SyFlex in Armies of Exigo, by Digic Pictures
Image courtesy of Digic Pictures
Black Hole Entertainment
Digic Pictures, Hungary
VFX Supervisor: Gabor Marinov
Lead Character TD: Andras Tarsoly
Digic used SyFlex extensively in the production of this series of cinematics for the game
"Armies of Exigo". Syflex was used to animates cloth, ropes, and... Ghosts!
Hungarian based Computer Animation studio, Digic Pictures, produced more than 10 minutes of
CG Cinematics for the "Armies of Exigo" computer game, developed by
Black Hole Entertainment. Both companies are owned by the Hungarian born Hollywood producer
Andy Vajna (Rambo, Terminator). The Exigo intro was Digicās first work and it was selected
for SIGGRAPH 2003 Electronic Theater. After that Digic has created four additional movies
for the recently released game.
"Our main 3D tool is Maya, but we started using Syflex after the intro was completed
because we needed a very stable and solid tool for our highly complex characters" says
Gabor Marinov. "We built three hero characters (Human, Beast and Fallen), all contained
syflex nodes for their clothes and dynamic simulations such as ropes, straps, etc.
Besides the main characters we also used syFlex to animate props such as flags
and for some effects like ghosts."
GHOSTS?? Syflex really HAD to see that... And Digic was kind enough to share some production materials:
After watching those clips, Syflex couldn't resist asking Andras a few questions...
Special Interview with Andras Tarsoly
Syflex: How did you discover syFlex?
Andras: After the Exigo Intro was completed and we started producing the rest of the Exigo movies
in the summer of 2003, it soon became clear that we had to replace our previous tool with
a fast, reliable and flexible cloth simulation system. We read about syFlex,
decided to give it a try - and it fulfilled our high expectations!
Syflex: How did it compare to your previous experience with cloth simulation?
Andras: SyFlex is very easy to use, thanks to its well designed and intuitive parameters.
We especially liked the cache system, which allowed us to manage and edit the existing
cached simulation data. The highly optimized collision definition options are
exceptionally useful. And syFlex is extraordinarily fast and very stable!
Syflex: What kind of animations did you do with syFlex?
We used it for the multi-layer clothing of the human hero; the skirt
and belts of the 'beast' character; and the skirt-like lower body of the 'fallen'
character. It also supplied the foundation for the movement and look of of the
'ghost' creature effects.
Since syFlex's cloth sim was more flexible, reliable, and faster than the rigid body
simulations, we also used it to create the movement of various attachments on the beast's skirt.
Syflex: Looks like you really liked working with syFlex...
Andras: Once the final cloth models and character animations were completed,
most of the
shots presented no extra tasks; we just had to prepare the scene for simulation and
hit the start button. A few small MEL scripts integrated it into our pipeline, so we
were able to simply run syFlex batch simulations from Maya that were then added to the
job queue on the render farm. This really allowed us to concentrate on getting the best
results instead of fighting technical difficulties.
Syflex: What was the most challenging/interesting animation you made with syFlex?
The most interesting part had to be when the ghosts attack the human hero
and fly him around in the cathedral's main hall; he spinns around, hits a few columns,
and then gets thrown to the ground at the end. Some of the movements in these shots
were really quick, the character turned 90-180 degrees in 5-10 frames at times.
Due to the complexity of these shots, we ditched the usual batch simulation mode here.
Depending on the motions, we adjusted the parameters, changed the forces affecting the
cloth, pinned it at some places, added animated forces and so on. The separate simulation
parts were then meshed together with the help of the syCache node into one seamless motion.
Syflex: Can you be more specific on the issue of speed?
Andras: SyFlex is very fast! As we expected, the most complex simulations involved the human
since he had the biggest piece of clothing: a hooded cape that covered almost all the
model, with a lower layer of clothing and some extras like his medalion or the buckle
of his cape. The simulation model for all these cloth parts were about 10,000 vertices
plus we made a lowres human model for collision purposes. The average simulation time
for this character ended up around 1-2 minutes per frame on a 3.2Ghz P4 Xeon, so shorter
shots of about 100-200 frames were completed within a few hours. And the beast character
ran almost in real time on our simulation machines, so it was more about writing out all
the data than about the simulation. These simulated meshes were then used to drive the
final, more complex subdivision surface render models.