Paul Parneix exclusive insights (Destructions) Unit Image-Ubisoft For Honor game effects, the making of, and his VFX journey.



(Note: the written form is not a direct 100% transcription of the video and includes more information)

Cebas: Welcome and hello to Paul, as usual we will have your self-introduction - how you got into the VFX line - and please do give us some interesting insights about one or two of your more recent projects that you have derived great satisfaction working on, or something significant to your achievements.

Paul: My name is Paul Parneix, I’m a VFX Supervisor / FX TD at Unit Image (Paris). I’m also in charge of R&D about 3D scan.

After spending two years studying Biology & Physics at La Rochelle University, I moved to Paris to learn VFX. I worked for some small companies as a Generalist / VFX freelancer, before I started to work as FX TD at Unit Image, where today I’m supervising VFX. I’m teaching VFX in some schools in Paris, both Maya, 3DS Max or Houdini. Like many of us, I’m passionate about VFX since I was a child. More generally speaking, I love new technology ? I’m always trying to learn new softwares and to follow their development. I really like coding / scripting ? i’m pretty familiar with Python/Mel/MaxScript. Trying to learn C++/Lua in my free time.

I also like pipeline stuff and 3D Scanning technologies, I’m really impressed when I see what photogrammetry can do today. I worked on a 50+ DSLR setup to do facial scan.

(Paul's photogrammetry scan of Paul )


Cebas: Paul, your short intro certainly says that you are a person always on the go!You like to be on the edge of new technology, but you were also trained in science (Biology and Physics), what drew you towards the life sciences and what drew you into visual technology?

Paul: I always wanted to work in the VFX Industry, but when I was at High School, “VFX Artist” seemed to be an “unreal job”. So i decided to learn Science, which I still love today. But after few years at the university, I realized that I had to try to do my dream job, so I moved to Paris to learn Computer Graphics. 

Cebas: You’re also a coder is that a natural talent in you? Or did you have to persevere and work really hard to crossover from life sciences - physics to coding? Do you think it feels like sitting with a brand new laptop under the shade of a tree?

Paul: Actually, laziness led me to the coding world !

When I started as a Generalist CG Artist I didn’t know code at all (maybe just some basic HTML / CSS) . I started to learn Python early to avoid repetitive tasks. Today I use it on a daily basis, It saves me a lot of time. I think every CG Artist should try to learn basics of script, It’s not that hard, and sometimes a simple “for loop” can save a lot of time. That said, C++ and SDK is another deal ! That’s why I don’t consider myself as a true coder, but as a VFX Artist using code.

I have a lot of respect for software developers ? They do the real magic ?

Cebas: Thank you for remembering our developers, who works in the backdrop and sometimes forgotten, when the magic rolls! Now, the opening destruction where the land simply rolls up and cracks as like a seismic wave what were the Thinking Particles features that helped you most with this scene? Was it team work? 

For Honor E3 2016 Trailer - FX Breakdown from Paul Parneix on Vimeo.

Paul: At Unit Image, we try to have one VFX artist doing all the FX of the same shot when it’s possible, so it feels a bit like a personal project. I did all the sims of the afore shot except the clouds in backgound, which was done by my friend and crew member, Achraf Ayadi. I consider it as team work since the whole FX crew were always ready to share tip, scripts, point of view etc.. we learned a lot from each others on this project.

I would like to thank all the FX artists that worked on the project : Achraf Ayadi, Alessandro Nardini, Arthur Loiseau, Laura Guerreiro, Nicolas Sauval, Omar Meradi and Toufik Mekbel. And of course the rest of the amazing Unit Image Crew ! 

Special Thanks goes to Alessandro Nardini who showed me a lot of cool TP tricks ! He’s a very talented VFX Artist, and a cool guy :)

(Alessandro is one of this cool guys crew, sitting right at the other end (comment by cebas) : )


Paul: About the shot, shape Collision and Volume breaker were the key TP features used. I started with a low resolution SC Simulation, it was realtime in viewport so it allowed me to have a great control over the global look of the effect, then I added a Low res volumeBreaker on the edges to add a bit of details, sim was still pretty fast : 


Paul: This first sim was baked, and split in 15 separated chunks, giving the ability to process the next passes in parallel. For each chunk, I ran another SC simulation adding more details to the top layer with volumeBreaker : 

(The above image shows) .. the final result featuring all the chunks, with addition of small debris.

I built a procedural setup for the houses in TP using some SC Joints, and another one to attach the trees on the ground. the new LayerToParticles Operator introduced in TP6 really helped to keep things procedural. Thinking Particles was also used to generate the source particles for the FumeFX Dust simulation.

Paul: Because of the procedural nature of TP, it was easy and fast to replicate this effect on the next shot :

        Paul's Vimeo on TP Mutipass destruction:

Thinking Particles : Multi Pass Destruction from Paul Parneix on Vimeo.

Cebas: New users are always a bit worried about what we call ‘TP logic’ how to connect all those intricate plugs in the master dynamic set to make the particles work procedurally. Did you feel the same when you first began with thinkingParticlces, or did you basically just fell in love with the logic straightway?

Paul: I like the nodal interface, giving a great overview of the whole setup (better than hundred lines of expressions in maya particles for example.) What I love the most in TP is that you have a lot of “out of the box “operators that allow you to do cool things in a simple way : for example you don’t need to deal with quaternions to do a simple “pAttach”. But if you want you can also do more complex setups / data manipulation.

Cebas: We know you also do tutoring for VFX software so I say you’re multi talented :) Could you elaborate more... for the sake of artists that are on the sidelines, not daring to use TP, because they feel mastering the logic is tough what is your advice to them on how best to approach a software like TP?

Paul: Ahah thanks :)

I think best way is to learn TP on production, but it’s not always possible. There is a lot of video courses avilable, I can recommand Joe Scarr, Hristo Velev, Allan Mckay, and Will Wallace courses that are really neat. I’m also working on some video training for TP, hope to release soon ! If you want an ideal approach to master TP, my best advice would be avoid skipping steps, take time to learn debug, and to understand how it works at data level.

Cebas: From your work with , Paul, how do you and the VFX team decide in which shot do you use TP and which not to, what bears on those decisions? 

Paul: TP is our first choice for destruction simulations & Rigid bodies. The ability to stay inside of 3DS MAX ( keeping the materials ID, shaders, UV sets) is really nice.

Shape Collision Solver is so amazing ! it produce a very natural structure look, plus it’s so easy and fast to set up. We also use FumeFX / Phoenix FD / Pyro for the smoke, and Houdini FLIP for liquids. The new TP alembic export helped us to export TP Rigid Bodies Sim to Houdini, to do FLIP simulations.

Cebas: How do you feel about the VFX scenes in ? Were you fully satisfied with the outcome, and that it had been an enjoyable process for you and the team? Or was it all very hard work?

Paul: Like many FX Artists, I’m never “fully satisfied” with the result. Always want to add one more simulation pass :) We are really happy with the result, we did all the FXs in 9 weeks, no overtime, and the team was great ! It was kind of hard work, but the good side of it.

Cebas: What are some of the features in thinkingParticles 6 that you feel are unbeatable in a way that you feel only Thinking Particles best handle those shots and enhances your creative output ?

Paul: I really love ShapeCollision solver, for me it’s what make TP so unique. It’s also really cool to have all the different new solvers in a unified way. A lot of new features in TP6 like LayerToParticle, TPC cache and alembic export really bring TP to the next level of proceduralism and power.

TP is the only tool giving ability to do true procedural FX setups inside of 3dsmax. Well done integration with FumeFX and Thinkbox plugins also enhance the power of TP.

Cebas: Paul, was the choice to use Max + TP decided based on the needs of the VFX scene and/or the studio pipeline? Which is unique... since a number of studios nowadays are on Maya alone, and missed out totally from using the Max+TP combination.

Paul: I would say : both pipeline and features. Unit Image is a 3DS Max based studio. 3DS Max is really great when you have to do a shot quickly, The rendering guys here at Unit Image do amazing shots in no time. whereas IMHO Maya is better for scene management and building complex reference based workflow to do thousands of shots.

Linux support is also a big deal, If TP was available on Linux/ Maya, I guess a lot of studios would consider using TP because it’s so amazing for destruction shots.

          (More amazing stuff from Paul's Vimeo:) 

Thinking Particles : Road Collapse Test from Paul Parneix on Vimeo.

Cebas: In your view, what is your wish for cebas software to achieve that is not currently doing for you?

Paul: As I said I really like Shape Collision solver, It’s really unique. It would be nice if you could keep improving this amazing solver.

There is also some operators that would be cool to have : for example SnapshotAB, to be able to merge 2 particles in a single one or a new export node that create constant topology export (rayfire like).

Paul jazz it up with TP fluidSolver:


Random FX R&D #01 (TP / Realflow) from Paul Parneix on Vimeo.

Cebas would like to thank Unit Image, Paul for giving Cebas readers this exclusive look
at the amazing FX work on and the rest; as well as thank all the team members who has work with thinkingParticles and helped us make it an even more powerful tool.
We wish you endless good effects! 

Where to get the For Honor game: