Atomic Fiction on the Industry and Working on Stranger Things 2
We had the rare opportunity of sharing our campus with Atomic Fiction this Tuesday. Atomic Fiction is known for their exemplary work on blockbuster titles such as Blade Runner 2049, Deadpool and The Walk but one of the favourited projects of the crew was one well known to many of us, Stranger Things 2. 80’s throwbacks may have been what drew you into the show but the what kept viewers locked in was the terrifying world building and creepy monsters. This was all accomplished with extreme attention to detail, something that Atomic Fiction prides itself on.
During our sit-down, the visual effects studio took us through their journey of creating some of the CGI for Stranger Things 2 and also how they created an efficient game plan for matching the gruelling pace of a TV series. Seth Hill, VFX Supervisor at Atomic Fiction took us through some of the strategies they used to tackle the pace, “template the crap out of everything” he began. In order to accommodate quick iterations and turnarounds, the studio targeted things they could break down and create into templates. Starting with environment building aspects like the vines, the studio created a procedural modelling tool in Houdini that would draw and model primary vines, secondary offshoots and accessory textures. This way, when changes needed to be made it was as simple as grabbing the curve, sliding it over and exporting it. Another important aspect of the atmosphere that they successfully created a template for was the infamous spores. By creating a generic point cloud, adding turbulence, attaching models, running through as a Katana template, baking into generic AOV’s and relighting and rebuilding in Nuke, (sounds so simple doesn’t it?) the studio was able to become more efficient and really excel at the fine details without sacrificing any quality. One of the most memorable characters in Stranger Things 2 are the demo-dogs. Seth describes them as a blend between a greyhound and a cheetah, they were even able to create a strategy for their movement which allowed them to really work on making them even more terrifying, they even went as far as creating internal organs for the demo-dogs which were demonstrated in one of the scenes (hint: it didn’t end well for the demo-dog).
While we all sat there enraptured by the demonstration and incredible amount of professionalism and detail that went into Atomic Fiction’s work, there was one main question on every student’s mind. How can I make a demo reel that comes close to the amazing work the studio had done?
Seth imparted the class with wise words of advice, “Variety is important, you don’t need 500 different characters or examples but do at least three really well.” He went on to say that studios are looking for the ability to capture the feel of the character (or environment) and that for characters, you should have at least one bipedal, one quadrupedal and one other (possibly a frog or a bird). The takeaway from that was that the devil is in the details and imperfections. Study your character, really look a the small details and mimic their behaviour. Some people find it easier to do this by creating a back-story or behavioural attributes for their character, for environments it might be useful to envision the purpose of the environment, things that may have happened in that environment and how that would have affected it.
Seth also went on to say not to worry about keeping up with all the shiny new software coming out, to make sure you know how to do the fundamentals really well. Most studios have so many add-ons to their programs, that you will most likely have to go through training to become current with their methods and software anyhow. Think Tank also prides itself on staying current, however, if there is a specific program you would like to learn, the on-campus program is always happy to accommodate the interests of the students.