Realistic Picture Group

“House Drop”

Case Study

Loud Life Productions | Gate Arty & The Group

Realistic Picture Group and Loud Life Productions teamed up again to realize a new ambitious vision:

To airdrop 40 tons of residential housing straight onto an empty lot*.

(*well, digitally at least).


Needless to say this project presented a number of conventional VFX challenges. To tackle them we applied our usual weapons of choice: Side FX Houdini and Adobe After Effects. We also added Syntheyes to our arsenal, allowing us to achieve great camera solving and to apply realistic lens distortion to our CG content.

Up to this point most of our experience has dealt with purely 3D generated content, so mixing CG with live footage was an exciting and very educational challenge for us.

We worked closely with the director to create Pre-Vis, through shooting and to the end of production. This enabled us to ensure that the final results were aligned perfectly with his original vision.

One challenge that jumped out to us was creating a stable and tight roto mask for the actresses’ hair in frame right. Because the shot was only 3 seconds long, we opted not to use a greenscreen. This saved time and avoided some headaches for the crew during shooting but presented us with a bit of challenge on the back end. Fortunately the shot was very short and the actresses’ movements were not too extreme, making the process straightforward.

We had some fun creating the dust effects. This was a really simple simulation, consisting of a simple particle network which we sourced into a pyro volume. We added some shredding and dissipation in the pyro solver. It was nothing near the complexity of the underwater simulation we created previously for “Propelled”, but it was still pretty fun.

Key Takeaways

One way we saved ourselves time was by rendering all the elements of the shot in layers. Houdini’s ROPs (Render Operators) context allows stringing together multiple ROPs and forcing each to a set of objects. This was a great way to minimize render time an preserve flexibility.

Another takeaway was that roto is fine for short shots, even if they are somewhat challenging. We cut down time spent on roto by combining manual spline animation with the Mocha AE motion tracker, but if we were to tackle a shot of similar difficulty that was substantially longer, a greenscreen approach may be warranted.


Overall this production experience was extremely enjoyable. Working with Loud Life Productions is great because they always come at us with new challenges that push our capabilities.

We are very excited to further explore the deep waters of VFX and continue blurring the lines between photography and CG!