Siggraph: 'Elysium' Impresses at CG and VFX Conference

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Is Elysium one to watch as a serious Oscar contender for a visual effects nomination? Some thought so following a sneak peak at the work, presented by VFX supervisor Peter Muyzers, Tuesday night at software developer Autodesk’s annual user group meeting during CG conference Siggraph.

The user group event featured a string of demonstrations, customer presentations, and was highlighted by a visit from Oscar-winning producer Jon Landau, who offered a look at some early tests for production of the sequels to Avatar.

Muyzers, who is employed by Vancouver-based VFX facility Imagine Engine, showed a series of before-and-after clips from director Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, which he said was lensed with the Red Epic (“in 3.3K”) and posted in 4K.

The Ring-shaped space habitat Elysium was the most complex to build, Muyzers said, showing a shot from the air with significant details, which he said even included digital doubles playing tennis. He said the design included references from Malibu and the Hollywood Hills.

Numerous clips included droids, which were created in the same manner at in Blomkamp’s District 9 (which earned an Academy Award nomination for VFX, though the Oscar went to Avatar). The creation of these characters involved grey-suited actors on set who were later replaced with CG, as well as some practical droids.

Muyzers also showed helicopters used as stand-ins for spaceships during principal photography, providing dust and lighting reference to the VFX teams.

In addition to Image Engine, VFX vendors on Elysium also included Industrial Light + Magic, MPC, Method, Whisky Tree, Embassy, 32Ten Studio and Animatrix.

Also during the user group meeting and in anticipation of the new game consoles arriving later this year, Habib Zargarpour, creative director at Microsoft Studios, previewed several games being designed for the Xbox One, which is scheduled for a November release. That included Ryse: Son of Rome and Quantum Break, as well as Project Spark.

The user group meeting began with Chris Bradshaw, senior vp media & entertainment at Autodesk, who emphasized the company’s commitment to the industry, saying that it invests tens of million of dollars in R&D each year.

He acknowledged the rough road the business is on, but added “never has there been a greater demand for the work. We are very optimistic that the industry is on a growth path.”

Still, there are inefficiencies, and to that end, he cited Autodesk’s support for open standards including FBX, Open EXR and Alembic.

Earlier that day at a press conference, Autodesk announced FBX Review, a free standalone app for Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows 8 enabled devices that give artists and animators a tool to conduct detailed reviews of 3D assets, including 3D models, environments and character animation.

Autodesk also announced that its 2014 media & entertainment product line is now live and available under Creative Commons licensing; that equates to 20,000 pages of documentation, 70 videos and 140 downloadable 3D asset files. Creative Commons is part of Autodesk's support of students who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.


Twitter: @CGinLA