Before “real-time ray tracing” was sexy: CONSTRUCT is the proof that a small team of top talent can literally change the future of VFX workflows.
When technology isn’t fast enough: make it faster. CONSTRUCT by Kevin Margo literally changes the game. Laying the foundations for a father-and-son feature of epic new proportions, this 12-minute teaser packs more punches than the year’s blockbusters — we’re talking headlocks, bodyslams, knees to the face, 540-degree spins, and ripping-off-limbs-to-beat-your-opponent-around-the-head rampage. This is maximum violence without the gore; it’s the result of a four-year-long passion project by a filmmaker, director and VFX/CG supervisor who has worked on everything from Batman: Arkham Asylum cinematics to the infamous Deadpool test footage. And essentially introduced ray-traced, real-time rendering for virtual production four years before it became the hottest buzzword in CG.
Released on September 24, CONSTRUCT has all the markings of a major studio production. In contrast, the film is the work of Kevin Margo along with a first-class team of artist friends. The game-changer? Kevin used the very latest advances in technology to turn around his feature-grade film without the budget or resources of big studios.
“Our story isn’t typical, in that we were in this situation where two massive companies were either giving us expensive hardware or building prototype tech just for us,” Kevin details. “They really put the wind at our back so we could explore GPU rendering and virtual production at the highest levels, and we put those creative benefits back into the short. [In 2014], we were doing things that had never been done before. No one had thought to ray-trace while motion-capturing." He adds: “Being able to compose the shots with all my color, lights and 3D assets in the monitor was life-changing for me. When you are in the moment, the last thing you want to do is stop and reassess. Real-time ray tracing gives you the freedom to be fluid and experimental, mirroring the feeling of live-action cinematography.”
Real-time ray tracing gives you the freedom to be fluid and experimental, mirroring the feeling of live-action cinematography.
Kevin Margo partnered with Chaos Group, BOXX and NVIDIA and to gain access to the emerging tech that helped him speed up CG workflow and enabled him to mirror live-action production.
Since 2014, the CONSTRUCT team has grown to include a wide range of creative talents from the likes of Blur Studio — and even Liam Neeson’s stunt double. All in all, 75 artists and performers have contributed to the short, helping Margo realize 210 all-CG shots — often out of his 300-square-foot apartment in Venice, California. The CONSTRUCT team has continued experiments over the past four years to develop the 12-minute short film we see today, connecting their work to V-Ray Cloud, Google Cloud, and a soon-to-be-released VR project.
Chaos Group’s development team created a brand-new rendering technology that linked V-Ray RT (now V-Ray GPU) to Autodesk’s MotionBuilder; the result was powerful enough to reduce rendering time from 480 to 60 days.
CONSTRUCT is currently in feature-film development with production company Automatik, helmed by Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Midnight Special) and Fred Berger (La La Land). The feature film script is being penned by Marcos Gabriel and development financed by Nightfox. “We are moving full steam ahead, developing the feature and meeting with creative/production partners that are as passionate about this world and the future of virtual production as we are,” says Kevin. “Small teams are rewriting the map from their living rooms, and from what we can tell, Hollywood is starting to take notice.”
Don't miss episode 192 of the CG Garage Podcast, where Chaos Group's Chris Nichols talks to Kevin Margo and Derron Ross about CONSTRUCT's long journey and discusses how this short film could change VFX workflows in a huge way: