The Flight Before Christmas

This is a movie about Niko, a reindeer boy in Lapland, who has heard that his father is one of the famous flying reindeers of Santa Claus. Niko dreams of being able to fly. His friend and mentor Julius, a squirrel, tries to keep an eye on the boy. Niko was a Finish, Danish and German Co production. The Effects and Animation where produced in Germany while Rendering and Lighting was done on the Finish side.

Director: Michael Hegner, Kari Juusonen
Postproduction Company : Visual Distraction, Pictorion Magma Animation/Studio Rakete
Show VFX Supervisor: Julian Hermannsen
Links: Full Credit List, Trailer

Production Year: 2007/2008
Postproduction Software: Maya 2008, 3D Studio Max, Renderman

Working Tasks: Particle Setups, Maya Effects Team Lead

A large portion of the show involved snow effects. Especially when the characters are walking or running through the snow landscape. Because of the small budget all the effects had to get done as fast as possible. For this reason I developed a bunch of simple particle and sprite snow setups for all the characters. After that, I assisted and leaded the effects team. There was not much time and we had to place these snow walking effects in a high number of shots. Here is an example previs with snow and sprite emissions:

In the videos below you will see some of the finished typical snow particle shots. It was of course necessarily for to particles not only to collide with the ground but also to come to rest. Back in the days this could only archived with some mel scripting. In some cases we emitted also some sprites which where rendered with Renderman and DeepShadows for a more volumetric look.

We also had a couple of Snowball Shots. We simply pre-broke the snowball model and simulated the pieces on impact with Maya’s classical dynamics system. From the inner core of the snowball we emitted additional particles and sprites on impact. Sometimes the simplest approaches are the one that work the best.

In one Shot we used for a falling Icicle Blastcode, a Maya plugin for destruction simulations. We needed that because the pieces had to collide with each other to create an more interesting destruction effect.

The Flight Before Christmas turned out to be a cute little movie and it was fun expirience to work with the awesome team of Visual Distraction.

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