• DMM Spaceships

    Of Simulation and Spaceships

    By now, if you have searched for "DMM" on the web, you have probably seen this video:

    In this article, I'll share with you what it took to make that spaceship fly through those asteroids.

    Firstly, I want to point out that with DMM, reality really matters. Specifically, when you create something with specific mass and physical properties, those are all computed by the DMM solver as real-world quantities. So if, for example, I were to want to create a giant 747-sized spaceship like this one:

    We would have to consider how it might react when subjected to external forces at its scale. Our early tests showed that it was unwise to try and maneuver a giant, massive spaceship in a way that is typically depicted in science fiction. Those fantasy spaceships have some sort of inertia dampers built-in so they probably don't suffer from having their superstructure being ripped apart by rapid movements

    A short movie of what happens when your spaceship is not strong enough to deal with the forces driving it:

    So, given our schedule, and the fact that we didn't want to spend the time adding a DMM version of an "inertial dampner" to the simulation, we decided to have the spaceship not try to imitate the Millenium Falcon. We still wanted it to be pummeled with asteroids though and we wanted to get the effect of interior structure being smashed, so we started doing something that most VFX houses didn't have to worry about at the time - model an actual superstructure for the spaceship. Thanks to our talented artist, Greg Knight, and our equally impressive modeller - Esteban Monti, we were able to turn this:

    Into this:

    and this:

    Having a superstructure helped a lot, but there was still the adjustment of the physical materials. We wanted the skin of the spaceship to be ductile enough to tear, but not so soft that it crumpled into tissue like this:

    What was interesting during the simulation/animation process was how often our expectations about reality were wrong. The human scale of visualization revolves around things we see at our scale. Its not often that we see a very large metal object get hit by an asteroid (if ever...). The artistic element of looking for a visual cue establishing a visual "punch" was sometimes lacking as we threw asteroids at our simulated spaceship and watched a beam shift and a skin section buckle at the other end. It was funny, but also very educational. We learned how DMM worked and how to properly apply it to do something amazing. We also learned about some of the expectations artists would have when using our technology. Eating your own dogfood is important in this business, the work is already technically difficult, and its important to pay attention to workflow issues when refining new technology.

    Many thanks to Demetrius Leal and Adam Martinez for their amazing efforts in using an early version of the DMM plugin. The work done on this shot was completed back in 2008. We've come a long way since then...

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. George Lucas's Avatar
      George Lucas -
      Couldn't have done it better myself!
    1. Kalul's Avatar
      Kalul -
      Quote Originally Posted by George Lucas View Post
      Couldn't have done it better myself!
      So i desides to post now cause this is well done! AND GEORG LUCAS HAS WRITTEN A POST OVER ME BOOAAA
    1. johnstardling's Avatar
      johnstardling -
      Wow You have created it so Awesomely !!!