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Making Immortals: Special Effects Techniques & Pre-Production

This weekend, the 3D sword-and-sandal epic Immortals is set to make its bid as one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. In the film, Greek mythology receives the big-screen treatment with amazing special effects that help make the story larger than life.


Henry Cavill (who will star as Superman in the upcoming Man of Steel) plays Theseus in the sword-and-sandal epic, Immortals.

The Road to Immortality
Immortals was brought to the screen by the same production team that made 300, that movie earned $456 million internationally. For this blockbuster, no expense was spared to create the stunning visions necessary to tell the tale. The supervising producer of VFX estimated that more than 100 shots within Immortals required special effects. And because the producers did not want their movie to look as though it was composed solely through CGI effects, some twenty enormous and intricate sets were actually designed and built.


In addition to amazingly complex battle sequences, there are stupendous visions of mountains falling, tidal waves being created and more.

Immortals’ Cameron Connection
All of the massive production was housed under one roof at film studios in Montreal. And if Immortals looks like no other adventure flick ever filmed, there are several technical reasons why. For starters, during pre-production, the filmmakers relied upon a green screen method called InterSense, which James Cameron used when making Avatar.

The technical system called Moses was used during production for similar purposes. For example, when composing a shot set in a monastery, the director was able to use Moses to look down from that monastery onto an enemy encampment and see exactly where CGI creations would be placed within the actual shot.


Another unique technique used in Immortals involves action speed; the gods featured in the films will be able to move and fight at speeds considerably faster than mere mortals.

Immortals will showcase its amazing visuals in 3D. However, unlike many 3D movies, Immortals was built from the ground up to be a 3D film. Foregrounds and backgrounds were designed specifically so the 3D effects could be shown for maximum visual impact. The filmmakers sought help from Prime Focus, a 3D effects house that had worked magic on blockbusters like Star Wars: Episode One –The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2.

All in all, more than 4,000 artists and technicians helped to create the 3D world shown in Immortals. And this figure doesn’t count the number of visual artists who contributed to the making of the film through their mastery of Maya, the software program now driving how characters are generated for films of all types.

Take a look for yourself with the official trailer for Immortals:

Immortals in 3D opens 11/11/11.

The Next Great Action Star
There’s another special effect in the film, in the form of actor Henry Cavill, who will soon be appearing as another larger-than-life character: Superman.

In Immortals, Cavill portrays a fatherless child (Theseus) raised in shame and ridicule who eventually meets a wise old man who counsels Theseus and trains him in combat and philosophy (kind of like the training Bruce Wayne received in 2005’s Batman Begins). Theseus’ mother is murdered and he is put into chains by the evil King Hyperion (played by Mickey Rourke). This all leads to Hyperion facing off against rebel forces led by Theseus in an earth-shaking battle royal.

Cavill will next appear in the action blockbuster Superman: Man of Steel. Warner Brothers is hoping to use the film to rebrand the Superman film franchise and set it onto a fresh and new path, much in the same way that Christopher Nolan’s series of neo-Batman films has accomplished so successfully. There’s been a lot of excitement by fans who want a first look at Henry Cavill as the new Superman.


Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Henry Cavill in 2013′s Superman: Man of Steel.

The Future of Special Effects
Today technology allows filmmakers to make films they couldn’t have even imagined twenty years ago. Tools like After Effects and Final Cut Pro make filmmaking accessible for everyone. Film production is an amazing process that requires the time and expertise of hundreds of creative professionals who pool their collective talents in the service of a major project, such as Immortals.

Becoming a part of the film industry has never been easier for driven and talented professionals who’ve received the right training with the latest tools. You can start a career in special effects by spending your summer at a film camp that teaches visual effects. Summer camps like Digital Media Academy use cutting-edge software like Autodesk Maya to teach character creation and Final Cut Pro to teach film editing. With hands-on training from DMA, creating the gods on Mount Olympus is just a few keystrokes away.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Creating Asymmetry with 3D Models and Animation

When you create a 3D animated character there are several things to keep in mind. 3D modeling and animation is a process that requires you to constantly evaluate what you’re creating. That’s why it’s helpful to group the thousands of visual choices you have available to you according to basic, fundamental principles. One of the most important of these principles is the idea of asymmetry.


In the context of design (particularly in 3D modeling and animation), asymmetry is vitally important in establishing both believability and interest.

Finding Balance
Why is asymmetry so important in 3D creation? Asymmetry helps establish believability. Just take a look at the world around you. For the most part, unless it’s a car, machine or other man-made device, it’s naturally asymmetrical. Asymmetry also helps establish interest because of variations in the object. Take a look at the example below…


The image on the left side is asymmetric, while the image on the right side is symmetric. As you can see, my face isn’t as interesting to look at when it’s the same on both sides.

How does this translate into 3D modeling and animation?  How do we achieve asymmetry in 3D creation program like Maya? Actually, there are some easy ways to accomplish this:

Mirror Model
One common approach to modeling characters is to work on one half and then mirror the geometry to the other side.  This is a smart way to work, as it resembles the rough symmetry of most characters and simultaneously cuts the work in half.  However, this leaves us with a completely symmetrical model when we want something more believable.  It looks manufactured. Avoid this by simply altering certain elements of the object on one side of the model. Do this by scaling or sculpting or using lattice deformers.


Altering little details (like eyebrows or the corner of a mouth) can help make a character asymmetrical.

Animation Asymmetry
Modifying a 3D model can easily add asymmetry, but how do we incorporate asymmetry into animation? One is posing your model with asymmetry. Take a look at the two poses below:


Of these two poses, the model on the right is more dynamic and more believable.

Finally, during the animation process, motion curves representing opposite sides of the body can be offset to provide a sort of temporal asymmetry. This creates a pleasant overlap and flexibility to a character action, and it’s an important step in creating a believable sense of weight.

In summary, asymmetry is a vital step in creating believable characters. When you use asymmetry, you demonstrate to the viewer your thoughtfulness as a animator, modeler and designer.

Geoff Beatty teaches 3D modeling and animation using Maya for Digital Media Academy. He was previously profiled on DMAC. Geoff is one of only a handful of Autodesk-Certified Instructors in Maya, the leading 3D animation software program.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Maya,News Blog and have No Comments

Maya Hands On Training Courses 3D Modeling and Animation

Finding the Best Maya 3D Modeling and Animation Learning Resources

By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor

Just about everyone is familiar with the endless creative possibilities made available by the latest 3D modeling and animation software. Software like Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max bring professional quality tools to the independent artist, the hobbyist, and the teenage student with an interest in animation.  Maya 3D modeling and rendering software is used in the game, film, television, web, multimedia, marketing and communication professions, and the need for up to date and efficient 3D modeling and animation Maya training is growing rapidly.

In my experience as a Digital Media Academy instructor and university professor, I have seen more and more students showing up in class with prior experience creating 3D models and animation, 3D modeling training is in high demand.

These 3D artist students are usually self-taught, having picked up whatever lessons they could find from the internet and in books. This is fine to a certain extent. I’m always impressed by how these 3D artist students are constantly seeking 3D modeling answers on their own, not waiting to simply be handed the information but actively searching.

However, in order to really get the most from these learning resources, in fact the best way to really learn the software and become a 3D Artist, is to get some hands-on instruction with a knowledgeable teacher. I experienced this dynamic myself when I was first learning Maya. Prior to this I had worked in Softimage and 3D Studio Max, and I had practically taught myself 3D modeling through manuals and online tutorials. I was certain that I was going to have to do the same with Maya. I was on my way to doing that when the company I worked for hired a Maya professional to come in for a few days and get our team of 3D animators up to speed on how to model, rig, and animate a character.  Even professional 3D modelling artists can benefit from Maya workshops.

I learned more in those two days than I had learned on my own in the past two years. Not only was it personalized instruction, but I had never had someone tying it all together into a well-organized workflow. Things made sense and were directly relevant to the 3D modeling task at hand. Now all the bits and pieces of the online tutorials and book chapters came together like puzzle pieces fitting into their places. And not only was that time productive, my future self-directed learning in Maya was made more valuable because I was able to put it into the solid framework established during that 3D modeling training session.

So, if you would like to become a professional 3D animation artist, and you are beginning the long and rewarding journey of learning 3D software, I would highly recommend you take the time to start out right with some quality instruction of the type that Digital Media Academy offers . This could be a summer pro or teen summer camp course , or perhaps it’s an instructor coming to your workplace to offer specialized training . In any case, not only will the hands-on instruction be of immediate benefit, but it will add value to whatever 3D animation learning resources you pick up afterwards. And there are a lot out there, which is why it’s good to have someone be a guide through it all.

To that end, here are a couple that I highly recommend: Autodesk Area is the official hangout for Autodesk Maya users. It offers a wealth of well-moderated tutorials, plugins, models, and other resources. Creative Crash (formerly know as HighEnd 3D) is another well-established repository for tutorials, models, and the like. It’s also got a great responsive forum community, in case you run into any problems. 

Hope to see you at Digital Media Academy this coming summer for some great Maya 3D modeling training!

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You’ll enjoy these related posts:

Digital Media Academy’s Maya-Certification-Program-An-Amazing-Immersive-Experience!

3D Modeling and Animation Tip – Asymmetry!

The Digital Media Academy Difference – Success Stories!

A Teen’s Summer Camp at Digital Media Academy Review

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Ready to register for summer camp for teens or Maya Certification Program?  Click here for more information and registration:  Digital Media Academy

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DMA Training Courses Changed My Life : 3d, Animation, Film, and Special Effects

Written by Albert Frates : DMA Teen Alumnus

Throughout my three summers spent at Digital Media Academy, I have met many new people, that share common goals, and interests.  I have grown more aware of the different aspects of digital media, and have been inspired by both instructors and other students.  However DMA has brought me more than inspiration, and new friends.  It’s brought me a solid footing for my future.

I began at DMA summer 2006 only fourteen years old at the time. I took Maya I with Adam Watkins, knowing very little about Maya, or what could be achieved.  In less than a week Adam had brought the  class out of the unknown, and into what I would call my first true steps of digital media at a professional level.  Opening many new doors I began to pursue other aspects of media, (Film, Animation, TV, Games, Web Design, etc…).  The following school year I worked on many media projects, for my school.  Live event recording such as Graduation, and sporting events was the beginning. Later entered into a student film festival. Using Adobe After effects, and Final Cut Pro for the first time I managed to craft what would be a festival winner.  Knowing this was something to potentially pursue I went back to DMA summer 2007.  Taking classes that both focused on After Effects (Motion Graphics, and Compositing) with Betsy Kopmar, and Hands on Digital Filmmaking with Travis Schlaffman.  (On a side note I recommend both courses).  Sure enough I was right that fall I was had met up with a producer on a school trip in Seattle who was working on live events for DECA (A High school organization for business and marketing students).  After talking to him briefly during a seminar he had invited me to come check out the production backstage.  Getting to sit in on, and at one point help out with the production I was offered an internship at the end of the show for the next conference in spring.  This is where I love to point out that this would not have been possible without Digital Media Academy playing a role in my past.  Because of the tools, and concepts learned at DMA I was fluent working in a professional environment at at the age of sixteen when the challenge of a live production was presented to me I was able to tackle it without any issues.  My point is it’s never to early to start achieving your goals, especially with DMA.

On a last note which is something I kinda blew off at the start of this post.  Friends and connections you make at Digital Media Academy, is possibly one of the best parts of DMA.  The more people anyone knows in life the better off they are, and once again most of the people at DMA will share goals, and interests that you do.
It’s never too early to start, achieving your goals.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Thoughts on last summer's Maya classes…

By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor – DMA @ UPENN

One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is opening doors for my students.  At the beginning of each class, I literally unlock the door to the computer lab, turn the lights on, and lead my students in.  But in a more meaningful sense, I enjoy being the one (or one of many) who introduces them to a new medium, a new set of tools for creating imagery and telling stories.  The part of that experience that is especially gratifying is seeing my students making connections between their respective backgrounds (e.g. illustration, music, graphic design) and this newfound world of 3D modeling and animation.

Last year, during DMA’s Maya sessions at the University of Pennsylvania campus, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach an amazingly diverse group.  Among that group, there was the middle-aged illustrator from the midwest, learning a new skill.  There was the recent art school graduate with a graphic design degree.  There was the home-schooled high-schooler with an interest in visualization.  And there was the teenage musician and composer with a talent for digital imagery.

Each person brought a unique sensability and focus to their study of Maya.  And I can truly say that by the end, there were just as many unique 3D creations.  The characters, environments, and animations they made each reflected a personal vision.  And this is what I consider the strength of both the software, Maya, and the type of course I was teaching at DMA.  My duty as an instructor was two-fold.  First, I introduced students to the basics of the software.  This included both the explicit features and the implicit workflow, which is the proper process and sequence for using those features.  Secondly, I attempted to build on that foundational and common knowledge by guiding each student to a point where they could begin to use that tool to fulfill a personal interest or vision.

Maya Training Courses

This ends up being the point at which I grow too as a 3D artist and instructor.  DMA courses bring together such a variety of students that it ends up being an antidote to the homogeneity common to most 3D classrooms.  I learn new things every time I interact with my students.  My experience last summer was so gratifying in that respect that I couldn’t turn up the chance to teach again.  I look forward to opening doors, turning on lights, and having my students do the same for me.

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