District 9 – Image Engine Siggraph Presentation

I had a double filling of District 9 yesterday. I attended a special siggraph event that had some of the studio leadership from Image Engine on site to describe some of the process and
challenges of making District 9. When I arrived at home I also had the latest Cinefex magazine that also had an article on District 9. This healthy dose of special FX made me descide to post on my learnings from the show and how it applies to games.
District 9
The event was a fairly casual atmosphere where Image Engine presented some of the challenges taking things all the way from concept to completion. They handled roughly 350 shots out of
500 for the show. I was surprised and happy that a lot of the commentary was very technical about how they achieved each scene and I found that their focus was very heavily on compositi
ng and lighting rather than the original character modeling (could have been the staff represented rather than the production needs). The other thing that was of great interest to me wa
s the concept of their film pipelines. This is very much like game industry work where they would establish best practices early that would actually let them achieve more in the long ru
n. From a practical getting features in the game perspective there are many parallells between games and film. They didn’t use the terminology but they were essentially implementing a deferred renderer in Nuke which is much more powerful than what we can do in games.
Out of the chat there were a few technologies that I wanted to follow up on that Image Engine either authors or uses. 3Delight is a renderman compliant renderer that looks like it is free to use if you aren’t using it for commercial purposes. In addition to that Image Engine releases a collection of helper tools to the open source community called [TODO] that I think I will browse through to compare to game production.
The only other detail that was interested was a rough breakdown of the cost of making films. I don’t remember the exact quote but a typical non-effect heavy movie would have 2-3% of the budget in FX. That would scale up to 30% for a major FX movie. How did Image Engine make such great FX for a $30 million dollar budget? No high cost talent fees, one third the film crew and tax credits. I am paraphrasing their answers but this was essentially it. If you don’t have major big name producers and stars you save a bundle. If you film with a skeleton staff you save money. If you can get government perks (BC has film tax benefits) you can do it cheaper. The long answer is that they didn’t compromise the FX budget!
I was really excited to attend this event and read about it in Cinefex as this movie really had the story first and the FX second even as an effect heavy game. I think that is something that modern games could learn from.
What could games learn from District 9?
The quote from Neil Blomkamp at the end of the Cinefex article is awesome [TODO]. I think that many people making games are actually still lost in the mechanics of making a game rather than crafting an experience. The controls need to eventually dissapear from your conscious mind and you have to enjoy the experience without thinking about your actions. I think lots of modern games have done this well when they craft and experience rather than telling a plot. This is a huge distinction that expert story tellers know. I think this what makes games like Portal, COD4 and BioShock stand apart from other games out their – It is a crafted experience rather than a set of game mechanics or a plot.
What did I learn from District 9?
I learned that film process looks very similar to games and my programming skills may be very transferable. I might post some off topic tests with similar art pipelines if I ever get around to it to compare the funcitonality between games and film. Renderman looks fun 🙂
In addition I found the pace of work and the quality to be amazing. It sounded like about a year and half of work for 350 shots. That works out to just under one shot a day. The render farm they mentioned was amazingly huge. Sounds like some fun technical challenges!I had a double filling of District 9 yesterday. I attended a special siggraph event that had some of the studio leadership from Image Engine on site to describe some of the process and
challenges of making District 9. When I arrived at home I also had the latest Cinefex magazine that also had an article on District 9. This healthy dose of special FX made me descide to post on my learnings from the show and how it applies to games.
District 9
The event was a fairly casual atmosphere where Image Engine presented some of the challenges taking things all the way from concept to completion. They handled roughly 350 shots out of
500 for the show. I was surprised and happy that a lot of the commentary was very technical about how they achieved each scene and I found that their focus was very heavily on compositi
ng and lighting rather than the original character modeling (could have been the staff represented rather than the production needs). The other thing that was of great interest to me wa
s the concept of their film pipelines. This is very much like game industry work where they would establish best practices early that would actually let them achieve more in the long ru
n. From a practical getting features in the game perspective there are many parallells between games and film. They didn’t use the terminology but they were essentially implementing a deferred renderer in Nuke which is much more powerful than what we can do in games.
Out of the chat there were a few technologies that I wanted to follow up on that Image Engine either authors or uses. 3Delight is a renderman compliant renderer that looks like it is free to use if you aren’t using it for commercial purposes. In addition to that Image Engine releases a collection of helper tools to the open source community called [TODO] that I think I will browse through to compare to game production.
The only other detail that was interested was a rough breakdown of the cost of making films. I don’t remember the exact quote but a typical non-effect heavy movie would have 2-3% of the budget in FX. That would scale up to 30% for a major FX movie. How did Image Engine make such great FX for a $30 million dollar budget? No high cost talent fees, one third the film crew and tax credits. I am paraphrasing their answers but this was essentially it. If you don’t have major big name producers and stars you save a bundle. If you film with a skeleton staff you save money. If you can get government perks (BC has film tax benefits) you can do it cheaper. The long answer is that they didn’t compromise the FX budget!
I was really excited to attend this event and read about it in Cinefex as this movie really had the story first and the FX second even as an effect heavy game. I think that is something that modern games could learn from.
What could games learn from District 9?
The quote from Neil Blomkamp at the end of the Cinefex article is awesome [TODO]. I think that many people making games are actually still lost in the mechanics of making a game rather than crafting an experience. The controls need to eventually dissapear from your conscious mind and you have to enjoy the experience without thinking about your actions. I think lots of modern games have done this well when they craft and experience rather than telling a plot. This is a huge distinction that expert story tellers know. I think this what makes games like Portal, COD4 and BioShock stand apart from other games out their – It is a crafted experience rather than a set of game mechanics or a plot.
What did I learn from District 9?
I learned that film process looks very similar to games and my programming skills may be very transferable. I might post some off topic tests with similar art pipelines if I ever get around to it to compare the funcitonality between games and film. Renderman looks fun 🙂
In addition I found the pace of work and the quality to be amazing. It sounded like about a year and half of work for 350 shots. That works out to just under one shot a day. The render farm they mentioned was amazingly huge. Sounds like some fun technical challenges!
alien
I had a double filling of District 9 yesterday. I attended a special Siggraph event in Vancouver that had some of the studio leadership from Image Engine onsite to describe the process and challenges of making District 9. Then as soon as I arrived at home I also had the latest Cinefex magazine that also had an article on District 9. This healthy dose of digital FX made me decide to post on my learnings from the show and how it applies to games.
District 9
The event was a fairly casual atmosphere where Image Engine presented some of the challenges taking things all the way from concept to completion. They handled roughly 350 shots out of 500 for the show. I was surprised and happy that a lot of the commentary was very technical about how they achieved each scene and I found that their focus was very heavily on compositing and lighting rather than the original character modeling (could have been the staff represented rather than the production needs). The other thing that was of great interest to me was the concept of their film pipelines. This is very much like game industry work where they would establish best practices early that would actually let them achieve more in the long run. From a practical getting features in the game perspective there are many parallels between games and film. They didn’t use the terminology but they were essentially implementing deferred rendering in Nuke which is much more powerful than what we can do in games (full color precision, 100’s of layers, significant image processing on each layer, etc).
Out of the chat there were a few technologies that I wanted to follow up on that Image Engine either authors or uses. 3Delight is a renderman compliant renderer that looks like it is free to use if you aren’t using it for commercial purposes. In addition to that Image Engine releases a collection of helper tools to the open source community called cortex that I think I will browse through to compare to game production.
The only other detail that was interested was a rough breakdown of the cost of making films. I don’t remember the exact quote but a typical non-effect heavy movie would have 2-3% of the budget in FX. That would scale up to 30% for a major FX movie. How did Image Engine make such great FX for a $30 million dollar budget? No high cost talent fees, one third the film crew and tax credits. I am paraphrasing their answers but this was essentially it. If you don’t have major big name producers and stars you save a bundle. If you film with a skeleton staff you save money. If you can get government perks (BC has film tax benefits) you can do it cheaper. The long answer is that they didn’t compromise the FX budget!
I was really excited to attend this event and read about it in Cinefex as this movie really had the story first and the FX second even as an effect heavy game. I think that is something that modern games could learn from.
What could games learn from District 9?
The quote from Neill Blomkamp at the end of the Cinefex article is awesome.
There is a generation of filmmakers emerging now that is tired of seeing the kinds of visual effects we were exposed to in the late 1990s and the early part of this decade, CG just got out of control. It wasn’t being created for the right reasons. It was bullshit spectacle. I think we’re going to see filmmakers reverting back to using effects in ways that can amplify the texture of the film, not diminish it. – Neill Blomkamp
I think that many people making games are actually still lost in the mechanics of making a game rather than crafting an experience. The controls need to eventually disappear from your conscious mind and you have to enjoy the experience without thinking about your actions. I think lots of modern games have done this well when they craft and experience rather than telling a plot. This is a huge distinction that expert story tellers know. I think this what makes games like Portal, COD4 and BioShock stand apart from other games out their – It is a crafted experience rather than a set of game mechanics or a plot.
What did I learn from District 9?
I learned that film process looks very similar to games and my programming skills may be very transferable. I might post some off topic tests with similar art pipelines if I ever get around to it to compare the functionality between games and film. Renderman looks fun 🙂
In addition I found the pace of work and the quality to be amazing. It sounded like about a year and half of work for 350 shots. That works out to just under one shot a day. The render farm they mentioned was amazingly huge. Sounds like some fun technical challenges!
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One Response to District 9 – Image Engine Siggraph Presentation

  1. Pingback: 2009 In Review « I, Game Maker

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