With the roadmap completed and the visual identity of the city being developed, the team began working on the CG buildings to begin populating the map.
“We worked really closely with the on-set arch-designers and set-dressers who gave us LIDAR and photogrammetry of the whole set which we then tidied up and built on top of,” recalls Roni Rodrigues, VFX Supervisor for The Wheel of Time.
Creating such a huge asset meant it was important the team worked efficiently. “We built 20 blocks of buildings which we scattered procedurally using Houdini. We wanted to get as much reuse out of the individual buildings as possible without compromising the shot, so we created a number of basic models and added variation through look-dev and texturing” CG Supervisor Ben Hart-Shea explains.
The team needed to build enough houses to hold the 600,000 residents of Tar Valon within the time constraints of the filming schedule. This led the CG team to build the residential houses in groups of four which would intersect in a way that wasn’t visible when the buildings were in situ.
Even using this process and with procedural scattering, creating a layout with the correct look and feel was a lengthy task, Hart-Shea recalls: “there were lots of iterations of the city’s layout; somehow we just knew when it didn’t look right. We built in layers, expanding vertically so we could add scale and height in places we felt needed it.”
“The challenge of this task was compounded by the sheer amount of data we were handling. We would have to render the scene overnight, which meant it was difficult for us to see the true effect of our changes until hours later,” adds White.
While the LIDAR scans provided the team with a basis for the city’s residential buildings, the hero assets were full-CG and created from scratch. These included religious temples, marketplaces, guild halls and others which were built with varying Eastern architectural flair.
“We created hero assets with domed rooftops and added dramatic arches to design of the White Tower, elements which are characteristic of Persian architecture,” Sadler-Coppard explains.