Digital Domain Leverages Side Effects Software’s Houdini Digital Assets Technology for Stealth

Houdini helps Digital Domain manage more than 650 shots such as heat signatures, lightning storms and engine thruster effects for the highly anticipated summer blockbuster

August 1, 2005 – Santa Monica, CA – Side Effects Software, developer of the award-winning Houdini family of 3D software, announced today that Digital Domain employed Houdini Digital Assets technology to create innovative visual effects for the film Stealth released in U.S. theaters on July 29. Directed by Rob Cohen, Stealth immerses the audience in a photorealistic experience with jet planes flying at supersonic speeds. In order to develop this effect, Digital Domain created hyperrealistic shots that would be impossible to create in the real world. Therefore, Digital Domain chose Side Effects Software's award-winning Houdini to create more than 650 shots ranging from heat signatures, engine effects, lift condensation and even a two mile ring of fuel bursting into flame.

“We saw the opportunity to manage repetitive effects using Digital Assets, so we restructured our asset management using a versionless structure where artists could use an environment setting to give them access to the cameras, models and animation required for a shot,” said CG Sequence Lead Johnny Gibson. “As a result, the artist didn't have to manage the assets, and communication problems typical of large productions were avoided.”

Digital Assets were also employed, so artists working on the film could grab assets and apply them to a scene. Heat signatures, engine effects and lift condensation were set up as Digital Assets tools with custom interfaces for working with high level parameters. A command-line interface was also created to add required assets to a shot and launch a render without an artist even touching the scene. This approach worked smoothly nine times out of ten, cutting down on the number of artists needed for the project.

By using Digital Assets to manage the effects, changes could be put into the pipeline and everyone down the line was informed of the alterations. “Digital Assets have become the backbone of our customer's asset management systems,” says Judith Crow, Senior Production Consultant at Side Effects Software. “Now a smaller team can accomplish more shots using repetitive effects packaged up as Digital Assets.”

Other effects created in Houdini include small scale fires, missile trails and a thin mist of vapor used to help the audience visualize the speed of the planes. Houdini was also used for a lightning storm and many clouds, including the fuel cloud that bursts into a two mile ring of fire. Martian Labs Hydrous tools were used for some of the water work to help round out an impressive list of effects.

In addition, Digital Domain utilized Houdini in Stealth to help previsualize motion control shots. The motion control rig was built in Houdini for camera and light positions. For example, a shot would be tested within this system first to find out if there was enough room, so if everything was going too fast the team would know the legal frame range. Digital Domain benefited from the immediate feedback and the ability to minimize setup time with the motion control rig.

To learn more about Houdini, please visit or visit the company at SIGGRAPH at booth #1119. To meet with other Houdini users, learn more about Side Effects Software and find out addition information about how Houdini was used in Stealth you can also register for the Houdini Annual Meeting, which will be held at SIGGRAPH 2005 in Los Angeles on Tuesday, August 2, 2004.

About Houdini
The Houdini family of animation software offers digital artists an unprecedented level of power, flexibility and control based on award-winning technology. The comprehensive feature set includes modeling, rigging, animation, particle effects, channel editing, compositing, integrated rendering, and much more. All Houdini applications work together seamlessly and are available for the Windows and Linux operating systems. Houdini has been used to create stunning digital animation in blockbuster films, including The Day After Tomorrow, Spider-Man (1 & 2), The Polar Express, I,Robot, Chronicles of Riddick, XMen, X2: X-Men United, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix trilogy, and most recently Sin City, Stealth, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Valiant.

About Side Effects Software
Established in 1987, Side Effects Software is a world leader in the development of advanced 3D animation and special effects software for use in film. Side Effects Software leads the field of procedural animation with its unique, award-winning, Houdini technology. Houdini is used by numerous digital content creation leaders including C.O.R.E., Digital Domain, Disney Feature Animation, DNA Productions, Framestore-CFC, The Orphanage, Rhythm and Hues, and Sony Pictures Imageworks among others.

About Digital Domain
In its 13-year history, Digital Domain has won five Academy Awards�: two for Achievement in Visual Effects (Titanic and What Dreams May Come), and three for Scientific and Technical Achievement (for the Company’s proprietary compositing software, NUKE, for its proprietary 3D tracking software, TRACK and for its volumetric renderer STORM). The Company has also been nominated for three additional Academy Awards� for Achievement in Visual Effects (I, Robot, Apollo 13 and True Lies). In 2005 the Company produced visual effects work for Dark Water, Cinderella Man, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Aeon Flux and Stealth.

Elana Altshuler
mPRm Public Relations
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