Lighthouse Destruction

Watch in HD please!

I spent 8 weeks at Framestore in London doing an FX internship. As well as working on FX on exciting films (which I would love to talk more about after release), I was asked to do a personal project in my free time, and present it along with all the other interns.

I had never done much in the way of FX before, so my idea was perhaps a little overambitious – I wanted to create a lighthouse like this one: Faro de Cabo Vilánand destroy it with a cannonball and a massive boulder as if it were under siege.

I created the lighthouse using Houdini, a tool I had never used before, but fell in love with. I also used it for the dust simulation (pyro solver), particles and some of the rigid body simulation, as well as modelling the boulder and dried sea-bed.


I separated the rigid body sim into 3 parts – the glass destruction (impact 1), the main pieces of impact 2 (bricks and top pieces) and the additional details of impact 2 (leftover glass, windows etc). The first and last were done in Maya, using Framestore’s fBounce tool and a python script I wrote to automatically constrain things together using fBounce: The rigid body sim (setup and tweaking) took the majority of my time. Crashes were abundant – I filled up all 9gb of my temp drive just with maya crash files! Houdini was more stable and had great tools for gluing the objects together (I found out after spending a week writing the script above!), but wouldn’t handle objects being close to each other well, hence why I did 3 simulation stages.

I modelled the cliffs in Zbrush and 3ds Max and quickly textured them in Photoshop. I made a matte painting for the background in Photoshop, using images I took from a holiday in South Africa. Being colourblind, I only realised when presenting that some of the cloud colours were off. I fixed this later in Nuke by removing half the sky!


I had 2 days to add materials and lights, and render and composite, so things were a little rushed. I was pretty new to all these things (especially Nuke), so had to learn quickly.


Luckily I had a render farm, so could make (some) mistakes! Unfortunately I did not have time to create a breakdown – my account was deleted while I was still working on it. However, I uploaded the render just before then. I think the results are quite close to what I had envisioned, just a bit less realistic. If only I’d had an extra week on texturing!

Overall I had a fantastic 8 weeks at Framestore, and learned a huge amount. FX is definitely something I would consider doing more of.

Thanks for reading! Please comment or get in touch if you’re curious about anything.


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