When watching an iconic scene in your favorite film or television show, it is very unlikely that it appears just the way it was filmed in front of the camera. Dozens of teams work on countless aspects to truly make “movie magic” a possibility, with added lighting, sound, and visual effects (VFX). FX artists use computer science and physics dynamic simulations to create the breathtaking effects image sequences in the movies, commercials, TV series, game cinematics music videos, and more. They recreate the simulations and procedurally generate animations using a computer, which requires a strong technical side from a person. They need to understand linear algebra, vector mathematics, computer graphics, fluid dynamics, and programming, then use that knowledge to generate effects elements. At the same time, they work with art directors and other types of artists closely. They use a vast array of techniques to create effects elements, and have to understand not just the technical side, but also the artistic one. It is an immensely difficult job, taking hours to perfect even the smallest detail.
“In a word, FX artists create what audiences realize is the ‘coolest’ component in visual effects works. If a movie is classified as a heavy VFX movie, normally it is the vivid effects that catches audiences’ eyeballs. It’s like being a wizard; FX artists create the stunning effects images and put those into the video media. We make the impossible possible,” said China’s Jie Meng.
Meng is a leader in the visual effects industry. He has worked on some of the world’s biggest blockbuster films, including this year’s record-breaking Avengers: Infinity War. The flick was not his first for Marvel, also working on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Captain America: Civil War. Meng is extremely versatile, working not just in film and television, but also video games, such as the immensely popular Call of Duty: Black Ops III of the Call of Duty franchise.
One of Meng’s most recent projects is yet another video game, Quake Champions, which he is working on currently. He previously worked on the announcement trailer for the game back in 2016 for the world’s largest gaming trade event, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), seeing great success.
The trailer was exposed to over 50,000 attendees at the event, and it now has over 1.7 million views on YouTube alone. On top of such exposure, the trailer was recognized by several critics and advertising agencies, taking home the Bronze for Audio/Visual Technique at the 2016 Cilo Awards.
“I felt a huge honor working with the entire VFX crew on this project. It has been quite a journey for all of us and the announcement trailer was amazingly done and successfully released. It motivates and encourages me to keep going as a VFX artist and devoting myself to creating VFX works in the future,” said Meng.
Meng has always been a big fan of the Quake series, from the time he was just a teenager. Quake is an FPS (first-person shooter) game, and Quake Champions is a whole new upcoming FPS game developed by ID Software and published by Bethesda Softworks, as part of the Quake series of multiplayer shooters. Meng wanted to work on this to contribute his talent into the game series he loves.
Meng was part of the trailer from the early research stage to the final delivery. He was responsible for building multiple digital assets and finishing different elements for various sequences, such as blood and bullet hit effects. He was also one of the developers of the RPG smoke trail digital asset tool. In doing this, he brought up a technical solution to generate smoke trail simulations by using cluster containers. This solution saved a lot of simulation time and data space on the disk. All those tools were used by several artists in the VFX crew to finish every shot that contains those effects elements.
In addition to all of this, Meng designed and finished the jump-portal effects element for a hero moment when the Ranger gets shot and uses the jump-portal to escape. This element was complicated to create and also it needed to match the real-game reference. He worked closely with the Art Director and CG Supervisor, discussing the possibilities to make these stylized effects element. In the end, he generated a procedural shader to create the wispy and detailed looking blue streams to match the reference, and finally locked the image and put into the trailer to complete this epic moment.
“I have worked with Jie closely on multiple projects since he joined Method in 2015, some fun shows like Quake Champions: E3 2016 Reveal Trailer, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Avengers: Infinity War, and recently Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In the three solid years I have known him, Jie demonstrates that he is a super talented and hardworking VFX artist, he can create beautiful effects shots very efficiently, also can take on tasks like FX tool and setup for some key sequences. He can take feedback very well and provide creative solutions, definitely a team player too, which makes him a great asset to any VFX team,” said Jason Lin, an FX artist at Method Studios.
Meng’s digital asset tools allowed the artists to create and finish the shots quickly. His VFX works added a drastic visual impact to this full CG project. His work was essential in the trailer’s success, catching the eye of gamers and potential customers at E3 and around the world. Now, when working on the video game itself, he aims to achieve the same results.
“This is a game cinematic project, which means I can not only use the physics algorithms to create the physically correct effects but also can design and create a more artistic stylized effects works. It’s totally stylized and does not exist in the real world. It feels creative to create the effects that do not exist. I also just like to build digital asset tools and help other team members to finish the shots by using them. It makes the whole team more productive and saves a lot of time,” he added.
Be sure to play Quake Champions upon its release. The BETA is currently available for free play on Steam. Or, in the meantime, watch Meng’s extraordinary work on the trailer.