feature film «Inhabited Island»


In July 2008 we’ve received a suggestion of Electrofilm studio to participate in the “Inhabited Island” project.

The work lasted about 4 month, during this time our studio made 54 shots with a graphic elements of different difficulty levels: from making back shots behind the dirigible’s windows to creation of the dirigible itself and the explosion of it.

One Dirigible, One Tower and Many Pitfalls.
Well, we’ve got the episode with the dirigible’s flight, including the scene of it’s clash with a retransmitter tower and the scene of the posterior explosion.

Retransmitting tower
After receiving ready models of the dirigible and the tower, we’ve start to work at the animatics (it took about 4 weeks). But before pass to the new production stage, we had to make a new models, because we found out that the first one didn’t correspond to the specifications. Finally, we’ve made a new models of the dirigible and the tower:
  • The model for a flight render
  • The model for the breaks and explosion

When the base was ready, we started the render stage and literally at the same begun to work at the animation. The main task for as was a creation of the maximum realistic image. To fulfill it, we worked properly at all dirigible’s elements, which were animated separately afterwords.
“But create the right object was only the half of work, not less important was to fit it correctly to the environment”, – tells Vladimir Iustinov, CG supervisor of the project.
With this aim we made simplified landscape’s models with textures for the each scene,  thereby we’re able to recreate the image with the correct reflections and lights, what matter a lot, when we want to approach the most realistic image.

That was a moment when we faced with a pitfalls… As the reference for creation dirigible’s look we’ve got photos and scans of the deckhouse back, which really represented a structure made of foil and painted with the oils.

Mostly this deckhouse was made in 3D, but there were some scenes, where it’s real (falling to the water, FE). That’s why we have to repeat its reflection properties for the whole dirigible’s surface, as a result it became too bright here and there.

During the project we’ve faced a similar cases several times.
In some shots we’ve got a task to put the view behind the windows of flying dirigible. At the initial materials the outdoor light was absolutely static, so we got the effect of a stage shooting. To avoid it, we have to create the effect of the dynamic light manually, using masks, what, unfortunately, had its influence to the image quality.
In addition, to our opinion there wasn’t a good idea to match CG sky with the dirigible. Because the sky was made by another studio, as the result we can see two independent objects.
Great Explosions and Smokes.
Though this elements is related with the dirigible, the scale (13 shots, totally) of this work make us pay special attention to it.
“Sure, we used to work at the similar things before, but this time difficulty level became definitely higher, — tells render-specialist Alexander Isakov. After turbine’s explosion, the dirigible starts to “smoke”. The difficulty here consists in a close shot, thus the quality of image is really important.
At the same time in simulation of this kind of natural phenomenons, like smoke or fire, it’s not so easy to reach the needed realistic. That’s why is very important to look through a lot of reference materials to understand how it happen in a real life. We found out, that we cannot find the needed example in reference selection.
Suddenly seen poster with a smoking train, gave us the idea to use moving locomotive as an example for making effects with the smoke.

We’ve found out, that its speed and the smoke was exactly what we were looking for. Thereby, we cleared up how the simulation would be. At the same time we understood, that for the specific task we needed fresh ideas for the production optimization. For example, all smoking turbines were collected in a one 3D scene. Experimentally, it let us make changes in all containers with effects. Collection for the render was made in another individual shot with its light and environment.
One of the most labor-intensive goal was the realization of the turbine’s explosion. At the beginning there is whole turbine in front of us, but then, after detonation, appear holes. Thereby, fluid simulation directly connected with difficult animation geometry. It made computer calculation more complicated and all work process more longer. That’s why to calculate animation has been created invisible turbine’s model with a lees details but repeating all animation.

All effects were calculated in a separate layer and composed with the dirigible later. Because creation of this kind of effects takes a lot of time for researches and experiments, we need to test different variants to rich the desired settings.
To realize the task we used the plug-in fume-fx, specially made for fire and smoke modeling. Itself this program is rather flexible, what in theory gives opportunities to do the most difficult tasks, but because of some its peculiarities, it was impossible to predict the result with our settings. So, we had to do so many tests…but the final result worth it!
Some Sad Facts.
It’s a pity that one the best shots wits smoke and fire effects didn’t appear in the final cut, has been cropped or speeded up. And further color compensation made in another studio change the result a lot.
Look and judge yourself:

vfx034( before the color compensation )

vfx034(after the color compensation)
Not include shots:


In its base was a big amazing shooting explosion. We need to built in a three-dimensional model. In a 3D scene the dirigible was surrounded by the polygons of animated textures of the explosion. Only thus it took needed light reflections. The shot also didn’t get in to the final cut, because of the scene’s tempo, unfortunately.
In conclusion, we want to add that for us it was extremely interesting to work at the project, and we really appreciate this experience!
Film director: Fedor Bondarchuk
Asymmetric VFX Studio team:
VFX supervisor: Viktor Luckysov
VFX supervisor assistant: Tatiyana Kunevich
CG supervisor: Vladimir Iustinov
VFX coordinator: Julia Marchenko
VFX team: Alexander Isakov, Anna Yakovleva, Pavel Smirnov, Artem Voinskij, Alexejy Mihalko, Sergey Shlaev, Anton Gridchin, Tatyana Mikhina, Alexey Serkov,Alexey Borzih, Maria Filatova, Maxim Pavlov, Egor Chaschin, Vaychislav Novikov
Making of CG helicopters crash for the feature film «Interspector»
Making of the Zeppelin’s last flight for the feature film «Inhabited Island».