January 9, 2007


Among the studio’s effects challenges was bringing to life diorama room scenes where Roman, Mayan and Old West characters clash for dominance of the museum hall.  The studio used Massive software on more than 30 shots in three major sequences involving some 3,000 1/24th scale characters. Roman centurions and archers, Mayan Indians, cowboys, Chinese railway workers, early settlers and a Western band all take part in the action.

"We had a pretty short turnaround time on this project, and after about four days of mo-cap we built the Massive agents and finished over 30 shots - some with thousands of characters - in less than a month,” explains Dan Smiczek, effects supervisor for Rhythm & Hues.

Three main agents were built, each referencing approximately 100 different custom motion-captured actions.  Because of the small scale, motion capture did not have to be as detailed as in previous projects, allowing for real-world behavior to be achieved with fewer clips, each at longer running times.

"When we built the Massive models, we built them all in the same size,” explains Smiczek. “This ended up being very practical when the director wanted to make scene changes, such as swapping out a cowboy for a Roman soldier - all we had to do was swap in a different skin. In addition to having new characters thrown in, we ended up incorporating some of the hero motion captured characters into our Massive sequences - and they integrated seamlessly with the performance data that we captured specifically for Massive."

Rhythm & Hues’ pipeline includes a proprietary renderer, Autodesk's Maya, Side Effects' Houdini and its in-house keyframe animation package, Voodoo.