe change the perspective of this a little bit. Maybe pull the hull closer and the back of the boat back a little bit. And then, you know. So here's a good example. I've got this back layer here of the dome, but I want this water here to be kind of matching up with the water in the foreground here, so I can grab a few of those vertices and just pull them forward. And again this is getting a little bit skewed right now. In the final shot we did some more projection mapping on all of these pieces individually. But now you can see we've got a little more 3D movement to this. I could even take that same wind deformer that I was showing you guys before and drop it on the tentacles and make some more adjustments. And now we've got the tentacles kind of wobbling a bit.kind of just a fun little thing you can do to take some 2D artwork and make it a lot more three-dimensional. Let's see here. Oh, so yeah, here's the artwork before we did any coloring to it. And then that there. All right, so as I've been saying there's a lot of compositing work that went into this. And you know C4D was great for getting us all the pieces that we needed. This is the before and after of inside the underwater dive tank and then we basically created an underwater matte painting with some three-dimensional kelp in the foreground. It's a little bit dark in this shot but you can kind of see it there. And that was really nice to easily create some procedural 3D geometry. A lot of our shots needed a lot of work as far as replacing the sky, adding reflections in the water of when the jellyfish were sitting on the water. We had to recolor the sand to match on a lot of shots. Most of the film was shot on, like, a bright blue day kind of midday. So as you can see, the film kind of gets into a more stormy, overcast look by the end of the film. This is from our title sequence here where we shot some elements on green screen.kind of tried to spoof the girl with the dragon tattoo title sequence a little bit. And again there's our, our 3D kelp is in there. And so now I'll show you guys kind of the process for how we did the water, the water surface, and how I comped it in Nuke. So this is a simpler shot with no camera movement and I want to show you guys the breakdown of this one just because it's easier to explain how we did the simpler shot. But as you can see, in the water down here we needed to have some actual reflections in the water. So you can't just do that in comp, really. So we pulled a key and...let's see here. We pulled the key on that element and then brought it into Cinema. So right inside Cinema we're working with our footage. And then we had a Real Flow simulation for the water surface which my co-director Rob, learned Real Flow, and we had a great back and forth between Real Flow and Cinema. I don't have it loaded up right now because it kind of takes a while to load, so I've kind of got a placeholder water surface in here and you'll see when I hit render now, that footage is now reflected in the water and then I can use my compositing tag to turn off the seen by camera at render time. So then the render we get of the water looks something like this. And then when I bring it into'll see here. Do I have...? I guess we got to load up Nuke for a second. Okay, so I know a lot of people who use Cinema are primarily After Effects users, but I actually use After Effects a lot but I also use Nuke a lot. And so, I'll show you guys my workflow here from Cinema to Nuke. So we started with the background here, just some stars and these are basically just some different layers of a Photoshop matte painting. And I brought them in separately so that we could animate these clouds; just kind of slow movement through the shot. And then next comes our water surface. So you'll see this is kind of the render straight out of Cinema. And then had to do a lot of color correction to get it to match with our sky. And then we had this horizon line in the far background. And, easy to just create a quick reflection of that in the water there. And then the next thing is a little background fog running through the shot. And then the green screen footage is over here. And I can key that separately, do a little bit of roto, so now I've got my alpha for that and then I've got the color correction of this, and also adding some of these caustics here, down at the base of the boat. And then put them together and pre-multiply, and so now we've got our foreground. And put them together. I had to render out a moving waterline, too, from Cinema to create the cutoff of the boat. And then just a few extra elements in here, like some more fog in the foreground. It's kind of a vignette look. And then we added a chromatic aberration effect to all of these nighttime shots and the underwater shots, we'd just shift the red, green, and blue channels a little bit. And then add a little green, and so that's it. That was the process for these. Again this is the more kind of simple shot. We had some ones that had a 3D camera move into the water and back above and those got a little more challenging. So, let's see. I've been talking about Real Flow. I've got a few more minutes left. I'll show you guys the logo. And my friend who's a really great 3D designer, Eric Lofton, actually built this. And I think he used the fracture to create the geometry, so just you know, Mograph text and then fracture and we've got this great 3D text here. And then we used another preset from the content browser; the vibrate, CS vibrate to just create a little bit of up and down drift on these letters so they kind of individually move and drift. And then we took that animation and brought it into real flow and created this simulation here of... It's supposed to be kind of blood and jelly mixed together, flowing off of the letters here. So that's before any compositing, really. And then this was the final animation we used for the trailer. And then we used it also again in the actual movie, we have kind of a bigger shot here, so let's see. I'll show you that shot. So this is our big Real Flow mesh and then also a Real Flow sim of the fluid falling off the letters there. So this was a big, kind of heavy scene for combining a couple different Real Flow meshes, and you know some tough lighting, a lot of compositing. I can show you a little quick preview of what this looks like inside the viewer of Cinema. Oops. This is just a screenshot here, but you can see that swooping camera move. It's flowing right across the surface. And we tried to do this one with some deformers but we couldn't get it to be as precise as we needed to be, so Real Flow ended up being the right option. But once we got it into Cinema it was fantastic. So, I've got one last little kind of montage of everything here. It's a couple minutes long. ♪ [music] ♪ So I should mention, you know, I didn't do this all by myself, I had a lot of help from some great friends of mine. We had my co-director Rob, who was also kind of a visual effects producer. We had a great team of compositors, a couple modelers; Charles and Trent. And again my friend Pryce who was extremely helpful with all the animation. And even had some help from Alex with 3D tracking and again Rob, who did some 3D water simulation, so just want to give credit to all those people who helped bring this thing together.
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