Home Concept Art VFX Breakdown of Dune-inspired CG Spectrum industrial

VFX Breakdown of Dune-inspired CG Spectrum industrial



CG Spectrum just lately launched a industrial, and it’s AWESOME! Developed and created by a few of our sensible mentors and division heads, the entire manufacturing occurred in-house — from planning (pre-production) to filming (manufacturing) proper by to the visible results (post-production).

Need to go behind the scenes of our Dune-inspired industrial?

We break down the post-production course of, strolling by the visible results pipeline step-by-step as an instance how the CG Spectrum Industrial was made. Lots of expertise, arduous work, and a strong workforce effort went into creating this industrial, and we’re tremendous pleased with the ultimate consequence!

Scroll to the top to observe our step-by-step VFX breakdown and go behind the scenes of our reside motion shoot within the Californian desert.

CG Spectrum’s industrial — produced fully in-house.


After filming, Director Theo Brown did an preliminary edit, chopping collectively the footage from our live-action desert shoot earlier than passing it over to Jeremy Chinn, CG Spectrum’s International COO. Jeremy, a 3D modeler who’s labored on movies reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, Frozen, and Maleficent, moonlighted as Editor for our industrial.

Jeremy refined the reduce and added an general retime to make sure it hit the 30-second mark, which is the standard timeframe for a video industrial. He then despatched it over to the CGS workforce so they may start planning out the visible results.

For a VFX Artist, timing is every thing. Timings and reduce order decide when the motion occurs, and for a way lengthy, and influence virtually each step of the VFX pipeline — from matchmove proper by to compositing. The edits and timings offered by Jeremy helped form the motion of the sandworm: the star (or, extra precisely, the villain!) of our industrial. 

Idea artwork

Our star began from humble beginnings — as an thought translated into a quick. With a purpose to create visuals for the sandworm, Dept. Head of Idea Artwork and Illustration, Brandon Reimchen (EA, Activision, Capcom, Gree, and Disney) was offered with a written temporary together with reference photographs from Star Wars and each Dune movies. 

arrakian-sandworm-dune-diagramSandworm diagram by David Stein for the unique Dune movie (1984)

Brandon additionally collected his personal reference, drawing inspiration from bot fly larva and deep ocean scale worms, in addition to turtle shells, alligator scales, and even a bore drill bit. Figuring out how one can collect reference fastidiously is an important part of each VFX artist’s job.

It is vital that you just synthesize what efficiency or motion is critical for the shot after which construct one thing believable inside the narrative. Put numerous time into the ideation and collect reference earlier than you begin. -BR

deep-ocean-scale-worm-philippe-crassousscienceArtwork imitating life; horrifying real-life deep ocean scale worm (Picture: Philippe Crassousscience) 

Brandon started by sketching a fundamental thumbnail in Adobe Photoshop to get the proportions proper. He then moved into ZBrush to sculpt a maquette the place he may shortly produce volumes and parts just like the beak and tooth, the shell, and the spines. As soon as he was pleased with the maquette, he gave it a fast paint after which exported a render to Photoshop, the place he completed the portray. 

The tip consequence? Actually terrifying!

brandon-sandworm-concept-art-finalRemaining idea artwork of CG Spectrum’s Sandworm by Brandon


With our sandworm idea accepted, Mannequin-Texture Artist and CG Spectrum 3D modeling mentor Chun Chun Yang had the job of making certain Brandon’s idea artwork reached its full, hideous, 3D potential!

chunchun-sandworm-model-finalThe ultimate 3D mannequin (high) referencing the accepted idea artwork (decrease left-hand nook)

Chun Chun created the bottom mesh inside Autodesk Maya, sculpted and retopologized it in ZBrush earlier than going again into Maya for UV unwrap. Subsequent, she moved into Substance 3D Painter to offer the sandworm colour and texture. Alongside along with her profitable texturing tutorials on YouTube, Chun Chun has contributed to movies reminiscent of Prepared Participant One, Deadpool, and Magnificence and the Beast.

Chun Chun’s major problem was capturing the sandworm’s natural construction with base mesh that was not too heavy however nonetheless detailed. 

If we would like this to look good, we have to construct a strong basis.

A conscientious Modeler ensures their geometry can simply be handed down the pipe for different departments to select up and work with. One among these departments is rigging.

Textures added to the mannequin in Substance Painter


Worms could not have bones in actual life, however that is the place our sandworm differs (that, and likewise, actual worms don’t attempt to eat individuals)! Rigger and CGS Dept. Head of 3D Modeling, Bryan Bentley was subsequent in line to select up Chun Chun’s mannequin.

Working for The Jim Henson Firm in addition to function movies like Pacific Rim and The Golden Compass, Bryan was no stranger to distinctive animal buildings! He generated a rig for the sandworm — the “bones” and controls of the sandworm — so it could possibly be animated in a practical trend.

Mouth check, in rigging, engaged on the mouth retraction system

Bryan factors out that there are two major elements to rigging: rigging and deformation. Rigging is the act of producing the bones and controls that the animator will manipulate. Deformation is the method of constructing the factors of the mannequin, following the rig/armature in a clean and plausible method. 

Information of human and animal anatomy goes a great distance as a rigging artist. Bryan studied insect morphology to verify he was getting the motion capabilities of our sandworm proper in order that animation may do their factor. 


In elements of the VFX pipeline, some departments can work concurrently. Whereas Bryan was rigging the sandworm, different artists had been busy engaged on the structure and CG setting — the place all of the motion takes place!

WIP structure

Drawing inspiration from the huge desert landscapes of Dune and The Mandalorian, the workforce created the preliminary setting and background design primarily based on the timing of animated parts and what was taking place within the live-action plate. 

When engaged on structure and blocking duties, it pays to have basic expertise throughout many disciplines—modeling, texturing, lighting, digital camera work, easy animation, and FX—to assist convey the visible message and arrange the scene. -DH

At this early stage, structure and setting artists usually work with proxy geometry to simply transfer belongings across the scene till everyone seems to be pleased with it (and whereas they await the ultimate, accepted fashions from upstream departments).  

Initially, we had been going to simply have a desert with no indicators of life however felt like one thing was lacking. So, we determined so as to add some buildings on the dunes to offer the background a way of story and historical past. 

houdini-fx-layout-dune-village-blockingFormat progress: including in low-poly set dressing items to short-term background dunes in Houdini earlier than handing the scene over to William so as to add within the higher-res KitBash belongings and remaining dunes in Unreal Engine.

We did not have time to create a complete village from scratch, so we headed to the KitBash3D web site to see if they’d any world kits with belongings that might work for our scene. After checking our references and paintings, we selected the Kitbash3D Outpost pack because it appeared the very best match for the aesthetic we had been making an attempt to create.

Look-Growth & Lighting

As soon as the structure was locked down, CG Spectrum mentor of the Realtime 3D and Digital Manufacturing course and Realtime Artist William Faucher helped refine the setting. William shares his ardour and data with aspiring artists and creators by his widespread Unreal Engine tutorials on YouTube.  

William used Unreal Engine 5 (the newest model just lately launched!) so as to add set dressing and lighting, after which rendered it. He notes that in the case of lighting, you usually need it to match the plate, however you additionally need it to make sure your CG characters, units, and props “pop” too. So, it turns into a balancing act. 

cgs-commercial-sandworm-environment-wipWIP background setting for CGS industrial, set-dressed with all belongings, lit and rendered by William utilizing Unreal Engine 5. CG Spectrum is proud to be an Unreal Educational Companion & Approved Coaching Centre.

Lighting isn’t an actual science. It is advisable to go together with your intestine 80% of the time. Usually, you’ll want to interrupt away from what’s “reasonable” to make one thing look good/higher. -WF

William additionally spruced up our sandworm, so it was camera-ready! Utilizing the mannequin and textures from Chun Chun, he matched the general look of the worm to be nearer to Brandon’s accepted idea artwork whereas additionally referencing a bunch of stuff in nature (nature provides us an abundance of cool, inspiring reference!).

wip-sandworm-shadersWIP sandworm shaders in William’s scene. The left learn node is the sweetness cross, the appropriate learn node is the render with correct, non-aliased Z-depth.

Character Animation

Whereas the setting was being refined, CG Spectrum’s Animation Supervisor, Scott Claus, picked up the rigged sandworm and examined it out. Scott has labored in each 2D and 3D Animation and was a part of the workforce that gained an Oscar for greatest visible results for Lifetime of Pi.

Scott did preliminary exams and provided suggestions after placing the worm “by its paces” — bending it, stretching it, and doing animation exams just like these he anticipated to be doing for the precise mission, so Bryan may make any changes if vital.


Scott then carried out a fast worm-like movement that he confirmed the workforce for any notes. Common and constructive suggestions is one other important part for team-based VFX initiatives, and the artists on this mission had been in fixed communication. This sort of communication is often dealt with by the Manufacturing workforce (Coordinators, Managers, and Producers), however the workforce managed themselves for this mission.

Subsequent got here the animation blocking stage — a tough cross to show the sandworm’s place and fundamental actions. Whereas this was taking place, Scott was additionally watching a ton of reference for inspiration — Dune, Star Struggle’s Return of the Jedi, movies of real-life pythons, and the ‘Graboids’ from the 90s film Tremors

Temors-movie-GraboidA Graboid popping out of the sand within the 1990 movie, Tremors, one of many worm-like creatures Scott used as animation reference

Each fantasy character has to have some foundation in actuality, or the viewers gained’t purchase it. Way back to Disney’s Fantasia within the 40s, animators studied birds to encourage the look of the dinosaurs in that movie. -SC

As soon as the blocking and actions had been all labored out, Scott moved on to refining the sandworm’s depraved wiggle, which required varied iterations — from the ‘Free Willy’ cross to the ‘Rage’ cross to the ‘Hybrid’ cross, and extra!

WIP Animation with picture-in-picture that includes Scott’s ‘Rage’ cross


Working with the timing of Scott’s animation, Digital FX Supervisor, and Dept. Head of Visible Results, Daniel Hourigan added a spread of FX parts utilizing SideFX Houdini. Daniel has labored in visible results for nearly 15 years and was the FX Lead on motion pictures reminiscent of Terminator: Darkish Destiny, John Wick: Chapter 3, and Aquaman.

In response to the sandworm’s motion, a big desert setting (reminiscent of ours) required loads of shifting sand and billowing mud. Daniel additionally labored on the shockwave that ripples over the dunes and the spit popping out of the sandworm’s mouth — which he discovered actually enjoyable…and gross. 

Ah-choo! Sandworm FX RnD; making an attempt to get the spittle proper

Daniel’s greatest problem was coping with the decision of the sand and making an attempt to get sufficient factors into the simulation to make it look reasonable and render with out making his pc explode!

Sand FX RnD, reacting to the sandworm’s animation

Purchase a few additional arduous drives to retailer all the info you’ll generate from large simulations. By the top, the quantity of information generated [for the commercial] was properly over a Terrabyte! -DH


The accepted work from upstream (setting, animation, FX, lighting, and so forth.) was then handed to the industrial’s VFX Supervisor and CG Spectrum’s Dept. Head of Compositing, Sean Amlaner to work on the compositing — the ultimate cease within the VFX Pipeline. 

Sean has labored as a Compositing Supervisor, Senior Compositor, and Senior Artist Coach for studios reminiscent of Technicolor VFX, Sony Photos Imageworks, Disney, and plenty of others.

Working with passes coming from Unreal 5 in addition to Houdini, Sean ready the plates and extracted the live-action actor from the inexperienced display. We additionally needed to actively rotoscope the actor (reduce him out frame-by-frame) from the preliminary desert scene. Lots of this work required Mocha Professional from Boris FX.

live-action-plates-desertset-greenscreensetReside-action plates — desert set (high) and inexperienced display in a studio (backside)

A big a part of Sean’s position was mixing each the live-action and computer-generated elements in Foundry’s Nuke to seem photo-realistic and really feel seamless in each the desert and the workplace scenes. This included including digital belongings from FootageCrate, reminiscent of a heat transition lens flare (used within the desert shot).

integrating-actor-cg-sceneIntegrating the actor into the CG setting

Lastly, Sean had so as to add a display insert for when our actor sat down on the pc to make it seem like he was interacting with a pupil within the scene. The “pupil” used within the display insert is CG Spectrum pupil, Head Instructing Assistant, and Neighborhood Coordinator Penny Gaubatz, who additionally illustrated the unbelievable poster artwork for the mission.

movie-poster-penny-thumbnailThumbnail variations of the film poster, drawn by Penny

Penny used Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom Intuos 5 Pill for her paintings, with a small bodily sketchbook on the facet. Her work was primarily based on the temporary of the industrial and Brandon’s accepted idea artwork of the sandworm. 

Working as a pupil alongside all these actually proficient mentors and leaders has been thrilling and an actual eye-opener! -PG

cgspectrumcommercial-poster-800Penny’s remaining model of the industrial’s film poster. VFX Supe, Sean, added just a little easter egg and inserted Penny’s poster into the final shot — see if you happen to can spot it!

Lastly, our industrial went again to Jeremy for sound, colour, graphics, and remaining timing in DaVinci Resolve. Then it was exported and able to go!

And that’s how the artistic, proficient, and industrious workforce of mentors at CG Spectrum created the visible results for our Dune-inspired industrial.

For those who’d wish to be taught extra about post-production and likewise try what occurred throughout the manufacturing phases, try our behind-the-scenes movies, beneath.

Pre-production: Reside-action shoot


Put up-production: Step-by-step VFX breakdown

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