Tapping Autodesk’s Maya, BREAK+ENTER delivered 40-60 shots under nine months for ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

BREAK+ENTER, a visual effects studio with a remote and cloud-based pipeline, crafted seamless invisible effects on The Many Saints of Newark to tell the origin story and rise to power of prolific mafia boss Tony Soprano. Under the direction of VFX Supervisor Gabriel Regentin, the team used Autodesk Maya and a fully virtual workflow to transport audiences back to one of the most turbulent periods in Newark’s history, setting the stage for the rise of television’s most legendary gangster.

In total, BREAK+ENTER delivered 40-60 shots for The Many Saints of Newark in just under nine months, made possible by Maya’s robust toolset and a scalable virtual workflow. The scope of work on the feature film encompassed winterization of 60s and 70s era New Jersey, including crafting snowfall, dusting environments with fresh snow, and leaf removal from trees. 

“The process for winterization involved tracking, getting shot layouts, and then laying a fresh covering of snow on top of everything. After tracking, we transferred shots into Maya, built out any sets that we’d need for a sequence, then laid snow down using particle simulations created with Bifrost. To further enhance the shots, we also created leafless trees in Houdini, then brought the assets into Maya for additional sculpting for a more realistic appearance,” Regentin said. 

BREAK+ENTER was also responsible for period cleanup work involving removing anachronistic objects that went unnoticed during production. 

“Ultimately, our goal with cleanup was to create a seamless and natural look for the film’s time period. We used Maya to add objects like trees and mailboxes to help cover any modern elements that looked out of place for the 60s or 70s. This included the removal of many air conditioner units from shots. It was a heavy workload, so we collaborated with Nice Shoes’ Flame department to help with the work and keep the project moving forward,” the VFX Supervisor said. 

One of the biggest challenges the team faced during production was transitioning from an on-prem to fully virtual infrastructure running on AWS Cloud. While shifting to the cloud was critical for operations, it further allowed the team to collaborate with top talent regardless of location, including artists in New York, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, India, and South Korea. 

“Our servers are unique in that they can move from data center to data center. This allows our virtual workstations to get created dynamically everyday in whichever data center is most advantageous to the artist. We’ve had times when there were storms in Maryland that would bring down specific data centers, but our team was able to keep working by transferring our workstations to a different one. It’s worked out well and has kept our productivity at the forefront. Artists are able to work quickly and in real-time with zero latency,” said Regentin. 

Amidst the infrastructure overhaul, it was also critical for the team to quickly develop proprietary Maya-based tools to create new workflow efficiencies and keep the project on schedule.

“For example, we built a custom tool in Maya that allows artists to publish directly into our production software. Artists get shots that are automatically set up for them with the correct plates and other details pulled directly from our databases. It’s a great tool that helps keep us on track,” he said. 

BREAK+ENTER has reimagined the film and episodic visual effects studio. Headquartered in New York City, the studio is fueled by global talent and cutting-edge technology, and powered by a groundbreaking, fully remote workflow. 

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