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June 2, 2006

Curse the Dead Man's Chest!

It's now official, as of yesterday(6/1), Our work on Pirates of the Caribbean 2:Dead Man's Chest is over! Which means it's time for some damn good rum so that we may forget that curse of a show... :)

Pirates 2 New Tease'aaarrrrr! 3

In related pirates 2 news:
VFXWorld's article Water, Water, Everywhere... 'discussing what ILM + Stanford did with fluid sims. GEEK OUT Below:

ILM & Stanford Advance Hybrid Fluid Sim
Halfway around the world, another team of researchers has been developing its own fluid simulation process for use on large fluid motion projects such as Poseidon and Dead Man’s Chest, this summer’s sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. There are several differences between the two systems. Unlike Flowline, this particular system doesn’t have a name. Also, it is a result of collaboration between researchers at Stanford University’s computer science department and ILM rather than the efforts of a single company. Finally, it is not a stand-alone system that can be integrated with other 3D software such as Maya or 3ds Max.

Ron Fedkiw, a professor of computer science at Stanford, who splits his time between his research lab in Palo Alto and ILM in San Francisco, explains: “We put together a hybrid thing here through ILM’s proprietary Zeno pipeline. We haven’t named it anything. It’s got three pieces basically. There’s a PhysBAM engine at Stanford (University), which is like a core math engine. It stands for Physics Based Modeling. There’s a Zeno interface, which is like an equivalent to Maya that the artists use. And we connected those two together with an engine that was created by the R&D group here at ILM.”

A little more than a year ago, Fedkiw and his researchers still had not figured out a way to improve upon the methods used to simulate oceanic effects in Perfect Storm. Then came the breakthrough. “It used to be that you had two choices for fluid action,” suggests Fedkiw. “One was the way they did Perfect Storm. Because you could use a lot of computers or multi-processors but you had to use inferior algorythms. The algorithms, themselves, weren’t the favorite algorithms. The other way of doing it was the way I had done it in the past was to use the best possible algorithms, but you could only use a single processor. So, for years it has been this battle. Use one processor and these really nifty algorithms to give you really good results. Or use a whole font of processors and the algorithms are much more crude. And in the end, they’re pretty much even. The big breakthrough this year is that we figured out a way of how to take those nifty algorithms, the best possible ones, and actually get them into multiple processors. So what has changed is that we can run with like 20 or 30 processors using the real standout algorithms that up to now could only run on one.”
Cliff Plumer, Lucasfilm cto, likes the time saving efficiency of this new method. “The process that Ron was talking about that we had for Poseidon was much more integrated in comparison to what we had done in the past on things like Perfect Storm, where there were a lot more layers and elements that went into those shots from the early fluid dynamics stuff that we did years ago to particles to even live-action elements. So, now we’re able to create more interaction between the fluids, or in this case the water, and the ship than the way we did in the past.”

All those layers and elements had to first be created and then composited together, but not so with Poseidon, as Fedkiw notes, “The whole ship is CG. A big chunk of the ocean is CG, and we do it all with one integrated simulation as opposed to layering all the elements...”
Because the entire system is self-contained in-house, the artists at ILM had access to the source for Poseidon and Dead Man’s Chest. “We can do whatever we want with it,” states Fedkiw. “We’re not handcuffed like you would be with something like a Maya. We’re able to create an environment for the artist, where they can actually set up multiple processors. So, it’s just like doing something in say Maya except that it’s a little more customized. I can set up a fluid shot, pick a domain, pick a chunk of the ocean to simulate, bring in your ship and different elements and bodies, life boats or whatever you want to interact with the simulation, and ours places all that and then picks a number of processors to run it on.”

“Plus there are more controls on the simulation now,” notes Plumer. “Getting back to something like Perfect Storm, your basic run on simulation back then could take days. It would be a tough process to integrate because whatever the result of the simulation was if it worked, great! If it didn’t, you were back to the drawing board. So there was a lot more trial and error back then. But now we’ve built more controls into the system so we can get a quicker response and integrate it much quicker.”
Fedkiw agrees. “Using this (Zeno) interface, you can introduce particle controls, Soft Body and Rigid Body controls, and all kinds of things into the fluid itself. You can run lower resolution simulations first and see how they look and then upgrade them and run them overnight afterward.”

A simulation that they can now set up and run overnight, as little as a year ago, would’ve taken them nine or 10 months on a single processor to complete. Fedkiw says that the best way to describe this Zeno interface is to imagine “Maya on steroids.”

Through the Zeno interface, Fedkiw hopes to develop fluids to the point where many more artists can use them. “Poseidon was a large show with lots and lots of water shots all the way through it. So we had to train a whole lot of people to use it. I think on Perfect Storm, there were one or possibly two people that could use the software. Even on Terminator 3, we had three or four people that could run a fluid shot for it. But now there are lots of people who can do that. That’s because of the way the Zeno interface works. We’re able to customize it.”


Posted by dschnee at June 2, 2006 2:43 PM