SyFlex in Everyone's Hero
Images and trailer courtesy of Starz Media
Animated feature film
Head of Effects: Warren Lawtey
Visual Effects Technical Director: Neil Yamamoto
Effects and Cloth Simulation: Eddy Yifeng Xuan, Dan Wrightsell, Harry Mukhopadhyay, Alexander Feigin, Paul Jewell, Kevin Kelm, Alon David, Isaac Keshet, Nadav Brill
Cloth Simulation: Drew Daleo, Rogerio Mendes, Beau Hawkins, Jinnah Yu (ReelFX)
Now a subsidiary of Starz Media, Toronto based IDT Entertainment used SyFlex in no less then 920 (!) shots for their feature film "Everyone's Hero".
Head of Visual FX Warren Lawtey kindly answered a few questions we had:
Syflex: You used SyFlex for all the garments in the movie. How many shots is that? Was it also used for any other effects other than clothing?
Warren: Due to the fact that Everyone's Hero is a period piece, we needed to ensure that the characters clothing was reminiscent of the times. As a result, most of the outfits were loose fitting, so the majority of shots called for simulated clothing. The total number of cloth shots was approximately 920, which consisted mainly of clothing. However, in addition to the garments, we used SyFlex for items such as bedding, shoelaces, and the stadium bunting and flags.
Syflex: Why did you choose to work with SyFlex?
Warren: We chose to work with SyFlex due to its speed, followed closely by its accuracy. We found that it gave us great results with minimal headache and was easily adapted to our workflow. We were able to build a cloth pipeline around SyFlex that gave us control over the process of seeing a shot through to completion. One great aspect of SyFlex is that it doesn't come with a fancy interface that pigeonholes the user into doing things a certain way. We took advantage of this and built our own wrapper around the tool to accommodate our pipeline. We designed the interface in an intuitive manner to allow for maximum efficiency of shot production. After all, we had nearly 1000 shots to do!
Syflex: What were the director's requirements for the clothes? How did the team and the executives like the results?
Warren: First and foremost, the goal for the cloth team was to enhance the shots, not to steal the show. We needed to make the clothing believable, but at the same time we didn't want to draw the viewer's eye away from the character acting. SyFlex is flexible enough that we were able to subdue the cloth motion without it looking like it was underwater, all the while creating realistic folding and creasing. It's a very fine balance between too silky and too stiff, and in the end we were all happy with the results.
Syflex: What was the most challenging shot?
Warren: We had a number of very challenging shots to tackle including scenarios like a character changing his shirt, the mother sewing a patch on a baseball jersey, a number of shots with bed sheet interaction, and a whole slew of shots with as many as 10 characters all needing cloth. However, our biggest challenge was an entire sequence where two of the characters were on top of a fast moving train. We chose to build a tool that would allow us to disable the train/character's forward motion so that we could simulate the cloth without it tearing off the characters bodies. We would remove that forward motion, simulate the cloth in place (along with some wind turbulence for flutter), and then add the motion back onto the characters along with their corresponding cloth. We couldn't have been happier with the results!
Syflex: Was this the first time the team used SyFlex?
Warren: Actually, many of us had used Syflex prior to Everyone's Hero, but not on this kind of scale. We needed to take our somewhat limited experience with it and determine how to adapt our workflow for such a demanding feature film.
Syflex: How was the learning curve?
Warren: Ramp up time was quite fast for those who hadn't used SyFlex prior to the production. In only a couple of hours an artist could be creating cloth for a shot with a solid understanding of the whole toolset. However, nailing down the style of motion that the directors were expecting was another story. To eliminate unnecessary guess work for the artists we created custom presets that we could load and save from our interface. This way we could have character/garment specific settings as well as presets to handle different types of motion.
Syflex: Seems like SyFlex did a good job for you : )
Warren: Like I mentioned before it's fast and easy to learn. When you're faced with the workload we were dealing with it's nice to have software that you can count on. Additionally, the support was great. We received quick responses to our questions and actually felt like we were being taken care of. It's a nice change from the usual.