SyFlex in Hellboy, special effects by The Orphanage

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Images courtesy of The Orphanage


Special Effects


Client: Revolution Studios
Special Effects: The Orphanage
Digital Creature Supervisor: Rudy Grossman
Lead Cloth Simulation Artist: Daniela Calafatello


Two top artists at The Orphanage; Digital Creature Supervisor, Rudy Grossman, and Lead Cloth Simulation Artist, Daniela Calafatello, were kind enough to share their experience working on Hellboy with Syflex:

Syflex: In which Hellboy shots did you use SyFlex?

Rudy: We used SyFlex primarily for our digital double of Grigori and of a scientist when they are both pulled into the HellHole during the opening sequence of the movie.

Daniela: We also used SyFlex to add secondary motion to various other soft body objects, such as the saliva during Sammuel's birth sequence.

Syflex: What was the challenge in creating those shots with Grigori and the scientist?

Rudy: The shot where the scientist is being thrown into the back of the HellHole actually started with a live action actor being pulled backwards by wires. The major challenge for us, was that we had to switch him to a digital double immediately after he is pulled backwards. His jacket is already in motion. We had to not only match the exact position of the live-action jacket but also match it's exact motion, so we could make a seamless transition between the two. In the other shot, Grigori is being sucked into the HellHole. Grigori's robe is being pulled into the hole, like a vacuum. In CG simulation there is no "vacuum" button, so we created a vacuum effect in SyFlex!

Syflex: Please tell us more about how Syflex was used in tackling those challenges...

Daniela: For the CG scientist we were able to blend the skin weighting and cloth simulation together on one piece of the geometry. The skin weighting deformed the upper half of the jacket and the cloth simulation deformed the lower half. We then matched the cloth simulation motion to the real jacket motion a few frames before and after the transition from live-action to digital.

As to Grigori, the job was a little trickier. We needed a vacuum force to achieve the effect of Grigori's robe being sucked into the HellHole. By utilizing SyFlex's flexible toolset, we were able to recreate the effect a vacuum has on an object. We also used Syflex in other shots, to replace parts of the real Grigori's robe, where the director wanted to give it more movement.

Rudy: We depend very heavily on SyFlex's ability to seamlessly integrate with Maya. On one shot we may need to rebuild the spring structure, and on another we may need to create a complex node hierarchy between SyFlex and a multitude of Maya's deformation nodes. We have been using SyFlex for the past two years and the key element that always keeps us coming back is flexibility. No matter what the challenge is, we are always able to find more then one solution.

Syflex: How do you find the experience of working with SyFlex?

Daniela: SyFlex is very easy and intuitive to use. The logic of the software is based on the simple forces found in the laws of physics. It requires only common sense and observation to achieve what you are looking for. The best way to approach a shot, is to start with a simple setup and gradually build from there, adding forces, constraints and collisions. It is also important to keep an open mind and not lock yourself down to some predetermined settings. Try, experiment, play with it. The more you dare the more you discover.

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