Mar 05

New stuff | Magoo

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Reel 2015

Tjuvarnas Jul – Trollkarlens Dotter – VFX Breakdown

Production Company: Yellow Bird
Distributor: Nordisk Film
Script & Direction: Per Simonsson & Stefan Roos
Producer: Jenny Gilbertsson
DOP: David Hellman
VFX Supervisor: Jens Lindgren (Magoo)
VFX: Magoo 3D Studios

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Jan 12

FX guide- VFX on TV: Rock monsters, pirate ships and a cyclops

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Really awesome article on VFX on TV-shows from Ian Failes and Fxguide starring work from swedish company ILP. Read the story at


We break down visual effects from the TV shows Atlantis, Constantine and Crossbones with work by Vine FX and Important Looking Pirates.

Synthesizing a cyclops


Amongst the expansive environments and many creatures produced by Vine FX for the second series of BBC’s Atlantis is the cyclops, who lives in a maze of caves. Vine visual effects supervisor Michael Illingworth, who oversaw the work with visual effects producer Clare Norman, describes how it was brought to life.

For Illingworth, an important component of completing the cyclops shots was to have on-set performance reference. “They hired an actor to play, and characterized the performance they wanted for the cyclops,” he says. “So we received an edit with this guy, carrying the club the way he wanted to, dressed in the way that we wanted the cyclops to look. They then edited the sequence using that particular performance. Then once they grabbed each particular shot on set they then asked the actor to step out and replicated the camera moves that they use for the actual performance when the stand-in was there. Then we started camera tracking and sort of blocking out the animation and putting that together as quickly as possible. So we then knew clearly what we were working on with rendering, lighting, and everything else.”

– Above: watch Vine’s breakdown of the cyclops.

Meanwhile a lookdev process for the cyclops was being carried out at Vine, overseen by CG supervisor Ivor Middleton. A sculpt was completed in ZBrush and Maya with cloth sims in nCloth, a muscle system built in Maya, hair grooming done with Yeti and final rendering in Arnold. Complex, layered textures were taken from photos of the actor’s skin, tattoos and surface grime. The base texture for the cyclops was skin, layered with sheen, specular, displacement maps and normal maps. Up to 50 different face shapes were orchestrated – despite the fact that the cyclops does not talk – to enable gross face movement along with grunts and roars.

Vine was an early adopter of the Arnold renderer, having used it successfully on Merlin. “Just out of the box it gave us lots of really good results,” says Illingworth. “This year as well the creatures are looking fantastic so we’ve done a full humanoid character which is the cyclops, using one of those skin shaders.”

Completing the visual effects of Atlantis – which aside from the cyclops include many creatures, environments and compositing duties – is a monumental task for Vine, with over 100 shots per episode. Luckily, notes Illingworth, the studio is set up in a unique way. “We operate a little bit like an in-house department, rather like the art department or the old costumers. We have our budget and we know roughly what we’re going to do throughout the year. And then we build the team accordingly. We know roughly how many shots we’re going to get, but because we don’t bid sequences, we’re very much the in-house department. We’re able to work very, very closely with the production department and I think it’s something that’s quite unique, and it does bring lots of benefits with it. For example, the early blocking stage for both of those cyclops sequences we suggested additional shots to the production, which I’m not sure that happens at other facilities, not any that I’ve ever worked at.”

Above: Cyclops turntable.

“We’ll try different things out and then we’ll go back and present them to the producers,” adds Illingworth. “Then we’ll get the edits changed accordingly. Likewise if we’re working on the sequence and for whatever reason just because the limitations of how quick these things get filmed we might get a shot that is taking us 3 to 4 days just to build. With the other shots we’re getting through a day per shot. We’ll go back to them and say, ‘Look, this is an absolute stinker. Can we hide the shot in it or can we extend the previous shot?’ They’re very open to that and I think that’s what allows us, for the budget, we’re able to get a fantastic amount of detail on screen.”

Constantine’s Coblynau

Concepts by ILP.

DC Comics’ Constantine is currently airing on NBC. The show’s second episode – ‘The Darkness Beneath’ – sees Constantine travel to a small mining community to face a spirit called the Coblynau. Important Looking Pirates was tasked with several shots of a digital Coblynau and its transformations.

Live action Coblynau performers in make-up were captured on set, with ILP creating both head replacements and shots of the creature’s emergence from underground and through rocks. The studio’s involvement was specifically requested by overall visual effects supervisor and associate producer Kevin Blank, who reached out to ILP to ‘spice up the sequences.’ “Regarding transformation and the appearance of the creatures,” explains ILP visual effects supervisor Niklas Jacobson, who oversaw the work with VFX producer Mans Bjorklund, “we went for a full CG solution in order to have great control of the transitions and not have to rely on a live action takeover. The Coblynaus can appear in many shapes like shadows but ultimately take physical form through a liquid transition into a more solid shape where their bodies and face are made of pieces of coal but they still have real clothes.”

– Above: watch ILP’s breakdown for the Coblynau work.

In a key sequence, the Coblynau is shown traveling underneath the surface of a mine, displacing rocks and powering up from the ground. ILP tackled these and similar views of the creature ‘unraveling’. “We started blocking the animation by animating our digital version of the Coblynau unraveling in a very unnatural motion,” says Jacobson. “We did not care too much about strange deformation since that was a part of the effect and we knew we were going to drape him with fluids and shade him as a dark blob for the early part of the transition.”

ILP then ran the animation through Houdini for a rigid body collision sim involving the digital rocks. “We excluded parts of the collision geometry like the arms to avoid exploding stones due to fast moving geometry in the animation,” notes Jacobson. “Finally we ran the liquid simulation in Houdini for our character. The meshes of liquid and stones were exported as V-ray proxies and were all rendered together with the main character in Maya using V-ray 3.0. All the elements including versions of renders of our character with different sets of shaders and smoke elements was then assembled and composited in NUKE.

In another sequence, the Coblynau emerges from black water that is quickly filling up inside a vehicle. Interestingly, the shots were not originally intended to be completed with VFX. “The water became very foamy during photography and not as black and cool as the intention was,” relates Jacobson. “This lead to a set of interesting challenges. We were lacking material such as clean plates and HDRIs and other set data that you would ordinary get for a VFX sequence. We believed we would be able to pull it off by replacing the foam with digital water and still be a more cost effective solution than having to re-shoot the sequence.”

With that approach in mind, ILP tracked the shots and created match moves of the car and characters that were interacting with the water. “We simulated new water in Houdini and exported it to Maya,” explains Jacobson. “We did lighting and shading in Maya and we projected the live action plates of the car and actors onto our match move to get some nice reflections into our digital water. Some extensive compositing and clean painting was done in order to tie it all together.”

Bug fest

ILP lent their services also to the episode ‘A Feast of Friends’ featuring swarms of bugs. “The swarming effect was for most shots done with a custom Maya particle rig that allowed us to easily control shape, path, speed and noise of the particles,” outlines Jacobson. “We would playblast little colored spheres for Kevin, which he would give feedback on. Once the animation was blocked and approved we switched the particles to V-Ray proxies containing high-res animation cycles.”

– Above: See ILP’s breakdown for A Feast of Friends.

“On top of that we added hand animated ‘hero’ bugs in the shots where we felt it was needed. All the close-up shots or single to a couple of bugs shots were fully hand animated. This was then all rendered using V-Ray’s standard lights and materials, utilizing HDRI’s shot on set. In some cases we also did camera projections of the environment in order to get the right bounce and reflections on our bugs.”

Pirates and the sea


NBC’s Crossbones told the story of pirate Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in 1729. For the show, which featured British Navy and pirate ships in and around the island of Santa Compana, overall visual effects supervisor Kevin Blank again looked to Important Looking Pirates for key sequences. ILP’s VFX supe Niklas Jacobson discusses the shots.

During filming, two physical ships were available for principal photography – that meant ILP had to fill out scenes with other craft and also match their digital ships and environments to the practically-filmed elements. The studio would ultimately complete over 100 visual effects shots across six episodes, producing five hero ships with cloth simulation, water sims, and digital crew members.

To start the process, ILP animated a 500 frames cycle of these ships and scenes that enabled them to block out a previs with proxy ships. “Once approved,” says Jacobson, “we switched the proxy ships to our high res versions with all animation and within a few days of work we had a decent first version of a full CG shot rendered and composited. Of course we had hero shots that needed custom animations and unique simulations but our cycles probably covered 85-90% of the shots.”

– Above: watch how ILP made pirate ships and digital oceans.

ILP’s high resolution ships were modeled from reference photographs of the picture ships, as well as art department concepts. “To top that off, we have the Vasa Museum close to our office in Stockholm,” notes Jacobson. “We went there with the crew to study and take pictures of the Vasa ship, which sunk in 1628, then was brought to the surface in 1961 and has since been restored. I believe that the Vasa ship is the best preserved ship from that time period in the world.”

For ocean-going shots, ILP began with a flat waves setup. “We made a nice looking default ocean surface in Houdini that worked for most shots,” explains Jacobson. “Once we had a tracked/animated camera we brought it into Houdini to create the water for the shot. We had 3 LOD levels based on distance from camera, we only created water in the camera frustum. This was exported back to Maya with UV’s as a V-Ray proxy object. We shaded the water with a V-Ray shader with some additional textures for calmer and more windy areas and normal maps to increase details where we needed.”

Larger waves were simulated in Naiad and Houdini on a per-shot basis. Says Jacobson: “We used a HOT deformer to create the main shape of the ocean, then we simulated a patch of water where we needed the interaction from the ship. We also did additional white water spray and atmospheric simulations in Houdini which we rendered with our proprietary volumetric and particles renderer Tempest.”

In one particular scene, the Reaver pirate ship sails alongside the Petrel – a British ship – and a cannon shoot-out ensues. “We made a full CG shot with boats filled with digital crew that needed to cut seamless between two live action shots,” details Jacobson. “The challenge was capturing the look of the scene but also acting of the crew on board without pulling the audience out of the story. This is not an ‘effects shot’ but rather a great example of virtual cinematography. It could very well have been shot on set, but it was during editing that production discovered that a shot like this would really tie the sequence nicely together.”


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Aug 21

What we do | Method studios

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Great new taken on how to do a reel. Method lets children to their artists explain what their mom’s and dad’s do… Just great.

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Aug 15

Istudios – Himalaya breakdown

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Nice little breakdown from Istudios visuals in Karlskrona.

Keep sending stuff to me!

Breakdown of Vfx shots from ” WIP – Secure Intranet in Himalaya – commercial” .
Comped and graded in Adobe After Effects, smoke and snow particles simulation made in Blender. Set extentions created in Blender and rendered inside After Effects with Element 3D.

Watch the full commercial here:

Directed & Edited by Urban Bardå.
VFX by Istudios Visuals,

Client: WIP
Director: Urban Bardå
Producer:  WIP
DoP: Patrik Nilsson
On-Set Visual Effects Supervisor: Henrik Svilling
BTS footage: Mattias Olsson
Make up: Ibiza Bäckström
Editor:  Utban Bardå
VFX:  Anton Johansson & Henrik Svilling
3D Artist:  Henrik Svilling
Color grading: Anton Johansson

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Jul 31

Samsung curved experience making of | Important looking pirates

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New making of from ILP on their work on ” Samsung curved experience”

Launching a new screen format is not something you do everyday. Combining that with gladiators and swordplay and we’re definitely interested!

After our first meeting with Great Works, we understood that this concept was going to be special.

The challenge was to create an environment which felt rich, yet loopable and economical in terms of bandwidth. This environment was to continue “outside” the normal screen area, and be revealed by using your smart phone in a clever way.

We started by building the environment, the colosseum, and loads of assets. We made a lighting setup that would enable a large team to look develop gladiators, pillars and the myriads of props that were needed to dress the set while at the same time keeping the process flexible and dynamic.

A big challenge was the animation, keeping the loops as short and interesting as possible, while also keeping the iteration times low so that we could meet the client’s vision on time.

Due to data limitations we had to be smart about the layout, arranging all the elements and interactive objects in the colosseum to make it look epic as well as function technically.

The end result was textured onto a dome with the separate objects textured onto cards in 3D space. Then it was up to the pioneering programmers at Great Works and State to carry the torch!

The Samsung Curved Experiment site received FWA’s Site of the day award on June 17th!


VFX Supervisor: Yafei Wu
VFX Producer: Jan Cafourek
Production Assistant: Natalia Przezdziecka
3D Artists: Daniel Rådén, Nicklas Andersson, Damien Delaunay, Jason Martin, Robin Perdén, Jonas Bergholm, Pim Shaitosa, Elin Lavén, Julien Taton, Björn Malmgren

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Jun 23

Gold Lions VFX in Cannes

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Gold Lion

Congratulations to MPC for winning a gold lion in Cannes for in best film craft category “Visual effects”.
Adam Berg directed it and Mattias Montero was the DOP.

Brief Explanation:
In this epic live-action and VFX fueled game cinematic, we follow the assault of a Galleon by pirates from the depths of the sea to the very top of the mast. Every level of the ship shows us the torments of this era and the intricate detail shows why a man might take the life of piracy – to free himself from the absurd rules dictated by almighty empires.

The film comprises of a vertical long camera sweep, starting underwater, crossing the decks of the boat and appearing on the upper deck, climbing the mast to end on Edward and the Black Flag, the strongest symbol of the Golden Age of Piracy.

In the end, Edward stands on top of it all, the king of the hill, free – almost a peaceful image. The last scene unleashes the brutality of Edward, a glimpse of his wildness.

Creative Execution:
Ships burn and men are mercilessly slain in this brutal cinematic which seamlessly blends epic live action with complex VFX techniques. The ambition was to capture much of the action in-camera and then integrate bespoke and highly complex VFX to create a gritty, yet realistic spot that keeps the authenticity of the game intact.

The interaction of the live action footage between the CG and 2D environments is paramount – with a high level of detail taking place in the foreground, mid-ground and distance as we pan-up through the ship.

During pre-production a full 3D pre-vis was created of the ship and the concurrent camera move.

The opening eerie underwater environment was filmed in a tank. The floating men were captured on five different plates, which were composited together and enhanced with light effects, debris and bubbles. The boat hull, as the camera transitions upwards, is CG.

The high-action scenes above water are a clever mix of in-camera action and integrated shot and 2D elements. The intensity of the action required separate plates, utilising green screen and the set, which were composited together. Matte painting was used for extensive set extensions and boat environments. Realistic particle and water effects were created from scratch. The addition of CG fog and smoke elements give the impression that the camera is in the thick of the action.

The final stunning wide shot was created by concept artists using matte painting; complete with burning ships, palm trees and a cloud filled sky.


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Jun 02

Mutant Noll – Vfx Breakdown

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Great VFX breakdown on Calle Granström and his dedicated team for the game trailer they did on their spare time.


Calle Granström – Direction, Environments, Compositing.
Daniel Bystedt – Character Artist Zongast
Jonas Skoog – Character Artist Mutant
Jonas Ekman – Character Animation
Henrik Eklundh – Character Shading
Love Gunnarson – Concept Art
Ulf Blomqvist/Redpipe – Sound Design
Christian Gabel – Music (Kraterland)

Thanks to
Fredrik Löfberg
Kristian Mårtensson
Simon Rainerson


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May 08

Postnord breakdown | Swiss

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Swiss updated their site with the vfx breakdown of  Postnord project.

Producer: Mattias Bengtsson
VFX Supervisor: Jan Karlström
David Nielsen
Thomas Ekenryd
Marcus Krupa
Simon Ekeberg
Director: Peter Harton
Production Company: Standart
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors

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