Wednesday, August 31, 2011

IE Effects 3D conversion for Harry Potter

I.E. Effects (Los Angeles, CA, USA) contributed to the complex Harry Potter postproduction task, providing 2D-to-3D stereo conversion for several key sequences, including some in the film’s opening scenes. A team of over 50 I.E. Effects artists worked together for over six months to perfect the stereoscopic 3D effect, making frame-by-frame adjustments.


3D conversion : Converting a 2D film to stereo 3D is labor intensive and requires skilled visual effects artists to create a final result that looks natural. Creating two separate images from a single frame requires subtle adjustments to the viewing angle for each element in the image.

The process starts off with rotoscoping – manually cutting elements out of the image and then assigning them depth values to make different parts of the picture seem closer or farther away. These depth values allow the artists to reposition each element for the right and the left eyes. Once in place, the missing details for the left and right eye images need to be ‘painted in’ frame by frame.

“Stereo conversion is as much an art as it is a science, so we look at every shot individually and approach it in a handcrafted way”.

Hairy problem : Several shots in the opening sequence included very fine elements, such as hair blowing in the wind. “The Ollivander character is a wise old wizard with wispy hair,” said Dennis Michel, VFX supervisor. “Hair is an interesting challenge for any kind of visual effects work. For this film we had a small team of artists painting and tweaking individual strands for some time until we got the stereo 3D just right.”

The tools: For rotoscoping and reassembling the images, the team at I.E. Effects usesThe Foundry’s Nuke compositing system along with a set of in-house proprietary software tools that drive the workflow and link the company’s two locations. “We use automation to expedite the steps in the process, but this kind of work always comes down to the artist’s eye and a lot of patience.”

Visit I.E. Effects web site. The Harry Potter Deatly Hallows Part 2 trailer is on YouTube (in 2D). The movie is on IMDB too.

Read more on this in Below The Line.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Delcam CADCAM Helps LSNW to Conquer Aerospace Complexity

With Delcam software, LSNW can produce complex parts in difficult-to-machine materials

Delcam's CADCAM software has given aerospace subcontractor LSNW Ltd (Lofting Services North West) the tools needed to specialise in the machining of challenging materials and complex shapes. Director Richard Fielding claimed that his company had "no interest" in simple high-volume jobs, preferring to take on more demanding work that other subcontractors would struggle to complete.


Lofting Services was founded in Manchester in 1996 by two brothers, Richard and David Fielding, in a 1,200 sq.ft. factory unit. It has grown so rapidly that the design office alone is now bigger than the original site. The company started out as a loft-drawing service, printing sections through designs onto aluminium sheets to act as templates for aerospace customers. While it is still doing some projects of this type for sheet metal parts and checking fixtures, these are now only undertaken as part of a complete service to its bigger customers. The main focus now is on larger aerospace projects, plus press tools, moulds and inspection fixtures for the automotive industry.

Mr. Fielding bought the company's first CNC machine to create 3D models in 1997. This initial investment was so successful that a second machine was added a year later. At this stage all of the programming was completed externally by contractors, mainly using Delcam software. Following the purchase of more machines and an expansion into a second unit in 1999, Lofting Services decided to bring programming in-house, as more and more of its projects were CADCAD: Computer Aided Design or Computer Aided Drawing. CAD is used to describe a type of software program used to design, graphically and geometrically represent an idea, present that idea as a drawing or model and provide design data to other software of machines for further processing. -based.

"Delcam was always the favourite when we started looking for our own software because we had never had any problems in machining programs supplied by Delcam users," remembered Mr. Fielding. "We were also aware of a number of companies using Delcam products within our industry sector. The demonstration showed it to be the most cost-effective and powerful program of those that we reviewed, while it also appeared to be easy to use. The salesman was very knowledgeable, plus it was a British company with a good reputation for support." Lofting Services invested in PowerSHAPE, PowerMILL and PowerINSPECT, plus Delcam Exchange to read in CATIA models.

The ten years since the addition of the Delcam software have seen continued growth at Lofting Services. In 2004, the company purchased a 3-acre site and moved into new, purpose-built, high-security premises in 2006. Since the purchase of the first CNC equipment, eleven further CNC machines have been installed, ranging from two-metre machines up to four-metre, double-column bridge-type machines, to ensure rigidity during the machining of tough and exotic materials. The range of equipment has also grown with the addition of seven-axis arms and laser-tracker inspection equipment from FARO using PowerINSPECT.

The latest and biggest machine tool purchase was a five-metre, five-axis machine installed November 2009. The post-processers for this machine were written by Delcam engineers who liaised closely with the designers of the five-axis head from "ISA" based in Milan, Italy.

LSNW's reputation has spread with the completion of a number of high-profile projects, including work on components for JSF and the Eurofighter. Approvals have been received from Rolls Royce, Airbus and BAE Systems, among others, for supply of tooling and components.

While geometry for many components is supplied to Lofting Services as CAD files, PowerSHAPE used extensively to prepare the models for machining. "PowerSHAPE is also very good for designing fixtures, both for machining and inspection," added Mr. Fielding. "PowerMILL is unbeatable for machining," he continued. "I've seen lots of CAMCAM: Computer Aided Manufacturing. The use of computers to assist in manufacturing operations. Usually this takes the form of translating data from a geometric model from some source into control codes suitable for the machine being assisted and enabling that machine to produce some manufactured product. This product might be a textile, cut, punched or bent sheet material, turned, milled, drilled or routed material. demonstrations over the last ten years but I've never seen anything that would make me think about changing."

"Fast turn-around has always been the key to our success and growth," claimed Mr. Fielding. "The Delcam systems make it quick to program one-off jobs in fact, in a lot of cases, we can program quicker than we can machine. The results are extremely reliable. This is essential for us as we rely on 'lights-out', unmanned machining overnight and at weekends to meet the tight deadlines on many of our projects."