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The Reimagine shoot was a massive undertaking for the production crew, which included four NUKE compositors and several CG artists working alongside many other key team members. After a month of pre-production prep work, the crew spent two intensive days shooting inside the grounded A380 and another day filming the final sequence on a soundstage. This was followed by three months of post-production to bring it all together and achieve the masterful illusion found in the finished VR film.
Meticulous planning and control were vital to the project's success. The nature of working with such heavy-duty 6K resolutions and large volumes of data also meant that having the right set of fast, reliable tools specifically for this purpose made a huge impact on speeding things up, as Arvid Björn, VFX supervisor and lead artist at MediaMonks told us.
NUKE is MediaMonks' standard go-to compositing solution, and the team committed to using NUKE and CARA VR early on in the Etihad Airlines project. The studio got access to the first closed beta version of CARA VR very close to the actual shoot, and they immediately began experimenting with it to see how it could fit into the production.
"We already knew this project was never intended for typical stitching applications because of our approach, so the first thing CARA VR did for us was greatly speed up the workflow that we had already decided on," explains Arvid. "It was a perfect match, where other VR tools never really stood a chance. We definitely counted on the flexibility that NUKE offers in general, and it's very powerful to be able to keep the entire solution within NUKE."
Adding CARA VR to the production pipeline gave the team newer, faster ways of working with lens distortion and unwrapping, and the streamlined workflow let them tackle and distribute clean-up tasks between artists in an effective manner. The fact that CARA VR lets you use NUKE’s rectilinear tools directly on spherical footage was also essential on this project, he says. "It fits well into our VFX way of working as opposed to trying to find completely new ways of solving these problems simply because it's a spherical image," says Arvid. "It kept the learning curve reasonable and allowed us to get a lot of things done."
As the industry ramps up alongside the rise of VR, MediaMonks is building up its toolset to be able to handle VR production well into the future. NUKE and CARA VR are going to play an important role in the studio’s production pipeline for upcoming projects. According to Ola, the team is also constantly looking to improve its hardware rigs through custom lenses and 3D printing, so the software-side is equally important to develop in tandem with this.
"CARA VR provides a very good base for that exploration," Arvid says. "It's more common for projects to require a stitch workflow which CARA VR offers as opposed to the very customized setup we invented for Etihad, so I think that'll be a big thing for us for those kinds of projects … we feel like it gives us a very big edge over typical stitching applications."
If this story interested you, you can watch the making of video on YouTube.
All images © Etihad Airways / The Barbarian Group / MediaMonks