Howard Gardner CG

Copyright 2019 Howard Gardner

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Megacity Croydon

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In total the film required eight different finely-detailed skyscraper models, plus three additional low-poly ones for distance shots. Five low-poly vehicles were also modelled and further architectural details such as the giant advertising screens, viaducts for the tram system, etc.

 

I continued adding further detail to the buildings as I went along, as I had ideas for new shots and realised that specific areas of certain skyscrapers would have to be seen close-up. Often this would result in extra dirt being put on the windows and the addition of graffiti, pipes and ducts, hand rails, signs and satellite dishes.

A re-imagining of Croydon, South London, with 200 storey brutalist tower blocks. A visual effects project which I worked on in my own time, this was inspired largely by the 2012 Judge Dredd movie and the 1980s anime classic Akira.

 

Most of the backplate footage was shot in Croydon around December 2015 using a Canon SLR. The visual effects were added using Autodesk Maya, SynthEyes, After Effects and Photoshop while Premiere Pro was used for the final edit. The drone footage was used with permission of Ty Drones and the music is by Non-Bio. Since this project is self-initiated and non profit-making, it had to be put on the back-burner a number of times to make way for clients' work. As such it took me around eighteen months to complete the sequence you see here.

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Left: a UV diffuse map for one carriage of the tram/monorail-thing. As with most of the project (where I locally-sourced as many images as possible) the graffiti was taken from a photograph of street art adorning St George's walk. I hoped this might give the vehicle a bit of a New York Subway-style look.

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Below: I'm not sure if this is meant to be a tram or a 'futuristic' monorail train but its shape and colour scheme are intended as a tonge-in-cheek reference to Croydon Tramlink.

Concept art

3D modeling

While the mega architecture is intended to be the star of my film, I wanted to keep a lot of recogniseable Croydon landmarks visible in some of the shots, albeit now dwarfed. Taking a cue from the cityscapes in Dredd, I decided to put the CGI buildings relatively far apart so that daylight can still penetrate and so that real city blocks would show through in the spaces between them.

 

I began sketching out a number of different looks for the buildings, imagining that some might be entirely residential and others would be split-purpose with industrial and agricultural levels. Real buildings in London such as The Barbican, the Trellick Tower and Guy's Hospital all helped to inspire my drawings and some of the better ones are shown here.

 

The tower in the top right image was intended to be a sort of vertical container depot, where supplies for the city's population would be deposited and picked up by sky crane vehicles. This one would have been great to include in the film but I eventually abandoned the idea due to the time it would take to model and texture.

 

I also intended to model some surface vehicles as well; I imagined huge (6+ lane) elevated roadways snaking between the megastructures. This also got dropped from the film as I lacked the time for modelling and animating the large number of cars, buses etc.

Animation, render and compositing

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SynthEyes was used to track the hand-held motion within each shot and to de-warp the image, compensating for the curvature of the camera lens I'd used.

 

Top left: Once this tracking data was imported to Maya I could begin setting up the models as required and setting up motion paths for the flying vehicles. Image based lighting, extracted from high dynamic range photographs of spherical reflections (above) were used to simulate a muted, overcast look to match the backplate footage. The scene used a huge number of polygons and point lights which caused some severe slowing-down of the computer's GPU! The shots were all rendered in multiple passes using Mental Ray and then imported into After Effects.

 

Left: This video clip below shows an animated breakdown for the compositing of one of the more complex shots. Most of the sequences within the film followed a similar workflow - once this was complete and the shots had been exported from AFter Effects they were edited and the final colour grade was applied using Adobe Premiere Pro.

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Above: a freight lifter.

 

In a world where so many people spend large portions of their lives high up in these buildings, I reasoned they would need a more practical method of delivering or removing bulky delivery containers. These VTOL aircraft would also be used in construction of the upper storeys.

Below: an airbus.

 

While conventional buses might still be okay for residents of the lower floors, TfL has had to lay on regular VTOL jet routes for accessing some of the higher landing pads.