Naj Škola

Naj Škola is a quiz show for kids, where Slovak schools compete against each other in search for “the best school”. I was responsible for creating all graphics for this show (both realtime graphics system and pre-rendered graphics).

All pre-rendered graphics were created using Houdini and Mantra. I enjoyed this classic VFX workflow very much, except the render times… Since I really like the light transport produced by bright particles / lights in fog volume, I have rendered majority of scenes in some sort of a volume. This way is the light scattered into surrounding volume (producing kind of a milky haze around light sources), which is usually much nicer and more realistic than just glow effect applied in post. Unfortunately, this tiny detail I has extended render times by couple of days.

Intro sequence contains indirect references to various school subjects (logarithmic spiral - mathematics and biology, Entagma particles - physics / Newton forces, hexagons - chemistry, atom - physics).

Nautilus shell from intro sequence was constructed mostly using VEX (and couple of SOPs). I very much enjoyed creating it, as its half-sliced shape looks amazing (be sure to check out some real-world references).

Logo was the only part I didn’t get to design myself - as it was already finished when I entered this project. Initially didn’t really like it, but I thought some nice particles could make it look good - so I added particle flocking system and was eventually quite satisfied with how it turned out when combined with my particle background.

During rendering I got so bored, that I decided to do everything else purely in realtime. This means that software for the game is referencing only videos for intro sequence, wipes between rounds and logo loop. All game elements with animations (such as question with variable answer count, random subject selection, score tables, etc.) including background made out of particles and countdown sequences were rendered in realtime.

I feel like I could watch the background run for hours as its depth and constantly changing shapes are quite mesmerizing. This particle background was also used in compositing as background for pre-rendered graphics. With some color adjustments and anamorphic blur it was super easy and fast to add more depth into the renders.

Countdown setup was a little tricky. While looking at Mantra slowly progressing through my intro sequence, I thought it would be really cool to render this one in realtime. Frankly, it would have been much faster to do it in Houdini, but once I dived into Unity, I wanted to test how far I could push it. I have used Keijiro’s Smrvfx along with my 3D glyph generator. I had to modify smrvfx to work with runtime geometry swapping (as the particle emitter doesn’t update in such case by default). Here is a live demo of this system in action.

(Funnily enough - while working on this setup in Unity, I have been thinking how fast I could have done it in Houdini. :grin: I would have to render sequence for all time limits, but yeah - it would be faster than writing fully dynamic setup. However it wouldn’t be as much fun and I wouldn’t be able to do this cool interactive demo then - so eventually I am quite happy about it.)

Stills from intro sequence.
Photos from set.