Senior VFX Artist of Saturn Award Best Superhero Television Series
Tian Qiu, known as Ocean, is a highly sought-after Senior VFX Artist/Houdini TD based in the Great Los Angeles Area, who has worked on major, award-winning projects for some of the biggest projects across Television, Feature Film, Autonomous Driving, and Video Games. These include Effects Technical Director for DC hero shows such as Flash (CW) Season 5-7 (27 wins and 84 nominations), Supergirl (CW) Season 4-5 (12 wins & 44 nominations), Doom Patrol (DC Universe) Season 1-2 (8 nominations), Batwoman (CW) Season 1, as well as the Visual Effects Artist for Arrow (CW) Season 7 (22 wins & 85 nominations) and the film Boss Level(2020). He skillfully translates the production concepts or references into impactful visual effects that fulfill and develop the story.
Most of these shows had some great DC fan base. Like the Doom Patrol was airing on the DC Universe and each season has at least a million people watching the streaming. Mr. Qiu has engaged in creating a lot of effects for those heroes, together with a big amount of environment effects, and some pipeline tools.
The Biggest Challenge
"It was a big challenge in the beginning in terms of time," Qiu tells us, “We have so many DC heroes in Doom Patrol and their abilities are all that we need to create visual effects for realizing what’s happening. Many sequence shots across the whole seasons are scheduled on a weekly or even daily basis. There're just a lot of back and forth, discussions. I'll throw out my ideas and tests, and give them visuals. Sometimes it’s fortunate to have a bit of freedom to just play in the sandbox before I show them anything. Otherwise, I’ll manage around an averagely of four shots per day. The highest amount of shots I made effects for a day is eight shots.”
These shows deliver near movie-quality VFX on a TV budget and schedule. And yet, despite the obstacles that may seem overwhelming at times to the production people, Tian has never missed a deadline or had to get away from a single shot, and always managed to deliver the great quality effects on time.
The Biggest Enemy
“Time is simply just my biggest enemy. ” He says, “There’re around 23 episodes a year, hundreds of effects shots for each season. Sometimes our lightest episode is pretty heavy compared to other TV shows. Making most of effects or assets procedural is the only way to make it happen. I was able to create 400+ shots in two years at Encore.”
“Additionally, we were switching the render pipeline from Maya Vray, to Houdini Renderman with Solaris. Another time-consuming factor comes. There’re hundreds of assets to be converted. I was responsible for creating a new pipeline using the Houdini TOP network, procedurally sending python scripts to the Maya standalone server, and execute to export scene alembics and Vray shaders to .json file; sending python code to Houdini server and load the scene alembic, and convert .json file to Renderman shader, with all connections and the correct assignment. Yes a good use of Houdini TOP could lay a convenient tool for both small or big teams. Converted hundreds of assets from Maya to Houdini, becomes a one-click thing.”
“You have to pre-composite it in reality plate, so we can check if the effects can appeal realistic in overall visual composition and people don't even know it's CG. That you were able to bring this thing to life that people had just been reading those DC comics all these years, and the joy they got to see it on television and how fascinated they were that they could see something like that on a TV budget brought to life — that's another fun part for me."
These show’s visual effects has been nominated and won many awards including Saturn Award Best Superhero Television Series , Leo Award Best Visual Effects in a Dramatic Series and many others. Same with Flash, Supergirl, and Arrow. They were featured by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Hollywood Reporter, Yahoo Finance and Forbes.
How do you approach a scene?
Visual reference and technical references are where I go first. Giving the clients or supervisors the visuals before making something big is vital. Then it’s planning. What matters sometimes is the overall visual composition. Understanding how complex the fx will be, and scheduling the fx elements and routines, are better done earlier than the actual effects making. The more I plan earlier, the better the fx workflow it will be.
Share some special tips for young FX TD?
Learn to plan the effects or shots. Technical skills are important but soft skills are important too. Join more Houdini communities and check it out and ask any questions if you have any. Houdini is a big deal 3d package and has to constantly learn it with some time continuously, and patiently.
Share some special tips to create Demo Reels?
Always only put in your best works at the beginning of the reel, rather short with great content, but long and boring. It would be great if you have blockbuster movie shots. Catching people’s eyes are most important. Reels is the medium to expose your talent. Taking some time to make a good reel is worth it. Trust me.
Senior VFX Artist of Saturn Award Best Superhero Television Series
As a graduate of the Academy of Arts University (AAU), Mr. Qiu’s achievements as a TD and FX artist has additionally inspired many additional directors and creatives to work with him—these include, Nicole Perlman, the American screenwriter best known for the first female co-writing the Marvel Cinematic Universe film, such as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and the story for Marvel's Captain Marvel (2019), and for Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019); Dave Kosak, also known as Fargo, a former member of the Hearthstone team. He was previously the Lead Narrative Designer for World of Warcraft. Prior to joining Blizzard Entertainment, who was a co-founder and original creative director of GameSpy. Currently, Kosak and Qiu are working together to create AAA interactive gaming experience using cutting-edge real-time technology.
As a respected expert in his field, Tian created a visual effects tutorial in 2020, teaching the VFX community how to use Houdini to create water CG effects. In this case, he created a spaceship rising from underwater. His expert tutorial was well received by his peers in the industry. Many of Mr. Qiu’s projects have received critical and popular recognition around the world.
Moving away from DC televisions, his high technical CG skills are also extending to other industries as well. During the pandemic, he was contacted by Kevin McNamara, the CEO of Parallel Domain, a company creating Autonomous Driving training, involving creating the procedural residential areas of the city, in order for Electronic Vehicle’s AI to be trained in the 3D world, which is used in Toyota.