With the release of SpeedTree Cinema/Studio 6.2 and unveiling at SIGGRAPH 2012 (Booth #244), we can’t wait to see the amazing things that film, animation and TV producers will do next with our modeling and rendering tools. It’s truly exciting for us to see how talented animators and artists are using SpeedTree to create tree and plant magic on the screen.
It’s a measure of success however that SpeedTree-rendered vegetation often goes undetected in scenes because it blends in so well with “real” environments – even for the trained eye. So here are a few specific ways that SpeedTree has been used in some of the most successful films of the last few years.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
For this recent feature film, a visual effects team from Blue Bolt had to add an extensive network of vines to the exterior of the evil queen Ravenna’s castle. Only five days were available to add vines to the castle and the castle’s basic architecture was continuing to change during final post-production. After unsuccessful attempts at using a free ivy generator, Blue Bolt turned to SpeedTree Cinema, which proved to be the perfect tool for the job with its ability to create lifelike vines that conformed to castle meshes.
According the Rafael Morant, Digital Environments Supervisor at Blue Bolt, “SpeedTree enabled the team to address client feedback very swiftly in the period of final tweaks and changes. SpeedTree fully delivered for us at ‘crunch time.’”
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Because a sequence shot on an arid, rocky location was followed by a scene in a tropical jungle, there was a need to create imagery that would transition between the two distinct-looking environments in this popular film. Digital Matte Supervisor at ILM, Johann Thorngren, populated the dry rock scene with trees created from SpeedTree models, matching real trees that appeared later in the movie. SpeedTree allowed the ILM team to rapidly create and randomize tree species, matching the light and wind conditions that were present in the live sequence.
“SpeedTree makes it easy to tweak the wind in a matter of hours,” claimed Thorngren. “With older vegetation solutions, it could take days to get iterations out.”
Super 8 (2011)
This film’s writer and director, J. J. Abrams, had a last-minute request to add some trees as the movie dissolved from a boy in a bathtub to a nighttime view over the city. With only three weeks left in the production schedule, Brett Northcutt, Digital Matte Artist at ILM had two artists use SpeedTree to quickly add a realistic foreground tree element to that shot.
“SpeedTree, out of the box, looked very realistic. But beyond that, you can actually edit the trees,” noted Northcutt.
For this Oscar®-nominated blockbuster, an Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) team, led by Richard Bluff, Digital Matte department Supervisor, was asked to build a planet’s worth of virtual vegetation designed and rendered for the film’s release in six short months. Bluff’s team learned of SpeedTree Cinema and started using a trial version. Soon after, Bluff brought his work to director James Cameron, presenting a 23-second long flyover of the planet Pandora. This initial footage ended up comprising the first 23 seconds of Avatar.
“SpeedTree was simply the best choice for our work on Avatar,” Bluff insisted. “In one morning, one of our artists used SpeedTree to model 40 different trees.”