The spark of imagination? The journey of creativity? Just an inspiring ride through some awesome visuals? We felt a new website deserved some new visuals and a new ident would be the perfect starting point! Like the ident itself, let's go on a journey through the creation of this VFX packed mini-rollercoaster!
Let's start with our previous ident...
The images below are a short visual interpretation of what we wanted to see and show in the new ident. With first the storyboard being made (image left) the previs quickly followed to give us a better idea of what we had to work towards (clip right). Animatics are an important part of any VEX workflow, as they make complex setups more clear to all artists involved and offer the opportunity to test different approaches without the burden of long render times and more expensive processes and resources.
"Beat board' breakdown or the Ident. showing the main steps that we wanted to show visually. Some references were included to also start up look and feel of what we were after.
As seen in the previs, the large overview of the galaxy is the first visual we're seeing. Instead of going for a simulation, we went for the non-dynamic approach giving us way more control and iterability. For this, we made a galaxy creation tool, so all we had to do was draw on the circle plane and the very first few points would get scattered. Fairly quickly, a very detailed galaxy would follow.
This galaxy existed only of points. Even though the main base of the galaxy was there, it still needed a lot of work in order to get it to look good on the render. As you can see in the clip below, many iterations were made, even iterations containing dynamic simulations of the expansion and attracting within the galaxy.
Eventually, we chose to go for the volumetric galaxy, since this added way more weight to the visual.
Part 2 of the new ident was the first nebulae. We wanted to enter a sort of planar tunnel flying through the stunning imagery of space. A very quick and interesting technique we used was making image planes for Nuke instead of rendering the complete volumetric sequence. So basically in Houdini we created a few volumetric samples (image 07), these were simulations containing a special velocity field being sourced into the sim to create a very specific smear/nebulae effect.
We instanced those randomly on points we scattered within the very narrow near- and far clipping plane of the camera. What we had now was a couple of very large images containing the illusion of volumetric slices of that planar nebulae tunnel. These images were then in random order placed one after another in Nuke creating a semi-3d tunnel when flying right through it. By using this method not only did we save ourselves from having to render 70-80 frames for hours, we also generated a lot of freedom for modifying the stills within the planar tunnel, for example for adding stars within th nebulae and also the speed of the fly-through.
All the volumetric slices after being edited in Nuke.
The end result of the planar tunnel.
The third part was the helix nebulae. Like the galaxy, this nebulae was also modeled without a sim. It had such specific looks that modeling the volume would be easier than making a simulation and try to get it to look as closely as possible to a NASA helix nebulae reference. After the model was finished, we applied the same technique as we did for the planer tunnel nebulae described above.
So actually this was a 3d render. The problem with this was that not only did it take long for it to finish, we also couldn’t really get a grip on the speed and timing of the nebulae. Since the camera's distance to the nebulae at the beginning of this sequence would be so exponentially far away compared to when flying through the nebulae, that it was really hard to animate the camera. The only thing we could do to compensate for these huge distances, was to scale the nebulae as well, but when working with volumes this isn’t really ideal. So again, the slicer was used to tackle this part as well.
3D Setup of the helix nebulae cards in nuke after slices have been created from the 3D render.
We wanted the planets to be fictional, so we used multiple noises combined with Earth- and Mars based maps to create two separate, yet affectable looking planets. Their relative sizes had to be exaggerated immensely due to the distance the camera travels, the end point on which it arrives and the optical alignment of the planetary curves that ultimately form the Planet X logo shape. Subtle details such as lightning in/below the clouds that cover parts of the planet and reflections in seas or lakes add to the sense of scale and enhanced realism.
Different studies to find the look of the two planets.