Gorgoroth sends along this great report from SIGGRAPH, take a look at a few details about SFX!

I went to the SIGGRAPH Houdini Users Group Meeting on Sunday at the Westin Bonaventure.

When WETA took the stage, one of the Effects Animators gave the presentation who was a skinny fellow that had a British accent. Projected on a enormous screen, he began by showing a breakdown of the fireworks that Gandalf launches during Bilbo’s party.

The first sequences showed wireframes of the particle system erupting over Hobbiton and the “streams” of the fireworks explosion swooping down over a river like a wave toward the camera (if you recall from the 2nd teaser trailer of LOTR there was a shot of the fireworks exploding but not the streams that animated afterwards). The commentator explained how Peter Jackson wanted more of the “streams” that make the tentacles of the explosions.

Then he showed a halfscreen test of the explosion (basically only half of the entire screen was rendered since both sides are symmetrical) that looked wonderful but really nothing could have prepared you for the final render.

It was gorgeous! To me it looked so remiscent of a fairy tale. The intial explosion was white/orange/red and as the tentacles swooped toward the camera they were blue/purple. The greatest effect to these streams were the trail of “dust” they left behind. It was really magnificent. The attention to detail in the reflections as the streams coursed over the water looked perfect.

Then, we were treated to another particle effect that involved a “dragon” that was made out of particles. Apparently this effect was a continuation of the fireworks and was vastly more complicated. The commentator showed multiple R&D images of this effect from concept to tackling issues with UV coordinate systems of sprites. The idea was to have 3 points located on the thumbs and the tongue that emitted the rest of the dragon.

The final composite reminded me of those fireworks that sparkle and linger in the air for awhile. Bilbo and Frodo were in the foreground ducking as the dragon swept from the sky and vanished in a glowing ball of light. The particle systems that were flowing off the dragon moved like drapery as they sparkled and faded.

Truely magnificient all of it.