Each time we publish a new issue of Cinefex, I produce a short promo video showcasing the magazine’s cover story, and share it on Facebook, Twitter and whatnot. The videos are frequently (sometimes deliberately) homespun. For issue 148, I got my daughter to paint her hand green and swipe her way through our Star Trek Beyond article. A few issues later, I donned a pair of rubber gorilla hands and pawed at the Kong: Skull Island issue. For other editions, I messed about with some simple animated graphics.
When issue 155 came along, with its Blade Runner 2049 cover story, I decided to push things a little further by embedding pages from the iPad edition into the cockpit of a flying car on its journey through a futuristic cityscape.
I built the city from fairly basic geometry in Strata Design 3D, dressed up with a few high-tech bits and bobs culled from the built-in shape library. The city layout is really minimal – I only built what was visible through the camera. Honestly, if you zoom out from the model, there’s hardly anything there. I modeled a super-simple flying car and mapped on a bunch of sci-fi panel textures.
When it came to lighting, atmospheric haze was a must. Strata’s volumetrics are a little bit on the funky side, so I used naked spotlights to sculpt the more intricate bits of architecture, and planted a pair of volumetric point sources in the path of the camera – these two lights alone created the murky glow I was looking for.
I rendered the flying car’s four probing searchlights as separate passes against black. Likewise the two vertical shafts of light in the far distance. That enabled me to control their density when I composited them in HitFilm Express; at this stage I also added the cockpit, which I’d modeled and rendered as a separate element. The lens flare from the car’s engines is an out-of-the-box HitFilm effect, tracked manually frame by frame. The final touch was to layer in some stock footage of driving rain splashing past the windshield.
The end result is a far cry from the extraordinary images created for the screen by the Blade Runner 2049 effects team – or indeed by any of the tireless artists we interview on a regular basis for the magazine. Making it was a humbling experience, actually. Those guys really know what they’re doing, you know? Me, I’m just fooling around.