VFX Breakdown Effect (Breakdown)

I was pointed to an effects reel for “Wrath of the Titans” by Method Studios (you need to watch it on YouTube due to the usual licensing issues):

Stills from a vfx breakdown by Method Studios (not my work)

The shots look cool, but what was more interesting is the way they did the breakdown of their CG elements. Look at the camera moves at 0:14 or 1:17.

I’ve tried to dissect their technique using a Fusion comp and some random model I’ve downloaded from turbosquid (so don’t tell me it doesn’t look as cool as Kronos in the video above). The way I think this was done was by projecting the rendered passes back onto either real geometry or a recreation of the geometry using a world position pass. The latter is the only feasible solution for scenes with a high polygon count and can also be done as a particle cloud (see the “dissolving” rocks in the stills above).

Then, additional footage is brought in on image planes. Whether the footage was a 2D matte painting to begin with or a CG element doesn’t matter, for the breakdown it’s all treated like a 2D element. You can see this on the flat volumetric godrays.

To spice it up even more, they probably rendered additional passes especially for the breakdown (for example the wireframe pass) using the camera move designed for the breakdown shot. At this point you could also re-render your scene’s FX passes using the new camera move and treat the breakdown shot as if it was an original shot 🙂 Depends on how much work you wanna put into it.

Here’s a quick video that puts all the techniques together: particle cloud, projections, image planes and wireframe pass.

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