Jake: I think, for me, the Maiden Moon environment with the spiral desert landscape was the biggest physical thing that I’ve worked on and working on the surface of an asset that big was definitely a unique challenge. Most of my background has been working on set extensions and invisible FX – like time period changes, for example – so working on such a huge landscape and wrapping my head around that was new to me. I’d never worked on the ground before. You start asking questions you’ve not really thought too much about, like ‘what does the ground look like?’ There’s a lot of detail that goes into that.
Anissa: Also, there were a series of technical challenges involved in the Maiden Moon. Photoshop is not able to work in High Dynamic Range so it can be really tricky sometimes to work within a VFX pipeline using colour profiles. On one shot in particular, the colours would completely change in Photoshop when zooming in and out of the documents. I ended up doing the whole colour check in Nuke using roto masks.
Shitian: Blending all the surface materials in full CG environments is also a key feature we needed to get right. For example, the Maiden Salt Palace; there were so many different camera angles and close-ups, it was important that the palace was clear enough in all of these shots.
What tools were used to create the landscape and terrain of the Maiden Moon?
Hope: We used everything available to us. Often with environments we would receive a LIDAR of the set so we have a basis of the real-world scale to build on but with the Maiden Moon, obviously this was impossible. However, we did have a scan of the location that was used as the top of the palace so that was our starting ground. Instead of immediately sculpting, though, Houdini was the next step because it was easy for me to quickly bash out the size and scale of the terrain and the placement of the mountains and spiral which were all in the concept art.
When everyone was happy, we then moved on to sculpting and Borja did an amazing job at sculpting all the intricacies of the organic shapes of the dunes against the hard edges of the rocks. It was a hero asset, so it needed proper love and dedication.
Borja was taking care of that while Shitian worked on the palace. We then had to blend both the look of the plates of the palace with the CG and the terrain that Borja was sculpting and the abstractness of the concept, so Jake came in and blended them all together to create one look and feel.