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Smoke of London is a steampunk themed short set in a post-apocalyptic England where giant airships fly high over the partially recovered ruins of London.
This is group project created by a team of graduates from Escape Studios with the goal of showing a variety of our skills and impressing visual effects companies in the UK. It will incorporate live action footage along with CG, including some elements of green screen.
It is targeted towards post production houses that specialise in photorealistic CG, and while steampunk is very much fantasy, we aspire to give our style a photorealistic edge to better appeal to these companies.
The style borrows heavily from existing steam punk themes; lots of cogs, pipes, pistons, smoke and pumps that give the ship an archaic feel. The ship will be the main focus of the shot; a heavily detailed CG model created in Maya. It will feature dynamics from Houdini and high quality texturing using Mudbox.
We will be using green screen to film multiple actors working in the coal furnaces and overseeing the ship. They will then be composited into the CG footage of the ship.
When the camera pans out to London, the foreground will be matte painted while the backdrop will be life action footage of the Westminster area of London, which we will film.

Style and Genre

Smoke of London will be heavily influenced by the style of steampunk; a sub-genre of science fiction that emphasises steam powered machinery and technology. The short will borrow themes from 19th Century Britain, combined with some elements of machinery from World War 2.
Characters will have archaic costumes – a combination of 19th century clothing combined with steam powered technology such as cogs and gears. Wool suits, corsets and top hats infused with a modern touch and machinery.
The zeppelin synergises designs from U-boats, sail ships, airships and modern day equipment to look truly unique. As the zeppelin is the largest part of the project, it is crucial that it is appropriately detailed and sticks to the steampunk style, but stands out as a unique design.
In order to create realistic looking machinery, research is being carried out into films such as Titanic – for the engine room shots, and Treasure Planet – for research into flying ships. Blueprints for real ships, blimps and submarines are also being gathered to help the team understand the structure of the ship and combine epochs of technology in a believable manner.
Multiple actors will be shot in a green screen room. For the engine room shot, the plan is to shoot two actors shovelling 'coal' into what will be a CG furnace. It is important to create accurate lighting from the fires and the darkness of the engine room, as well as accurate filming with appropriate tracking markers and chrome spheres for HDRI. The shot of the upper deck will feature the captain of the zeppelin in a close-up and multiple crew members working in the background. This will also be shot on green screen. The captain will have the most detailed costume, and if time allows it, tracking markers on his/her face to allow the team to attach CG steampunk machinery to his/her face.

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