From torn limbs to Cyborgs: creating sci-fi VFX on a budget

In 2014, dentist turned director Nguyen Anh Nguyen and a small indie group of filmmakers gained worldwide acclaim when they completed work on “The Akira Project,” a live action fan trailer based on the manga “Akira”, which quickly went viral with more than three million views online.

Today, the same production team are about to release their next highly anticipated proof of concept: science fiction cyberpunk thriller, “Temple”.

Filled with everything from martial arts to cyborgs, “Temple” tells the story of Oz, a health services employee who must find a way to survive in a world where a genetic virus and cybernetic beings are threatening to extinguish the human population.

Creating the plentiful visual effects needed on this indie project were an international team of freelance artists led by VFX supervisor, Santiago Menghini, who learned to use Blackmagic’s Fusion to help bring the sci-fi’s visuals to life.

From 3D Blood to Glowing Tattoos

“This project was very unique in post production,” begins Menghini. “We had about ten visual effects artists involved from all over the world, from the UK to the States, Canada and even Australia. The fact that they were all willing to donate their time to this film was amazing.”

With guidelines set by Nguyen and Menghini, each artist worked to take advantage of their own specializations in the pipeline, and utilized a range of industry tools including Fusion Studio.

Temple

“I think it came down to having faith in Anh and what he wanted to achieve,” Menghini explains. “A good example is an arm texture effect that we created where one of the characters needed to have the tattoo like pattern on his skin light up during the main fight sequence. Originally, the arm effect was supposed to be entirely practical, but because of budgeting constraints we weren’t able to do it in the way we’d originally envisaged.”

“I experimented with the idea of using tracking markers to record the arm movements then digitally recreating the tattoo later in post production, but using markers would impede on the actor’s performance, a crucial issue in such an action heavy scene. Ultimately, the solution involved using a Mocha to Fusion compositing workflow to create the light up effect on the tattoo digitally, without the need for any tracking markers.”

The team also created all the UI effects needed throughout the sci-fi, as well as a blood pool effect in Fusion for the fight scene. This particular effect required a pool of blood to appear to grow behind a character as he died on the ground. “At first we didn’t know whether it was going to be possible to do the blood pool solely in Fusion,” Menghini reveals.

“I carried out a couple of tests using Fusion’s 3D toolset, however, and it worked perfectly! Fusion has an extremely powerful 3D environment, which meant I didn’t have to waste time switching between multiple applications to complete the work. I created, textured, and animated a customizable pool of blood growing in a 3D space and composited that into the final shot. The best part is now we have a customizable blood pool that we can use as a 3D asset to import into any other future projects.”

Temple

“Overall, I’m just so proud of having been able to work with all the artists and Anh again, despite all the challenges involved,” he concludes. “Being able to work internationally with so many freelance artists on a project, and having everybody all be in sync by the end of it was phenomenal.”

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