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GDC 2004 Visual Arts Keynote: Workflow Convergence: How Motion Picture Pipelines Are Merging With Game Development


March 25, 2004
 
John "DJ" DesJardin

In his Visual Arts Keynote, John "DJ" DesJardin, Visual Effects Supervisor for the Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions movies, took a behind-the-scenes look at the concurrent visual arts production of the two movies in coordination with the production of Shiny's Enter the Matrix game.

After going through a brief history of his own personal gaming experience, DesJardin revealed a flow chart of the multi-tentacled octopus of the Matrix franchise production where his studio, Eon, stood at the beginning. The flow chart highlighted the high-level of coordination necessary to produce such a huge undertaking.

A bulk of the keynote was spent looking at the visual effects production of certain large-scale scenes and virtual environments such as the siege of Zion and Neo's fight against an army of Agent Smiths. DesJardin described the scene design production for the movies as being based on game engine philosophy incorporating such things as large-scale physics, biorigging, and voodoo dynamics. He pointed out that the virtual backgrounds were based on some Siggraph papers citing "How to Render Milk" as integral to the lighting effects on the synthetic humans. Liquid physics were applied to the large-scale movement of a steady stream of Sentinels with one Sentinel being tagged as the leader as the others followed. Other highlights included a breakdown of the numerous layers of the Zion virtual environment and a look at the original storyboard of Neo versus Agent Smiths which called for an even longer scene then the one that ended up in the movie.

DesJardin moved on to show a couple of scenes from the Matrix movies and Enter the Matrix that differed due to the unfamilarity and differences between movie production schedules and game production schedules. He admitted that he and his team had not known what a gold disk deadline was. This resulted in certain unfinished film assets being completed specifically for the game with the finalized film version looking markedly different.

In closing, DesJardin stated that while there were still significant differences between film and game development and production, he sees a future where the line between the two blur as they become closer and assume a more synergistic relationship.


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