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Customer Success Story :: Parasol Island
Interview with Paul Dreisen, Technical Director
22 January 2010
Can you please tell us few words about Parasol Island and what kind of services does it provides?
Parasol Island is a design loving, round house kicking production for Animation, Film and Interactive, producing nationally and internationally awarded films. Founded seven years ago in Düsseldorf, Parasol Island is now employing about 30 people, a carefully picked team of fresh talents. As we work in different disciplines we can offer a wide range of services and styles as well as everything that is related to CGI and film.
Paul, please present yourself and your passion for the CG industry? What are your favorite tools and techniques?
My name is Paul Dreisen; my first contact with CG images was a long time ago, when I started playing around with 3D Studio rs4 at school. Now I’m addicted to visual effects and all kinds of CG images.
My main field of interest is the 3D part, which I am doing as a professional with Maya since version 4.0. Besides Maya and some other 3D applications, I do most of my work with Digital Fusion. The combination of rendered elements and clever usage of the different render passes is a nice and easy way of doing look development without spending too much time on tweaking shaders in the 3D application. The tweaked results can then be brought back into the 3D software. Using this method, we manage to save a lot of time, which is always short when doing commercials. Before using any programs, however, I always do some quick sketches and plan everything in detail to avoid any surprises during production.
How many people participated in the preparation of the project? What types of specialists were involved?
The pre-production of Infiniti started with one designer and the head creatives at Parasol Island. They worked on the design elements of the film, such as defining the look and creating style frames. A storyboarder illustrated the film in close collaboration with the 3D department, in order to guarantee the ideas would be realizable when going into production. Once the design stage was approved by the client, we increased the team by four more people: one for the technical setup of the car, one for set modeling and texturing, one for shading and pipeline and the last one for animation of the camera and of course the car. A little later in the process a compositor joined the team. So during the main production there were about 4-6 people working on the project.
How long did it take from the beginning to the completion of the project?
We had about 3 months for the whole project, but the main production was done within 1.5 months.
What was the hardest and most challenging part of it?
The hardest part was the creation of the environments; they had to look as real as possible. We therefore took a 2-day tour to Switzerland to photograph some real mountain roads and many textures, which were useful for the project. The lighting of the car in its environment was also a big challenge, so besides the texture photos we also took many HDRI images that helped us with the reflections on the car.
What kind of render engines you've used so far?
I try to update my knowledge of the different render engines several times a year. They tend to change their features frequently so sometimes it makes sense to test them. In the last 6 years I have been using Mental Ray, Renderman, Turtle and V-Ray for my professional projects.
Why did you need to change your rendering engine in your pipeline?
There was no need to change, but we had seen many nice renderings from a lot of Max artists, we therefore decided to give the V-Ray for Maya beta a try for this particular project.
What did it take to change your render engine and why did you choose V-Ray? What did you achieve by switching to V-Ray and changing your production process? Can you make any comparison in terms of the Infiniti project?
After having played for 2 days with the V-Ray beta in late March 2008, we decided right away that we would use V-Ray for our project. The main advantage over our existing pipeline was the perfect render passes system that gave us the possibility of changing almost everything in comp without re-rendering the whole lot. The other selling point was the fact that you can easily achieve a very nice look with V-Ray. In particular the DMC sampler can produce a very nice detail in your image without extremely long render times and this helped a lot in the creation of the rocky environments. Another big advantage compared to the first Infiniti project was the speed and stability of V-Ray, suddenly it was no problem anymore to render the car directly with the environment or to use motion blur on the whole image. All those things helped us speeding up the production process.
Especially the compositing artists loved these new features, as they didn’t even have the distress of faking motion blur or telling the render artists to change the reflection amount on the car. In fact the main joy of it was that the need to fake something or to create a workaround was not there, simply because you could just do everything without the fear of not being able to render it.
How can we improve V-Ray any further?
The first version of VRay for Maya is already very stable and supports most of the things you need to do your everyday work. Nevertheless, we would like to see a support for hair, fur and fluid rendering. Furthermore, it would be great to have a tool that merges two different scenes and render them out as one scene, i.e. when doing the entire hard surface work inside Maya and only the particle and fluid stuff with Max. That would be a really nice feature. Right now the implementation of the V-Ray proxies is missing the possibility to add displacement. This would also be a welcome addition, especially for character animation and scenes with heavy geometry.
What would you say is the most important task for a VFX Supervisor?
As a Supervisor at Parasol Island, I am in charge for the completion of a project in the given time with the desired look.
As a result I have to keep a close eye on every aspect of the production, starting with the creation of rough layouts up to the last playout. During the production it’s my responsibility to make sure that the entire team here knows exactly what they are working on, how much time they have for each element and what it should look like. At the end of the project I –among others – present the work to the clients and have to ensure that their feedback is considered in the final film or image.
What projects are you working on now? What are some the future interesting projects coming to Parasol Island this year?
We are currently working on several exciting projects. They will mostly be finished within the next month. Then there are more automotive projects lining up that we are very much looking forward to. On all of our present projects we are using V-Ray as our main rendering solution.
This project was only possible due to the great work and spirit of the following people:
Head of Animation: Philip Hansen
Animation Producer: Viola Habermehl
VFX Supervisor: Paul Dreisen
Animator: Tim Reischmann
Lighting and Shading TD: Oliver Markowski
Lead Environment Artist: Marco Wilz
Lead Compositing: Stephan Ihringer
Car TD: Danielle Hasenbring
Additional Modelling and Texturing: Johannes Albrecht, Marco Windrich, Tim Schenkel and Eric Giesmann
Additional compositing: Denis Reva and Tom Miller
Editing: Stephan Krause
Storyboards: Hiroaki Ando
Music & SoundFX: Jonathan Wulfes / GlamFM Studios
To all great people at Parasol Island, big thanks for all your trust and support!