COMPLEX VFX, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS
AWS Thinkbox Helps Anchor Bottleship VFX
Digital destruction is Bottleship VFX’s sweet spot. From fiery explosions to churning waterfalls, the Bulgarian studio excels at crafting data-heavy VFX, including particle work and fluid simulations – feats accomplished in part through Thinkbox Software tools.
Thinkbox’s Deadline is the centerpiece of Bottleship’s in-house renderfarm, which Co-founders Hristo Velev and Martin Naydenski chose because of its broad application support, reliability and performance, and previous experience with the software. The facility currently runs Deadline on five to 50 render nodes at any given time, and because of Deadline’s reliability and decentralized architecture, they experience easy scaling as the studio grows.
Bottleship also appreciates Deadline’s Shotgun integration, the ease of software deployment, ability to run maintenance jobs and cloud compatibility. They’ve even tapped the software for thermal control; after running into cooling issues, Bottleship instructed Deadline to shut down the hottest servers when the room’s ambient temperature exceeded a certain threshold, then restart once cool enough. “When it comes to Deadline, we’re often surprised by the Ali Baba cave of hidden treasures it unlocks for us,” noted Velev.
Given Bottleship’s core line of work, Thinkbox’s volumetric particle toolset, Krakatoa, plays a key role in artists’ day-to-day activities. Its performance and flexibility enable hundreds of millions of particles to be iterated multiple times per day. “Krakatoa is a main gun in our arsenal,” shared Naydenski, “It’s indispensable in the creation of many effects we do daily – whitewater, energy, disintegrations, all that fun stuff – and allows us to fulfill our clients’ most outlandish and demanding requests.”
The studio also uses Thinkbox’s Stoke to efficiently shape fields in detail for almost every project. “What Krakatoa does for particles, Stoke does for fields,” added Velev. “If there’s an effect that’s easiest to approach from a field perspective, then we’re able to quickly and easily design it with Stoke. We then render it and produce the 100 million particles we use as a ground rule on detailed effects, and often, we combine the custom fields, like geometry defined ones, with other sources like textures, FumeFX simulations or turbulences, to create additional detail layers.”
For liquid meshing, debris and complex effects with particle geometry, Bottleship uses Thinkbox’s Frost coupled with the Magma toolset in Krakatoa to maximize performance and flexibility. “All big rigid body simulations need to be augmented by debris layers,” said Velev. “With small, abundant piles of gravel, flakes and all kinds of gunk, it makes a lot of sense to use simple geometry like cubes for simulation, partition it, and let Frost take care of assigning meshes to it. Using Magma, we can even assign more detailed shapes to particles near the camera, delete everything outside the view that we don’t need rendered, and create interesting variations in size, shape and material on the fly.”
To seamlessly work across creative applications such as Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya, and The Foundry’s NUKE, Bottleship leverages Thinkbox’s XMesh; the geometry caching tool easily integrates easily with Deadline and Cebas’ thinkingParticles, preserving all data channels while producing plausible motion blur even with volumeBreaker fragmentations.
"When it comes to Deadline, we’re often surprised by the cave of hidden treasures it unlocks for us"
In addition to proven pipeline solutions, Thinkbox provides personalized support to assist with any complications Bottleship encounters. “I’m delighted to say Thinkbox has some of the most responsive, to the point, effective support. And you don’t get an anonymous beast handler on the other side, but one of the developers,” explained Naydenski, “There is а personal touch, and true-to-goodness CG enthusiast camaraderie there. Very often our ideas are being listened to, and end up as features. Warms my heart!”
“With such a great array of solutions, it’s quite unsurprising that Thinkbox is one of our key relationships,” concluded Velev. “We are thankful for everything they’ve enabled us to do so far and can’t wait to see what’s around the corner. Historically, their surprises have very often been quite good!"