Feature Film VFX
Three Thousand Years of Longing
Fin Design + Effects
Fin Design + Effects, as one of the key VFX vendors, involved from script, to preshoot, through onset, and to final finishing, created a complex array of visual effects over 2 years on 183 shots for George Miller’s unique fantasy epic “Three Thousand Years of Longing”.
Three Thousand Years of Longing, a project were reality and fantasy merge, was rich in complexity, creativity and innovation while pushing the boundaries of imagination, and relying on VFX detail across all domains of CG, Animation and FX to help dial up the mythical narrative.
The Fin VFX team of over 50 artists, led by supervisor Roy Malhi faced a host of interesting challenges in bringing George’s elaborative concepts and vision to screen, most notably around creating the feathered legs of Idris Elba’s Djinn character plus the vast range of different mythical creatures and the mind-bending lovemaking galaxy sequence.
The hero Djinn’s legs were originally meant to be filmed on set, and in an effort to match George’s vision for their unique look, these became full CGI in every frame across over 100 shots. Fin created a feathers and scales system in Houdini specifically for this challenge enabling intricate control and flexibility to achieve the 4K close-up realistic feathers for rendering. All Idris shots involved CG belly and limbs from belly button downwards.
Furthermore, as Idris went through different stages of fitness and physique over time during period of filming, this meant his belly had to be slimmed down in certain shots to blend in with the CG pants/legs.. Some shots even required foot replacements.
The technical crafting on the legs required significant plate clean up and CG warping to achieve photorealism, ensuring the Djinn costume blended seamlessly between the plate and CG. Well-placed onset witness cameras at every shot of the Djinn’s pants/legs, assisted with the complex match moving task.
Each frame, in true exuberant George Miller style, was a cinematic work of art. This meant that Three Thousand Years of Longing by the mere nature of its epic scope and extent of visual diversity, tapped into the Fin team’s full creative range as the film encompassed all of the VFX departments. Amongst others, it included full CGI shots of epic landscapes, magical effects never seen before, sculpting, modelling and rigging of extraordinary creatures, creating elaborate costumes, building full set extensions, delicate character and animal (the eagle) animations, tracking and match-moving to creating magical disintegrations of genies and complicated mathematical dreams, amongst others.
The Fin team created a host of effects simulations, the most visually and technically significant one being the scene in Sheba’s bedroom, where the emotionally pained Djinn disintegrates away from the stone column into fine particles and disappears back into the bottle.
Roy Malhi explains, “This simulation featured a full-screen human disintegrating in 4K. It required a wedging approach and a sophisticated gap-filling technique to create more particles at render time. Some of the heavy lifting was done in code in the shader and for that we returned to the ‘good-old’ side fx Mantra. The simulation was distributed on several machines. The Djinn’s breath on Sheba’s back was one of our heaviest simulations: once again a 4K full-screen voxel simulation that required powerful machines to achieve.”
Fin’s most significant research focus was on the Djiin’s legs/pants, which involved many hours of creative “jamming” with Production VFX Supervisor Paul Butterworth, and connecting with the original concept artist to help achieve George Miller’s vision. This required extensive exploration to get the ‘right look’ by studying snake scales, eagle feathers and plucked chicken skins.
For the scene of the flying Falcon that drops the Djinn-containing bottle into the sea, the Fin modellers intrinsically studied the flight of Falcons: how they move and the wind effect on their features, in addition to the significant anatomy research for the sculpting and designing of the various different creatures, surfaces and textures.
Some of the other technical and creative challenges, involved the lighting and texturing of mythical creatures like the Fisherman character in addition to the Djinn's pants/legs: envisioning and recreating how their skin would react to light or how the Djinn’s legs texture would reflect light.
Using Houdini Solaris on such a large project enabled users to easily run many shots, and our pipeline seamlessly integrated with it to allow individual management of about 80 shots from a single Houdini template file.
Another smart move was to utilize denoising techniques on WIP renders in our day-to-day work. Rather than seeing low-quality noisy renders we could receive relatively noise-free renders overnight. We used 3 different renderers on the show each with their specific advantages.
“There was something for everyone. Plus the fact that it was shot in 4K demanded utmost precision and meticulous detail, which meant there was just ‘nowhere to hide’!
Three Thousand Years of Longing was a particularly team-heavy and collaborative process, relying on each person to do their nuanced parts of the whole to perfection resulting in a jaw-dropping masterpiece of synergistic efforts of exploring innovative, creative solutions. This brought out the best of the Fin team producing some of the best VFX work produced by Fin.
VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR: Roy Malhi
COMP SUPERVISOR: Shane Rabey
COMP SUPERVISOR: Chris Davies
VISUAL EFFECTS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
HEAD OF VISUAL EFFECTS
VFX PRODUCTION COORDINATOR