Flash Film Works uses Fusion Studio’s node-based 3D environment,Flash-film-librarians
including the Catcher node, with rotoscoping and projections to complete
VFX shots for adventure series ‘The Librarians’.

Flash Film Works Completes VFX for ‘The Librarians’ with Fusion Studio

Flash Film Worksis using Fusion Studio to complete Turner Network Television’s supernatural adventure series‘The Librarians’, which requires numerous VFX shots for each weekly episode. Founded in 1993 by VFX supervisor William Mesa, a winner of Emmy, VES and Academy Technical Achievement Awards, Flash Film Works itself has won a number of Emmy Awards and has supplied VFX work to the major film and TV studios 20th Century Fox, Disney, HBO, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal and Warner Bros.


‘The Librarians’ is about an ancient organization that aims to solve mysteries, fight supernatural threats and recover magical artefacts, including the Ark of the Covenant, the Spear of Destiny and Excalibur. Compositing supervisorJeremy Nelson, another VES award winner, and the team at Flash Film Works create the required fantasy effects for these stories usingFusion Studio.

Working to a broadcast time frame, they need software that will help quickly and efficiently build and finalize a large number of complicated shots, which is what they can do with Fusion. As examples, Jeremy talked about building out shots that needed damage applied to a car, a convincing teleporting membrane and an evil, photoreal minotaur who chases the Librarians and punches through a heavy metal door.


“We made anobject trackof the minotaur’s face in the story and created his glowing demon’s eyes by projecting the eyes from the tracked image onto Fusion spheres,” Jeremy said. “The team set up the original spheres in 3D and then finished them using the glow nodes and colour correction, all in Fusion. Our 3D artists are able to composite their own shots in Fusion.

“For the membrane transporting scene, the characters walk through a door and pass through the membrane, which pops as they go through into another dimension. In Fusion, I set up the shot so that I could rotoscope the characters. Then I rendered out the rotoscoped images as a frame or two, and projected the image onto the geometry, making the task simple and fairly quick.

Another interesting shot completed in Fusion was a crash scene with damage to the front of a car. “I did this completely in Fusion, again working on a 3D track. Fusion’sTrackercan detect and follow one or more pixel patterns across frames in the shot. The tracking data can then be used to control the position or values of other tools used in the composition,” Jeremy said.


“I set up a projection, and we created the damage to the front end of the car with theDisplace 3D node. The Displace 3D tool is used to displace the vertices of an object along their normal maps, which imitate the lighting of bumps and dents and are used to add details without adding more polygons, based on a reference image. The texture coordinates on the geometry are used to determine where to sample the image.

“We took a frame of the car as the reference, displaced it with a Displace 3D node and lit it to get the shadows. We then projected it onto geometry - that is, the image of the car onto that displaced geometry 3D-tracked on the car. Before Fusion developed itsCatcher node, I would have had to render it out and import it back into Fusion.”

TheCatcher materialis used to ‘catch’ texture-mode projections cast from the Projector 3D and Camera 3D tools in Fusion. The intercepted projections are converted into a texture map and applied by the Catcher material to the geometry it is connected to. By connecting the Catcher to the diffuse texture map of the material applied to the image plane, and then switching the projection from light mode to texture mode, Fusion knows to apply the projected image as atexture map.



Trying to use a light-based projection would only add the values of the RGB channels in the projected image to the diffuse texture of any geometry lying within the cone of the projection, making it impossible to trim away geometry based on the alpha channel.

One advantage of this approach over light projection is that the Catcher can be used to project alpha values onto an object, without lighting enabled. Another advantage is that the Catcher is not restricted to the diffuse input of a material, so that you can project specular intensity maps, or reflection and refraction maps if necessary.

“Without an extra render-and-re-import step, being able to rotoscope what you are projecting or do a quick paint on something is useful and very efficient,” said Jeremy. “We needed to complete a few versions to get our car shot right, but it was almost complete at the first go. That is, we had the technical result quite quickly, and the further iterations were artistic changes, not technical corrections.”  www.blackmagicdesign.com