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Pandemos - A VFX Showreel inspired by Covid

Pandemos - A VFX Showreel inspired by Covid

Youyoung Lee
by uzero on 9 Apr 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

What if the coronavirus is a creature? The project <Pandemos> is a project that expresses the situation if the covid-19 era that is possibly described to be "like a movie" in the form of a SF video using VFX. I used a variety of technologies such as photogrammetry, Unreal Engine, and auto-rig&animation.

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As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, our society has changed dramatically. Now we stand at this big turning point, so that I wanted to work on a project which can visually record the current Covid-19.

The project <Pandemos> is a project that expresses the situation if the covid-19 era that is possibly described to be "like a movie" in the form of a SF video using VFX.


Modeling   Zbrush, Maya    Texturing   Substance Painter    Hair   Xgen   Rigging  Maya 

I designed the coronavirus as a creature. And I tried to visually express the scientifically proven characteristics of the coronavirus through the appearance of the creature.

The biggest feature of the coronavirus is that several spike proteins gather to create the appearance of it. Since these spike proteins are responsible for recognizing host cells, I applied these features to eyes.

In order to highlight the fast and agile feeling, I chose the legs of the reverse joint structure seen in ostriches, robots, and dinosaurs, and the body shape that is skinny but reveals muscles on the outside.

Also, the coronavirus spreads randomly. Therefore, it is designed to allow free and unlimited attacks using tentacles instead of attacking specific body parts such as arms and legs.

I used Zbrush's cloth brushes to describe skin stretch and wrinkles. I also used a lot of alpha brushes for details and holes for eyes were made with custom brushes to reduce repetitive work. In particular, when making alpha maps from photos, I improved the quality of images through AI Image Enhancer.

I worked on the texture with Substance Painter. I especially converted the Xgen hairs into meshes and exported them with the body to bake an AO map. The AO map was used to add pore details to the skin.

Created Tentacle Auto Rigger

The rigging of the tentacles is quite complex and takes quite a long time. So I created an automatic tentacle rigger using Python to improve work efficiency. If you specify the start/end points and the number of joints/controllers, the rigging is automatically completed. In addition, auto stretch, roll, and IK/FK controls can be adjusted in the attributes window.

Eyes Rigging System

Since this creature has so many eyes, a rig & control system that can easily control the eyes was essential.

There were three functions I needed. 1. The eyes should be able to move up and down, and the skin around the eyes should react organically and interactively. 2. Each eye can move randomly. 3. Need a central controller which can let multiple eyes look at the same point.

Here is an <eyes rig&control system> that I created.

Unreal Engine 5

I wanted to create a city scene in Seoul, South Korea, which was stopped by the virus. So I used Unreal Engine 5 in order to efficiently design a large-scale scene.


I made various assets such as a bus, traffic lights, and buildings. In particular, the buildings were built using a modular modeling method to avoid repetitive tasks. After that I assembled the modular assets through a custom <Modular Tiling Actor> made with the unreal blueprint.

Texture & Material

I mixed several materials through Vertex Blend Material for a more realistic and natural-looking road. And I could efficiently design repetitive textures such as sidewalk patterns and building tiles by creating procedural textures with Substance Designer.

In the case of the interior behind windows in buildings, a cube mapping technique was used. Using this technique, it is possible to render as if there are actual meshes for interiors with only one face.

SpeedTree - Tendrils & Ginkgo trees

I made tendrils with SpeedTree instead of direct modeling. The most useful function of SpeedTree I used was Mesh Forces. I created a shape shown like growing along the surface of the building with a function of mesh forces.

All the leaves of the trees placed close to the camera have their own meshes, but the trees in the back have low meshes by making several leaves and branches into one texture.

Custom Render Pass

For better quality, I wanted to use render passes to correct the sequence with Nuke. Unreal Engine (5, Early Access) also supports the render passes, but there were some problems with the normal pass and depth pass. Also, the lumen system does not support AO, the only thing I could get was a material AO pass.

So I decided to render normal, world position, and AO passes using the custom render pass and blueprint.

The world position pass was created using the absolute world position node.

Changing all materials to gray through blueprint was preceded, after that the Ambient Occlusion pass was rendered using a dome light.

Also after changing all materials to white through blueprint, the normal pass was rendered using R/G/B color directional lights.


For creating a realistic background, I used Photogrammetry, a technology that extracts 3D information from photographs.

In particular, I took pictures at dawn or on cloudy days to minimize the exposure of shadow in pictures. After making the 3D model first through the photogrammetry program, I retopology it.

After that, I could create a displacement map by using Zbrush to project the original model onto the retopology model. In addition, I extracted the camera data from the Photogrammetry program and modified the texture with Mari since it can use the projector function. I also made roughness and normal maps.

Destruction & Simulation

I made a broken vaccine bottle using Maya plug-in called Pulldownit. I also used Bifrost's fluid simulation to express water spreading.


I wanted to make a scene of medical staff fighting against coronavirus in a city where everything was abnormally stopped due to coronavirus. So I put on protective clothing myself and shot it in front of the green screen in person and composited it with Nuke.

Thank you for watching my work. I hope you enjoyed it!

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