Androids, blood and fire : in-depth interview about Westworld Season 3 with RISE Studios

Reading time: 6 minutes

3DVF : Let’s talk about the Quadcopter shots. How did you handle the motion of the craft itself (spinning rotors, weapons, animation of the craft) in order to get something realistic and with a feeling of weight/inertia ?

Jonathan Weber (VFX Supervisor – RISE) : We already had a functional helicopter rig that was easily transferable to the Quadcopter´s rig. The animation of the Quadcopter was trickier. The best way of tackling it was looking at a broad variety of references getting a good idea of what was needed to sell the speed while still feeling the weight of the three-tons craft up there in the air. From there on it was iterating the animations till we found the balance between action paced motion and the correct inertia.

© 2020 HBO

3DVF : The Rehoboam was yet another part of the show you worked on. Since CoSA VFX had already worked on this machine beforehand, the process probably was quite straightforward ? Did you re-use their asset or did you create your own ?

Yes, it was reasonably straight forward. We were able to re-use their asset, only creating our own set of lights for the dark atmospheric feel of the sequence.

© 2020 HBO
© 2020 HBO

3DVF : Houdini is one of the main tools used at Rise. What are your thoughts on the new features of the Houdini 18 Release (Solaris & USD, Karma Render) ? Have they found their way into your pipeline ?

We are currently working on implementing USD into our pipeline, using Solaris as our central tool. Karma looks very promising, but it is still in beta, so we are also evaluating RenderMan and Arnold as possible alternatives.

© 2020 HBO

3DVF : Could you give us a few technical details about your renderfarm ? What was the heaviest shot you had to render on this show ?

The heaviest was the Quadcopter close-up, but we made sure that all of the render times were very reasonable in comparison to former projects. Around 6h per frame for the final HQ full frame render.
Its difficult for me to keep track of the current status of the renderfarm, since its constantly growing and based in several locations berlin, munich and stuttgart. Its somewhere around 500 nodes right now. And we even have the possibility of increasing that amount by outsourcing renderings of non-secure projects from now on.

© 2020 HBO
© 2020 HBO

3DVF : Last, but not least… The covid-19 pandemic is unfortunately still an issue. How did Rise handle this crisis ?

Directly after the outbreak IT quickly set up the technical foundation to make remote work possible. IT did an amazing job, huge kudos to them! Until now most of our artists work from home, connected via NoMachine, using Jitsi and Zoom to communicate and Jitsi screen share on the workstations or RV connections to share and view images. The workflow is definitely different than before, but it does work. And so far, for the company´s sake the workload has not plummeted at all, fingers crossed it stays this way!

For more information

  • The official website of RISE Studios ;

  • HBO published a few behind-the-scenes videos :

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