alex hessler

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian offered a very diverse selection of work. I was initially the shading and lighting lead for the River God. This was a huge R&D effort which involved developing a new volumetric renderer along with fluid simulations. After a lot of hard work, we ended up loosing the sequence to a company in Germany (a long story that I can’t really talk about on the web). I was then able to light a few Aslan shots while waiting to be assigned to a new project.

Once those were final I took over lighting and look development for the Dryad, a woman made of flower petals. The greatest challenge of this character was to convey facial feature and shaping with a semitransparent and heavily backlit cloud of petals. Sidefx’s Houdini saved the day once again with its attribute transfer node. Using this we were simply able to transfer the surface normal of a modeled face onto the instanced flower petals as they flowed over the surface. This was faded in and out based on areas on interest (her face). The second half of the problem was to light her mass so that it showed the backlit beauty of flower petals and also the shaping of the outside of the cloud. Otherwise she would appear like hard plastic flakes, an amorphous blob, or flower petals. It was a tricky balance.

The “magic door” (a tree which rotates into a portal at the end of the film) was my next major project. I ran this sequence in parallel to the dryad. My primary responsibility was overseeing the shading, lighting, and compositing of the tree. Modeling was a combination of polygons and skinned L-systems (go Houdini!). Animation was a combination of key framing and simulations though Houdini’s wire solver. Texturing and shading was pretty standard, but some closeups involved some very careful ndc mapping. The real technical challenge was modeling the overall leaf bag shape to art direction, and rendering the sheer amount of polygons. It was all worth it when Quint from Aint it Cool News gave points for the “magical vagina tree at the end of the movie”.

Check out the trailer here.

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