While on Doctor Strange I had the opportunity to develop a multitude of effects for the Magical Mystery Tour sequence. Ultimately some of it was cut as our sequence was originally around 10 minutes long, but ended up being only 2-3 minutes in the final cut. Despite the unfortunate events, the technical aspect the sequence demanded and the variety of unusual effects made this my favorite feature to work on so far!
The shot on the left was dubbed internally as the "Quiet Realm" and was supposed to be some sort of giant space cave environment. Naturally, due to the scale of the environment, I tried to use instancing as much as I could to keep it manageable. I developed elements on 3 clusters, each with around 2-4 pillars. From there, those clusters were duplicated and placed in the scene. The transforms of each clusters were then extracted and applied to the different fx instance transforms. LOD logic was also used, blasting away some instances from each cluster based on a solver that followed the camera path to decide the optimal amount of detail each cluster needed for the shot, which was about 1200 frames in total.
Since this sequence took place solely in full-cg environments, this workflow allowed me to easily adapt to the frequent camera and animation updates as well as layout notes. There were many individual elements, but they can be summarized into several groups of rock crystals, pillar smoke volumes, and the large glowing energy flowers. The rock crystals were interesting pieces of geometry I modeled scattered onto the pillars with some occlusion, curvature, and light direction masks. All rendering was done in Houdini with Mantra. The procedural pillar volumes were created from a combination of noises and geometry lookups, and the energy flowers were started by a custom solver driven by resampling a polyline and adding curl noise dotted by the surface normal of the source point. After that, geometry was cached out and looked up in a volume shader at rendertime to save memory.
I also worked on a shot of strange falling through his eyeball by providing an mask for his face reveal on some crawling hands, a ripple solve, and some energy lights for close up detail once the camera reaches his eye. The reveal mask started with a point cloud propagation solver but in order to art direct it other measures had to be taken. Masks were made from the UVs of the shirt each hand was placed on, as well as curves extracted in screen space on specific key frames to hit exact timing from my supervisor and the client. For the energy lights inside the eye, I opted for a fully procedural method, first gathering the polyline skeletons of the eye geometry and then scattering points on the parametric uvs while animating them with the proper procedural logic and randomness.