Sunday, January 03, 2010

cloudy with a chance of metaballs

When I worked for Microsoft in the early 2000's, one of the main features I developed was a cloud rendering system for Flight Simulator. I published a couple articles about it afterwards.

In 2007, I got an email from someone working on special effects for a movie. We have a friend in common, so we had exchanged emails previously about computer graphics. Now his team was reviewing previous work in cloud rendering, and my system came up on the list. He alerted me to a broken link on my cloud page.

I thanked him. He didn't end up using my real-time cloud techniques, but we kept in touch over email now and then.

This week he emailed me saying (paraphrased), "You may not remember me asking about your cloud paper a long time ago, but the movie finally came out. If you see it, check out the clouds."

I thought to myself, "Oh, what is this movie?"

The movie is Avatar!!!

I haven't seen it yet. Tonight he and I are going to go see it together, and then discuss the cloud rendering. I am very excited! We are seeing it in 3D at the Mountain View Shoreline theatre at 9:30pm! (All the IMAX 3D showings were sold out for San Francisco and South Bay.)

While everyone else in the theatre is captivated by the lush forests or the blue people, I will be wishing for them to get out of the way so I can see the clouds better!!!


pawliger said...

Very cool! You might check out this quarter's Cinefex magazine. They have a huge feature article on Avatar. Covers the practical as well as visual effects, and no specifics on the atmospheric work :( and an interesting read for a show where the tech is such a big part of why it's special. Haven't seen it yet, either, and waiting for the sell-out crowds to die down a little.

Yishan said...

The only way this could possibly be better is if someone from MTV contacted you and said that they'd used your work to render clouds in Jersey Shore!

John said...

AWESOME! Congrats! Hope you like the movie, and most of all, the clouds! Plot has often been described as Dances with Wolves (with Smurfs) and Pocahontas. I enjoyed the film. Hoping to see it in *real* IMAX 3D (as opposed to FakeMAX in the near future...)

N said...

re: writer. OMG, maybe I should work on an abs renderer. Do you think The Situation would contact me? :D

John said...

So what did you think of the clouds and the movie overall?

S said...

wow! Avatar graphics were very cool.

Alejandro Sierra said...

Hey, if I use your techniques for my virtual reality project about atmospheric science, would you come to see it?

N said...

Hahaha, maybe! Depends how far I'd have to go to see your project.

Justin K said...

Totally loved the special effects. Didn't notice the clouds though. Will have to see it again.

At the end of the movie my friend was like 'I didn't notice a lot of 3D effects in the movie'. Apparently everything was so real that the brain sort of forgets that its seeing something in 3D (since real life is 3D).

I then let her in on the secret to appreciating 3D movies... remember to take off your 3D glasses once in a while during the movie. You'll really notice the 3rd dimention when you put your glasses back on.

Alejandro Sierra said...

Not too far, just to Mexico City. :)

Today I watched the movie. More fog than clouds. Yes, the graphics and effects are impressive. But I actually liked the story.