Boston-based Neoscape, now with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, has developed a futuristic 4K vision for the revitalized waterfront of Shanghai, China. The imagery is striking, resembling at times the famed movie Tron.
Visualizing a major new urban development takes time and planning. Although the finished product may only be an 8-minute video, one has to artfully direct the combined efforts of 4K animation, live footage and, in this project, stereoscopic 3D. To help this latest project run smoothly Neoscape turned to Chaos Group’s V-Ray technology, turning a massive project into a futuristic GCI visit to Yanpu Ba Dai Tou.
To help this latest project run smoothly Neoscape turned to Chaos Group’s V-Ray technology, turning a massive project into a futuristic GCI visit to Yanpu Ba Dai Tou—John Portman & Associates’ latest plan for the Shanghai riverfront.
Yangpu Ba Dai Tou
The goal of the new Yangpu Ba Dai Tou plan is to turn an aging industrial zone into a vibrant new district, combining mixed-use construction with offices, hotels, retail, parks, and housing—all mixed in with historical structures.
To convey this overall synthesis, Portman’s office needed a powerful visual that would walk people through the site, demonstrate key components like the “Pearl Necklace,” a pedestrian circle, and the “Dragon Spine,” a retail and connector zone. When a video became necessary they turned to Neoscape, one of the world’s leading visualization studios.
“When we put together the creative treatment, we knew that we didn’t want it to be a simple programmatic study,” said Carlos Cristerna, Principal and Director of Visualization at Neoscape. “We wanted to create a more interesting visual style without overcomplicating the production, so we devised a more abstract approach to the story.”
At one point on the project, we calculated that we would need 17.5 days of non-stop rendering for the 3D work alone; one computer would have taken 1,010 days, and this was when we only had 12 days left!
Neoscape used the Dragon Spine as a narrative device, taking the viewer through Shanghai, up the river, and back to the site. This potent cultural symbol allowed the firm to reference both the history of Yangpu, and the original point of entry into Asia. Colorful graphics inspired by long exposures, Chinese paintings, and films like Tron provided the final touch, helping Neoscape incorporate the traditional dragon from Chinese New Year, with a few modern flourishes.
While 3D animation played an essential role in the production, Neoscape also saw an opportunity to combine their visualizations with live video, shot on location in Shanghai. The brief called for multiple aspect ratios, meaning the final video would live both online (16:9) and out in the world (19:4), mainly on a 55’ x 11’ projection screen in Yangpu Ba Dai Tou’s marketing center.
“We had to be very deliberate in our selection of camera moves and framing, so whatever we shot would work for multiple ratios,” noted Cristerna. “You’ll notice that in the video, most of the cameras pan from bottom to top, top to bottom, or use a subtle move that reveals the subject. This was done so no matter what ratio you are viewing it on, you’ll be able to see the totality of the shot, as it was intended. It was kind of like a moving Ken Burns approach.”
The next challenge was producing a version with stereoscopic depth. A common way to produce 3D movies, stereoscopy creates the illusion of depth in images. A useful trick, but also a time-consuming process that doubles the rendering load for visualization projects, as it creates a need for an image for both the right and left eyes. With 4K visual effects already in production and only 20 weeks to deliver an 8-minute film, twice the render load meant that Neoscape would have to put their rendering software into overdrive. The team put their faith in V-Ray for 3ds Max, the AEC industry’s most popular renderer, as it could be trusted for both quality and speed.
One of our biggest challenges was that you can’t see the film in stereo while you’re working on it, so we needed to adjust our pipeline to review those shots.
“At one point on the project, we calculated that we would need 17.5 days of non-stop rendering for the 3D work alone; one computer would have taken 1,010 days, and this was when we only had 12 days left!” said Cristerna. “Luckily, because of V-Ray, our average times were very good, and most frames rendered a lot faster than we anticipated.”
next page: 32,500 Rendered Frames and Final Movie