Making of -video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aracyZMwqUU
FumeFX simulation times 4h - 15h per fire, depending on frame amount and container resolution.
During the summer of 2010, when the Cataclysm beta began and various videos and pictures started to emerge from the destroyed Azeroth, I got an idea of this video, which would act as an unofficial cinematic trailer for the expansion.
In the video the opening credits sequence from the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day is converted into a WoW version, showing different areas from the game caught in flames, caused by The Shattering. Thinking it would fit well to the theme of Cataclysm and its fire spitting main antagonist Deathwing, I decided to take the project for production.
At that time, when the idea popped in my head, I didn't really have the tools and knowledge to create what I wanted to, in fact I only knew how to export models from WoW Model Viewer and import them onwards. So I didn't create any material or footage before I could figure out how to do the most important element. But after a few silent weeks without any real progression, I decided to put the project on hold. However I didn't abandon the idea, and kept my eyes open for any possible newb-friendly ways to create my vision.
During the next couple of months I had come across with a handful of different plug-ins and software with built-in flame creators and fluid simulators. Yet the results were either not good enough, or I simply lacked the skill and/or hardware to satisfy my perfectionism.
Initially the plan was to release the video before Blizzards official cinematic, but due to the reasons mentioned above, that didn't happen.
Eventually, around the end of November I decided that slacking and waiting ends now, and I force myself to make the video happen. That meant a journey to the very unknown: 3DS Max and a plug-in called FumeFX.
• Earlier experience from 3DS Max: a few MaxScript imports for WoW models and then export them. Didn’t even know how to create a cube.
• Earlier experience from FumeFX: 1-2 attempts to simulate, Max crashed each time.
But I had to try.
Plan was to create four scenes from different areas. Darkshore was pretty much immediately picked as one, as it had taken a massive hit. Other three were still under consideration. But before I had even finished the first scene, I thought that this looks nothing like the T2, and decided to delete the whole thing and build a new from scratch. I went back and forth the T2 scenes, drew a bit of storyboard and tried to find a counterpart for each object. Slowly it all came together and all my to-be-burned sets were done. Half way there!
Next thing to do was to light it all up. Dozens and dozens of tutorials, reading, more tutorials and learning the basics, and finally I reached my first goal, set a model on fire which also looks like fire. This happened a couple of weeks before the launch. Encouraged, I planned to release the final product before 7th of December. A couple of day later, after getting more familiar with Fume, I realized that I would miss this too, by a mile, or ten. The amount of simulations needed was just too big. Each burning object required a high resolution simulation and it took 4h - 15h to do one, depending on the amount of frames and resolution. System stress was enormous, hardly could watch a video or browse the internet while simulating. And not only did I spent most of the time sitting and waiting the sim to complete, I still had to render it, in passes. But at this point I didn’t want stop anymore and kept going.
I modified the scenes several times, adding and removing objects, re-simulated many fires, and then re-rendered, got to compositing stage and finally editing. I liked what I saw.
Now, after almost two months of non-stop production, I want to believe that I'm done. Challenging, sometimes extremely stressing and on the other hand a fun project.