How the VFX studio helped bring Ferrix Road to life.
‘Grounded in reality’ is one of the expressions that has been commonly used to describe the Disney+ series, Andor. Partly, that comes from the fact that production filmed in many real locations and built several sets or partial sets for the series.
Ferrix City, for example, was a set built on the backlot at Pinewood Studios, and where a significant amount of scenes were captured. Still, the sprawling road and city areas needed to be extended, and for that task, visual effects studio Hybride took on part of the digital city build and extensions, working hand-in-hand with Industrial Light & Magic.
Hybride environment supervisor David Roberge breaks down for befores & afters what went into the Ferrix City shots, including how the VFX studio utilized Clarisse for the first time to help accomplish the complex build.
b&a: What had production built in terms of sets and locations for Ferrix City?
David Roberge: For Ferrix and Rix Road the production team built a back lot set at Pinewood Studios. In order to take advantage of every available space in the studio, the production team had built the first-floor façades so they could shoot in front of certain main buildings and we did classic set extensions for the second floors.
There was a huge difference between the 3D layouts versus the studio space: they had built these buildings near each other, but in the show, they are much further apart so we produced virtual streets to create invisible transitions between the plates and the 3D, then we “moved” the buildings to their final destination.
b&a: How did you start that process of building out the areas?
David Roberge: The production team sent us concept art and photo references taken from different locations around the world including The Canary Island and Syria. Once we studied the concept art, we knew it would be a big city so while we were establishing our pipelines we thought, ‘Should we build all this in Maya, or do we try something else?’
I recalled a demo that Isotropix had given us about Clarisse. I really liked the software, and since Ferrix was going to be one of the biggest cities we would ever build, we needed to find software that would take all that asset information in, and in my opinion, this was it. We got the job done while learning how to use this new tool at the same time as we were building our pipeline with the TD department.
b&a: What was the next step?
David Roberge: Our modeling department started working on the buildings and once we received the assets, we started placing them so we could start testing our pipeline. But first, we started by placing buildings to get a sense of distances and the overall scale of the city.
For example, they sent us references from Maaloula in Syria, I looked it up on Google Earth so I could get a map on a grid. From there, we started placing buildings and props to create roads and side streets so the production team could tell us if that was the kind of direction they were looking for in terms of distances and street layouts.
b&a: How did end up using Clarisse for this work?
David Roberge: One of the cool things about Clarisse is its scattering tools. We considered whether to build a procedural city and paint over it, but we quickly realized that with the number of shots we had, and the buildings we needed to produce, it would be better if we placed everything by hand. It was a clever mix of generic and distinct buildings.
Once the buildings and the city layout were approved, we started placing all the props in the city which was comprised of approximately 30,000 assets.
b&a: I think it’s really interesting you jumped into a new tool you hadn’t used previously for this work. How did you deal with rendering, because I think Clarisse has a different concept of rendering?
David Roberge: Yes, that’s another cool thing about Clarisse and something you need to get used to: it renders constantly. So, as an environment artist, what I like most about it is the fact that you can see what you’re placing, you don’t need proxies or any low-res stuff, it shows you an overall glimpse of the entire city, which makes the task that much easier.
Because we were implementing Clarisse for the first time, we decided to use it just for the environment work and then render in our usual Houdini / Arnold workflow. What Clarisse really helped with was managing the the huge amount of data we were working with. Lookdev’ing was fast and being able to use a real HDR to light interactively while placing the asset was amazing!
We were also able to use it for the camera layout which really helped speed up the process of getting the city approved while the modeling team continued to build the assets and started working on textures.
b&a: In terms of the modeling process, I thought Ferrix offered up so much in terms of texture from the bricks to the formwork to the roads. How did you replicate what had been built for real?
David Roberge: The art department did a great job of crafting the different textures for the buildings on set. They had a nice, lived-in look and looked sort of “grungy”. We knew that in some of the aerial fly-over shots the city was going to be full CG so of course, we made sure our textures matched the plates. We also created a texture library that we could use to produce tiling textures from the ones we extracted from the buildings and automatically apply them to the generic buildings. The buildings on Rix Road, on the other hand, needed to be much more detailed so we did them by hand.
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One Reply to “Hybride’s asset build for Ferrix in Andor reached more than 30,000 items”
Nice insught and work!
What did you use tgen to exchange data fron clarisse to houdini/arnold for rendering? Did you not then lose all the instancing optimisations from clarisse when you then move to houdini?
And then for materials, you lookdev in clarisse and remake them all for arnold?