Felician Lepadatu | PROJECTS | Fire and Ice | Fire dragon

Fire & Ice (2008) TV

Director: Pitof


Ruled by King Augustin, Carpia is a peaceful kingdom in a world inhabited by dragons and knights. The land’s serenity is unexpectedly shattered by a Fire Dragon that spreads almighty fear and death amongst the kingdom’s innocent people…


Final result:


How to:

This project was quite a difficult mission for us because of the more than 450 full cgi vfx shots. The timeline was a little under 7 months of production, starting from the day the edit got approved.  3 months before, we started with the previz and the setup of the whole pipeline to fit the deadline.

This is the reason behind the automation of this project. All the shading, td setup, simulation and rendering are script driven.

This is an example of the the flow in our project:

  • we take the master previz scene and generate (camera name based) the files for animation.
  • the files from animation get baked and cleaned, removing helpers and dummy stuff. Then we output 3 other files: shading, particle effects and environment.
  • the shading files use script based action for automation of the basic texture assignment, shading settings and light placement. After this, we teak around for desired effect and then we out put again, by script, files for beauty renders, layers and utility maps. All these are going straight to render farm.
  • the particle effects files split into 2 different files: low quality settings simulation and high quality settings simulation. The LOW Q settings simulation files output data to be used for simulation driven particles. The HIGH Q settings simulation files output data straight to render farm as fire, smoke and volume zdepth layers.
  • the environment files split into 2 separate direction: one is full cgi geometry and the other is mate paint projection. Both output all the beauty plus utility layers by script.


The previz animation was done during a 2 months and a half timeline. In that period of time the animators team build entire movie sequences that were followed by camera placement under director’s supervision. All the cameras were then rendered as previz to quick time files used in the edit.

After the final edit got locked we took the master files and break it apart for every shot.

The following shot is a close up of the fire dragon while the first village  attack.


The model concept came as a special request of the director. This is the concept drawing of the creature that is to be the Fire Dragon

Fire dragon concept

This is the clay model of the Fire Dragon.

Fire dragon model


This is viewport rendering of the final mesh animated before it went to shading and rendering.

The animation is baked after approval in order to eliminate all the additional controllers and helpers needed  during animation. The transform matrix is then locked to avoid accidentally moving, rotating or scaling the mesh.



This is a simple image of the sky background with a little bit of the terrain horizon.

background layers

Dragon body

We choose to render the head and the body of the dragon separately. This is a special request from compositing, in order for them to better end easy access different details of the dragon.

dragon body layers

Dragon head

As with the body of the dragon, all the layers below are render results of max files generated automated by script.

dragon head layers

Dragon volumetrics

The layers below are fire, head fire, particles and smoke. The head fire was necessary because of the needed resolution around the head area. The particles are driven by a low quality simulation grid.

dragon volumetrics layers



For this particular shot all the layers used for the background comp are not necessary, mainly because we have no real parallax and because of the heavy use of the dof.

Even so, all the render output is scripted to fit all the shots, so we end up with these layers already precomped.

background layer background layer comp


The smoke is a the rendered result of a fume fx simulation. This was supposed to be a high detail voxel simulation but we had to chose a lower settings for speed sake in order to meet deadline.

smoke layer smoke layer comp


The particles are a particle flow system driven by a low quality settings of the fume fx simulation. We took the same voxel grid that generated the main fire and smoke layer and we heighten the size of the voxel. After that, we setup 3 particle flow systems driven by various degrees of influence from the simulation. All these are then cached by krakatoa as multiple partitions. With the cache on the network we move everything to render farm.

particles layer particles layer comp


The comp of the body layers with the particles and smoke over the background. The comp is a standard start point for further compositing.

body layer body layer comp


The fire layer gets on top of the image. The resolution of the fire layer depends dramatically on the resolution of the voxel grid for fume fx. This is a close up of the dragon, but even so, the dragon flies in world space quite a lot and the grid gets larger very quickly. This limits the possibility of increasing the render quality with out getting to the limits of our machines. To overcome this, a script was written to keep the dragon in place and move the world (including camera) around it. The trick is to keep some movement of the body and some translation to relate with the dynamic of the world.

body fire layer body fire layer comp


The last element of composition. We use the smoke layer to create some contrast for the fire against the clear blue sky.

head layer head layer comp

All the layers presented above are a the base for compositing start. A lot more utility layers are going to be used. A full usage of these is going to be presented on the Fire Dragon – part II post.