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When Ryan Smith approached us to create the VFX for his feature film After, we were ecstatic! Since the story would require significant use of visual FX, we were included in the production process right from the start, to ensure the smoothest possible workflow during both principal photography and post-production.
We had done character work before, so we had an idea of what to expect as we began working on the Guardian. Once the design was in place, Lead Modeler Jeff Greulich began sculpting and building the creature, using Zbrush and Softimage. In addition to the more obvious VFX elements, we also had several which, despite being either subtle or on-screen only briefly, played important roles in tying up loose ends!
After marks Magnetic Dreams’ first feature-length VFX project, and after completing 200+ shots for the film, we’re proud of the results! Thank you for following us, this blog is a continuation of our original Journey To My Dreams, we have moved it into our website so that it is found more easily. For those of you who don’t know, our blog is about how we decided to open a Bed and Breakfast and why we chose Pictou, Nova Scotia. Ryan and his company, Seabourne Productions, are located just a few miles from us, and we were excited at the thought of making a locally-grown feature film with locally-grown VFX.
For these we animated CG doubles of the actors, which we then used as collision objects in our fluid sims.


Once the modeling was approved, Lead Rigger Steve Alley rigged the creature and prepared it for animation. CG chains, rig-removals, sign replacement, matte paintings, time-lapses, and plate clean-up were just some of the numerous post-production tasks required to get all the elements together and ready for final compositing and finishing. While the directorial team worked out production details, we began working on VFX solutions for the two main antagonists: the wall of Darkness, and the Guardian creature. We quickly found that we couldn’t use pure black as its main color, as this would hide any motion or detail.
The Darkness proved to be a challenging effect to achieve, but by refining the concept and working the toolset, we got results which fell in line with both Ryan’s vision and our own internal goals. Ryan had a rough idea, but tasked us with working through the details to deliver a compelling design.
Our Vice President Don Culwell was Lead Compositing Artist on this project and along with Julian spearheaded the mammoth task of refining and assembling the finished frames. But they find it utterly vacant, empty of life, and threatened by an ominous and ever-encroaching darkness. We spent several weeks working both in 2D and 3D to narrow down the look and refine the details.
At the time, The Foundry had just released its next-gen texturing app Mari, and it proved to be the perfect tool for job.


Camera Tracks were achieved with Syntheyes, rendered CG elements were integrated into the live-action footage using After Effects and Red Giant plugins, and final shots were sent to Seabourne for color-grading. With this threat firmly established, our protagonists are further endangered by the haunting presence of a hostile creature, who guards their only exit. It allowed us to light it in such a way as to get sufficient detail, yet dark enough to convey the threat we needed. He then took the results into Softimage and used Mental Ray for shading and final look-development.
This allowed him to not only create highly-detailed fluid simulations of the Darkness, but also to add the shading and lighting we needed to get the look we were after. Once the rig was completed and principal photography was wrapped, our animators were able to start bringing the creature to life on a shot-by-shot basis. Despite some very large data files and long simulation times (some sims took 2-3 days and generated nearly 2TB of data each), FumeFX gave us the elements we needed to bring the wall of Darkness to life and play the role we wanted it to.



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