Numerous tags have been attached to Tsui Hark, and “Entrepreneurs" in the film industry” would be the best one to sum up all of them. This Vietnam-born Chinese film director, producer, and screenwriter has created tons of blockbusters during the past years and outstood the Hong Kong and Chinese film fields with his unique approach.

Tsui Hark has always considered the special effects as a priority in his film production. The Detective Dee film series that he participated producing demonstrate profoundly what Tsui Hark style is and no doubt represent the top level of innovative Chinese fantasy movie.  

“Don't repeat with your previous work, you have to be innovative.”

This is the core concept of Tsui Hark. For decades, Tsui Hark has tried many forms of expression in his works, and the general effect is difficult to conclude. Some of the special effects shots of Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings are made by South Korean and Japanese companies, which are among the best in the industry, which is a huge challenge for the UnitedPower Films. In the production, the team has encountered various difficulties, but the effect of the film also proves their strength.
In the year of 2010, Tsui Hark created the very first film of the Detective Dee series- Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame, and successful received 300 Million box offices and been nominated and served as the main entrée for Venice film festival. Since then, his commercial value and aesthetic film scene received a unanimous recognition from within the film industry.

The Pre-History of Detective Dee Series

In the real world, Detective Dee was a seventh-century politician in the court of Chinese Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). But he has evolved into a Chinese version of Sherlock Holmes in the 18th-century novel Di Gong An by an anonymous writer. Dutch writer Robert van Gulik translated the ancient novel in the 1940s as the Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, making Di known in the West as Dee.

Now, the famous character who has inspired a series of screen productions in recent years returned to the big screen in the period-action film-Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, a lavish fantasy set during the Tang dynasty, those dangerous people include an army of enchanters, each with their own dark-magic expertise and an impasto of sinister face paint. One of them bursts into flames a lot, while another hides in other people’s shadows. Hailing from the Jianghu underworld, they operate in service of the scheming Empress Wu (Carina Lau), who’s determined to wrest control of the imperial court away from her husband, the Emperor (Sheng Chien).

Following the events of Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013), in which Dee successfully defeated a nasty monster, the Emperor now regards the detective so highly that he grant him tasks with safeguarding a much-coveted weapon called the Dragon-Taming Mace. 

Detective Dee: The For Heavenly Kings has brought to Australia and New Zealand cinemas on 27 July 2018.

And this special effects has outstood among all of the other Detective Dee series in its visual, action and storyline. Fox Renderfarm is responsible for partial special effects production and the cloud rendering service, along with the other members of the production team, together created a series of scenes that dazzle the audience again and again.

UnitedPower Films participated in the film production. Although only entitled to three shots, the project still contains great challenges due to the director’s high standard and time limit. To this end, the production team of UnitedPower Films has paid great attention to it from the very beginning and has done a lot of preparations from the procedure arrangement to the various processes and the performance of the technology.

At the beginning of the meeting with the director, the director has already outlined the script and the responsive instructor has also made a version of the layout confirmed by the director. This saved us time to set the elements involved in the scene precisely. Unlike most of the previous works, "The Four Kings of Di Renjie" is not a simple packaging task, the VFX process is produced, which involves multi-sector scheduling and coordination."

——Jun Jiang, Visual Effects Supervisor of UnitedPower Films

Single Frame Concept Map Production

(1) Make a single-frame conceptual map for the existing screen, and prepare asset classes such as models of the king, the woods, the dragons, and the stones;

(2) Test the special effects screen (R&D), including the spider silk wrapped around the dragon, the cloud, the fog, the stone and the leaves;

(3) After extracting the animation in the Layout file, start the animation finishing;

(4) Confirm the concept map and assets, and start to arrange the single-frame test of the next link;

(5) Confirm single frame and output dynamic sample;

(6) Adjust the stereo effect and QC check.

In the production process, I have to admire the director’s visual judgment. He often gives advice on some very professional details. Once there is uncertainty, immediately adjust the attempt with a layered single frame image, and then give the exact the answer: this professional and pragmatic spirit is very inspiring to us."

The "Ghost Night Fire" Scene

In the process of making "Ghost Night Fire" special effects scene, the audience has accumulated a lot of valuable experience. After interviews, when the UnitedPower Films received the production tasks with two weeks notification. After receiving the test shot, the team immediately arranged the Match Move to detect the camera and scene ratio and then matched the animation department to the "ghost night" action (not only the body movement matching but also the grooming and clothes, etc.). At the same time, Roto is quickly prepared, and the effect test is also carried out at the same time when the message is produced.

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"Because we have done some fire effects before, so the progress is faster. But the fire of 'Ghost Night' must reflect the demon feeling of the 'Dark Force'. So, I used a lot of time to adjust the details."

The UnitedPower Films completed a seemingly impossible scene test in one day and was confirmed by the director. In post-production, it is only necessary to standardize the effect by standardizing the test lens. The high-efficiency lens test lays the foundation for the production of other lenses in the same field and shortens the production time.

Cloud Rendering Helps the Best Visual Effects

"We have to render nodes which can meet our daily rendering needs. But when facing some special rendering tasks, such as spiral clouds, or when in a short notice to submit the task, the internal nodes are obviously not enough. Therefore, choosing the right external rendering farm to help us complete the task in time, it is extremely important to submit the film on time. Through the cooperation with Fox Renderfarm for a long time, we have experienced many advantages of Fox Renderfarm rendering service.

First of all, Fox Renderfarm can provide multi-tasking and multi-type rendering services. During the rendering process, we can select different software and renderers according to different production content. Secondly, Fox Renderfarms technicians are online 24 hours a day. When we encounter various complicated technical problems in rendering, they can help us solve them quickly and solve the problems. And in the service process, the Fox Renderfarm team is also very careful, able to timely feedback other problems appearing in the rendering, and find solutions, so that we have no obstacles to submit tasks. ”

An integral special effect is a combination of story, special effects, and techniques.

  

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