VFX Blog Post 5 – Production notes

So far the majority of production has been creating a storyboard and animatic for the final piece while also finding Creative Commons assets that I can use freely. Assets that I can create quickly and easily such as the stone pillars I have done myself and those that would take a large amount of time such as the characters and animations I have searched for elsewhere.

Production of the particle effect has so far been a combination of experimentation and tutorials from both YouTube and from various lab sessions. As Niagara VFX tutorials online are somewhat scarce I will have to do a fair amount of experimentation to achieve the effects I want. 

Character Assets (From Mixamo) REF (Adobe Systems Incorporated, 2020)

-Drake (Fig. 1) https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=drake&type=Character

Figure 1. Drake

-Maynard (Fig. 2) https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=maynard&type=Character 

Figure 2. Maynard

For the characters I picked two visually similar humanoid / alien creatures that felt like they could both have come from the same fantasy world. I also chose Drake (Fig. 1), the larger model of the two as an antagonist of sorts due to his size, with various spikes and long sharp teeth overall giving him a more menacing appearance more suited for an evil character. During the fight I will attempt to make Maynard (Fig. 2) look and feel like an underdog which has been shown to make viewers sympathise and relate to a character more and then have him ultimately win the fight (Allison et al., 2017).

Animations (From Mixamo) REF (Adobe Systems Incorporated, 2020)



-Standing up


-Injured Idle 


-Magic Spell Pack 


Having a large range of animations means that I won’t be limited to how I can use/create my particle effects and that I may be able to reuse particle systems that I create in Unreal, attaching them to the mesh and using different animations to change how the particles move and flow.

Potential Animations to be used (From Mixamo) REF (Adobe Systems Incorporated, 2020)

-Falling Idle


-Body Block


-Hook Punch


-Standing Dodge


-Dodging right




-Surprise uppercut 


I may end up using these animations to extend the fight section of the cutscene, using punching and blocking animations while combining them with simple particle effects that interact with the other’s attack.

Environmental assets

-Stone Pillars

-Stone ground plane

For the environment I will be making the assets myself for the most part, the main exception being that I will use textures from Substance Share and apply them to my models in Substance Painter (Adobe Systems Incorporated, 2019). So far I have modelled one large stone pillar (see Fig. 3) which will be reused, rescaled and rotated to create a large field of stone pillars similar to the Wulong Forest in Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005). 

Reusing the stone pillar I created will save time that can be used to focus on more important aspects such as the VFX and camera work.

Figure 3. Stone pillar with two cube placeholders for characters


For the majority of sound effects and music I will be using Creative Commons sites such as Freesound (2020), searching through for sound effects that may work for my cutscene then comparing them against the animatic to see if they work in scene.


To help with planning out the project I’ve created a Gantt chart that shows the majority of remaining tasks and assets in a form of roadmap format to help with time organisation. Using this I can prioritise certain tasks that are more important to making a finish produce and reduce time spent on those that aren’t as necessary.

Potential challenges

The Horizon 

As I will only be using the stone pillars for my environment I will need to be careful with how far the camera can see otherwise I may end up using too many pillars which could cause a frame drop. To fix this I could make use of LOD’s (Level of Detail) which reduce the detail of a model the further away it is, along with some form of mist or fog to hide the low detail.

Explosion shot complexity

The explosion shot of my piece will require a few complex elements to make the scene realistic and impactful. To make it look and feel realistic will rely on multiple elements external from the explosion itself, such as the build up and release of the magical attack, camera shake from the blast wave, how the blast hits the characters and debris to name a few.

Explosions themselves are made up of various elements such as fire, smoke, dust and debris as can be seen in this image (Fig. 4) from a The Slow Mo Guys (2018) video. Considering that each of these elements will have to be simulated through a particle system, I may have to tone down the detail and realism of the explosion depending on how well production goes. 

Figure 4. Explosion


Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020a) Body Block. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=body+block&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020b) Dodging Right. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=dodging+right&type=Motion%2CMotionPack  [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020c) Ducking. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=ducking&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020d) Falling. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=falling&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020e) Falling Idle. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=falling+idle&type=Motion%2CMotionPack  [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020f) Hook Punch. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=hook+punch&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020g) Injured Idle. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=injured+idle&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020h) Magic Spell Pack. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=Magic+spell+pack&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020i) Standing Dodge. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=standing+dodge&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020j) Standing Up. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=standing+up&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020]. 

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2020k) Surprise Uppercut. Available online: https://www.mixamo.com/#/?page=1&query=surprise+uppercut&type=Motion%2CMotionPack [Accessed 24/11/2020].

Adobe Systems Incorporated (2019l) Substance Share The Free Exchange Platform. Available online: https://share.substance3d.com/ [Accessed 02/12/2020].

Allison S.T., Goethals G.R., Kramer R.M. (2017) Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership. New York: Routledge. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) Directed by Giancarlo Volpe. Written by Aaron Ehasz [TV Programme]. Nickelodeon, 21 May.

Freesound (2020) Freesound. Available online: https://freesound.org/ [Accessed 02/12/2020].

The Slow Mo Guys (2018) Massive Explosive Chain Reaction at 200,000fps – The Slow Mo Guys. Available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHfQYGGUS4U [Accessed 30/11/2020].

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