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July 20, 2007

lsgl: pseudopods ahoy!

by sven at 11:59 pm

the Shoggoth's first victim
click on image to play clip (586 KB)

This is the first shot where we see the Shoggoth's pseudopods emerge and start smacking down Elder Things. It took four agonizing days to pull together this 2.5 second shot.

falling Elder Thing
click on image to play clip (68 KB)

The first thing I had to do was create a new animation for the falling Elder Thing.

The galloping Elders use a run cycle. Their legs go in circles endlessly, and when I move their whole body forward at the right pace, it looks like their legs are responsible for propelling them. If I were to add keyframes into this animation, it would break the run cycle -- so the falling animation had to be done separately...

At the instant when the Elder Thing gets hit by the pseudopod, I pull a fast switch. The running elder suddenly pops over 90 feet stage right, and I put the falling elder in its place.

I really don't like this fall very much... But given that it's only on screen for such a brief moment, it's passable.

making the Shoggoth bulge

Working on this shot, I've come to see the Shoggoth as having three body sections: the wet part that sticks to the walls, the main mass, and the pseudopods.

To make it look like the mass of the Shoggoth is beginning to bulge into the room, I first composited a 2D clip of the wet blob on the cave wall using AfterEffects... Then, I projected this clip onto a flat panel in Lightwave 3D, and deformed the panel. (The photo above hopefully gives you a sense of how I'm pushing the image outward into the third dimension.)

nixed pseudopod concept
click on image to play clip (572 KB)

I tried and rejected a lot of different ways of making the pseudopods. I had really hoped to be able to do them using 2D compositing in AfterEffects... But there was just no way to get an adequate sense of depth, the feeling that these things are shooting out at you. The clip above should give you a sense of how flat the compositing approach was turning out.

The pseudopod design that I settled on, incidentally, is largely inspired by the lake monster just outside the door to the mines of Moria in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 cartoon version of Lord of the Rings ("speak 'friend' and enter").

using water tank to create blood cloud
click on image to play clip (31 KB)

It looks like most of the water tank footage I shot won't get used in Let Sleeping Gods Lie. Drat. One exception: some of the out-takes can be used to simulate the Elder Things bleeding.

I am so glad to have this shot done! Now that I've established the look of the pseudopods, I ought to be able to do the rest of Act III without any more big hitches.

...I'm a bit worried, though. When I string the shots that I have together, they go by really fast. I may have to create a number of quick little interstitial shots which I hadn't planned on -- partly to pad the length of the climax, partly to help orient the viewer to where they're supposed to be standing in the stampede at any particular moment.

posted by sven | July 20, 2007 11:59 PM | categories: let sleeping gods lie