Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transformers Ride Visual Effects : The Challenges of Industrial Light and Magic

On December 3rd, Universal Studios Singapore will launch the highly awaited Transformers ride and Universal promise that this motion thrill ride will showcase "the most advanced evolution of immersive theme park entertainment". Universal Studios Singapore will celebrate the Transformers world premiere at an exclusive evening event on December 2 and Michael Bay, director and executive producer of the blockbuster movies who also served as the attraction’s creative consultant, will be there to help commemorate the opening.

Now, more about the ride itself: The Transformers ride will feature 12 scenes, comprising sets blended seamlessly with hyper-realistic 3-D digital media and special effects to bring tactile realism to every moment. Guests will be unable to discern illusion from reality as they get transported onboard advanced motion-based ride vehicles into the Transformers universe, and partake in the ultimate 3D battle against the Decepticons right alongside the Autobots.

Enlisted as NEST recruits, guests are tasked to help the Autobots protect a remaining shard of the ALLSPARK – a powerful energy cube that gives life to the Transformers. As the Decepticons attack the facility in a bid to obtain the shard, guests will be introduced to a new Autobot – EVAC – created exclusively for the ride.

New to the Autobots family, EVAC is a stealth transportation Autobot stationed on Earth designed to transport personnel and classified materials at hyper speeds. For the ride, park guests will board EVAC and begin the ride of their lives, zipping through subway tunnels, down city streets and across rooftops, with the Decepticons hot on their heels. "Park guests, especially fans of Transformers, will be thrilled as they come face-to-face – and be transported – by an Autobot. This epic ride experience will allow guests the opportunity to truly “Ride The Movies".

And it's no one else than Industrial Light & Magic, the famous Lucasfilm division, which produced the ground-breaking visionary special effects and 3-D images exclusively for the ride. Artists that had worked on the Transformers: Dark of the Moon movie and understood its style also contributed to the ride. Jeff White, visual effects supervisor at ILM says:

"In many ways, creating the media for TRANSFORMERS The Ride built upon the pipeline we have developed for the film’s visual effects but for this project there were a few added twists and challenges. The screens on this project were so large and immersive they required us to render at 8k, four times the resolution that we normally render at.

The process began with a lengthy pre-visualization phase where we collaborated with Universal Creative and creative consultant to work out the main beats of the story that would take us through the ride, all with a focus on making it the best interactive guest experience possible".

"We then used a combination of photography from Chicago and completely digital environments to create the backdrops for the action and seamlessly integrated it into the practical sets. Following which was a lengthy and complicated animation process where we worked out the timing of the characters actions and how they interacted with the cameras to make sure it provided the best experience on the motion simulator. Finally, we added lighting and fx simulation for all the dust, papers, explosions and debris to make sure it felt the films.

The Singapore division of ILM did almost all of the work on the pre-show media as the guests enter the facility. They are an extension of our facility and were able to use the same assets, rendering and compositing tools we do in the US. Additionally, since they are where the ride was being installed, they were an invaluable resource to interface with the Universal Studios Singapore to get any information and data that we needed as it was being built.

There were many unique challenges in the making. For instance, instead of a flat screen we have in the ride 12 different screens in various shapes and sizes. The most complicated were the torus screens which were completely immersive and required rendering a 180-degree field of view. Also, each shot on the ride had to take the viewers angle on the screen into account so that as they approached the screen the perspective feels natural.

This required complicated camera blending from the moving ride into our virtual world and we worked very closely with the motion programmer at Universal to make sure it was a seamless blend."

The ride which open December 3 in Singapore will open next year at Universal Hollywood and i have the feeling that the ride should be as memorable as the Spiderman ride at IOA. In less than a month this should be confirmed.

Pictures and video: copyright Universal Studios Singapore or Lucasfilm Ltd.

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