Peter Seager's experience with Clarisse iFX on Exodus: Gods and Kings

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July 31st, 2015

We had the great chance to interview Peter Seager, Lighting and Rendering Supervisor at Double Negative, on his experience with Clarisse iFX. Discover how Double Negative and Clarisse iFX got Biblical in the Epic tale, Exodus: Gods and Kings!



Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get into the industry?

I studied at Bournemouth University on the BA Computer Animation and Visualisation course. Then when I graduated in 2007 I started working as a shader writer at MPC, then I moved to Double Negative in 2010 and have been here now for 5 years.


Can you tell us a bit about your current work and the history behind Dneg?

My current role at Dneg is Lighting and Rendering Supervisor. When I'm on a show I am responsible for the technical supervision of lookdev, lighting, and rendering on my show. Everything from the lookdev and lighting pipeline, through to how are we going to render something, or how are we going to achieve a particular look. We also contribute to the company wide pipeline and workflows.


As for Dneg...

Double Negative (Dneg) was founded in 1998 with a team of just 30, that first year I think they had just one show, Pitch Black.  Now of course, we’re one of the world’s leading visual effects houses with facilities in London, Singapore and Vancouver and, this year alone, the shows we’re working / have worked on include Terminator, Insurgent, Ant-man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Spectre, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bridge of Spies, The Huntsman…and that’s just naming a few.

This year we won our second Academy Award (and third BAFTA) for Interstellar, our work on Interstellar’s blackhole and wormhole also led to the publication of two scientific papers co-authored with world’s leading astrophysicist Professor Kip Thorn.  It’s been a busy year!


Could you give us a brief description of the kinds of projects you’ve been working on these past few years? 

Recently I've been a Lighting and Rendering Supervisor on Godzilla, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and I’ve just finished working on Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.


Can you tell us about one of your recent project using Clarisse?

Exodus was quite a large show. In the end we delivered around 650 shots, which were stereo rendered shots. Our main work was focussed on the two CG cities and the plagues sequences, all of which were predominantly CG. As this was our first use of Clarisse we used it mainly on sequences where we knew our previous solutions would be problematic. These were mainly the crocodile shots where they were splashing around in the water with a lot of reflections and refractions.


What prompted the use of Clarisse on this project?

We had the crocodile sequences which were full CG crocodiles splashing around in murky and bloody water. This was going to require a lot of raytracing to render everything together to get the correct interactions and we thought Clarisse would be able to handle this. Although in the end we ended up using it in other places as well to see how well it performed.


Could you describe typical issues you faced in your past projects that are the reasons that led you to choose Clarisse? What did you look for in Clarisse?

Having a lot of indirect lighting was always a challenge for us previously, and this was something that Clarisse brought to the table. Also the general rendering speed was a massive increase on what we were used to.



What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome in this project? How did Clarisse help you to solve it? How did you go about transitioning to using Clarisse?

The amount of indirect lighting that was going to be required in the crocodile water sequences. As Clarisse was able to render this we didn't have to rely upon rendering the water and crocodiles independently and trying to make it look like they were interacting at compositing time.


What do you think Clarisse brought to this particular project?

The same as above really. Being able to rendering everything together all interacting correctly in a perfectly reasonable render time.


What did Clarisse bring to your work? How did it change your workflow?

The interactive rendering you experience when working with Clarisse is a massive bonus. It means we can light and work on assets/shots at a much quicker rate than we could previously.


Thanks to Clarisse, what’s now possible that was painful before?

Rendering indirect lighting in a much more efficient manner. Also being able to lookdev at a much faster rate. Before you would have to set off a test render, wait for the results, tweak a value, and go again. Now when you change values the rendered image just updates at a really quick rate.



How complex or easy was to integrate Clarisse in your workflow? Did you face any difficulties at the beginning?

The main work we had to do, and probably caused us the most issues, was integrating our asset delivery systems within Clarisse. This was so we could import all of our assets and shot layouts into Clarisse the same way we can into Maya and Houdini. However due to the Clarisse API we were able to implement this without too much difficulty.


How long did it take you to get used to Clarisse? Do you find it intuitive?

It didn't take me too long at all. It's very easy to start rendering, once you have imported an asset you can start working and rendering with it right away. It's taken a little more time to find all the features within Clarisse, as you would expect with any powerful piece of software.


What do you like about Clarisse?

The flexibility it offers both artists and RND and the tight interaction you have with the application and renderer. This means there is no plugin or 3rd party piece of software bridging the gap from application to renderer.


What are your top feature(s) in Clarisse?

The interactive re-rendering when you're lookdeving your asset or lighting your shots. Once you have loaded the Clarisse project then no matter what you do the rendered image will update when you make changes. There doesn't seem to be any limitations to this.


How have you enjoyed the Isotropix experience?

They are a great company to work with, and we at Dneg have a very good working relationship with them. This is one of the reasons why we were quite keen to move forward with Clarisse. Other than it being a really fast renderer.


To conclude can you tell us a bit about current and upcoming works on Clarisse at Dneg?

As we move forward with Clarisse more and more shows are using it as it becomes our default renderer. However the next big film that will be showing off it's talents will be Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, which is due out next week!