Spy Comes to the Rescue for Priest

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Fri, 07/08/2011 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

In the post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Priest from Screen Gems a warrior man of the cloth ventures out from hiding when his niece is kidnapped by a pack of murderous vampires. Directed by Scott Charles Stewart from the graphic novel of the same name Priest was released in 2D and stereoscopic 3D and premiered last month. Spy a FotoKem Company based in San Francisco created 125 of the movie’s visual effects shots including a major sequence involving a high-impact train collision.
A longtime Nvidia client Spy’s visual effects pipeline takes advantage of the speed and flexibility of Quadro professional graphics processing units. Mike Janov VFX supervisor Spy says “One of the things we did extensively in our shots for Priest was blow stuff up. Without Quadro cards we wouldn’t have been able to interactively manipulate and display shaders particles and detailed CG effects elements that were necessary in developing the look of our sequences.”
 Spy was tasked with exploding computer generated motorcycles that disintegrate upon impact and needed to find a way to make the motorcycles retain as much of their structure as possible right before hitting the ground and falling apart.
Accelerated with Quadro GPUs Spy utilized Autodesk Maya for their hard surface modeling Nvidia mental ray for rendering Autodesk 3ds Max for dynamics and effects and Thinkbox Software’s Krakatoa for particle effects. Compositing was done using The Foundry’s Nuke and Autodesk Flame.
Says Janov “We were able to achieve our desired look using Particle Flow in 3ds Max. In this case we were able to load the entire motorcycle as a set of particles enabling us to minimize the motorcycle dynamics pretty quickly. With the flip of a switch depending on how much precision we wanted we could actually set a binding value for it. The motorcycle would lose control hit the ground and parts would start to fall apart and disintegrate based on certain values defined within the binding system. Working with Nvidia Quadro gave us the speed and flexibility to create multiple iterations of this climactic effect.”
 Spy has been building CG workstations since the ‘90s and relied on optimizing VFX pipeline performance to meet the compressed delivery schedule of their shots for Priest. “There are a lot of hurdles to overcome when multiple artists are collaborating to produce photo real shots ” says Eric Hanson senior vice president FotoKem Creative Services and co-founder of Spy. “We have always been able to overcome those hurdles with Nvidia GPUs in all of the platforms we deploy. We work with Quadro graphics cards because of what the technology brings to our VFX pipeline and the confidence that we’ll be properly supported by Nvidia.”