Alexander Kucera

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FMX 2013 - Cloud Atlas

Starting out with a short overview of RiseFX, his company, Florian dove right into the workflow for Cloud Atlas. RiseFX has garnered a reputation for using innovative approaches to set extensions and they didn’t disappoint on Cloud Atlas either.

Starting out with some stats:

  • most expensive German movie to date at 100 million US dollars
  • financed independently internationally
  • lots of famous actors in multiple wildly different roles
  • shot only in European locations standing in for totally different environments
  • pre–production started July 2011 with the previz of 1973 San Fransisco and the Luisa Rey car crash
  • shooting started in August

Car Crash

The previz was very accurately planned and is pretty much verbatim like that in the movie.

Filmed on a bridge in Scotland, which lead to major cleanup work as the bridge was supposed to lead to an island not to mention be in San Francisco. A major challenge was that it plays at night with various camera crane moves showing kilometers of street environment. While you could in theory light that set, there would be huge amounts of lights, power and therefor budget involved.

So the guys went ahead, shot her on the backlot of Rise in Berlin in front of a blue-screen. For the bridge, they made a 3D scan of the environment that got them a textured and completely relightable. Easy.

The crash itself was filmed on a gimbal with added CG trash elements floating around giving a zero gravity effect.

The car crashing into Halle Berry’s car was a 3D car for a simple reason. The director liked the movement of the car in a specified shot, which was unfortunately unusable due to plate errors. So the car was modeled and textured based of all the different takes. Then the preferred shots car was match moved and the 3D car placed into the shot.

Plane Crash

The plane crash was a pretty straightforward Houdini simulation. However, for this project RiseFX adapted a 100% Houdini approach, unlike what most other companies do, simulate in Houdini and model, animate and render in another package. This approach saved the, a lot of headaches as everything could interact and be rendered in the same package.

Which means for the plane explosion that not only could the simulation influence the fluid simulation, but also they could light the geometry with the fluid simulation. Meaning the explosion light everything physically correctly including all the small debris.

Lots of environment re–projection

Having all the sets as Lidar 3D scans meant that they could very easily redress entires sets and just replace them with the 3D model. It also made relighting a lot easier.


Subtitle: Talk by Florian Gellinger