By GREGORY ZELLER //
A third-party networking connection has taken MindYolk Animation Studios to Brazil – and brought an ambitious ship-repair consortium’s $530 million dream dock to life.
At least, digital life: MindYolk CEO Paul Lipsky and a team of freelance animators spent three months constructing a meticulously digitized rendering of the proposed 600,000-square-meter repair facility, the visual spine of a five-minute video meant to attract private investors.
The Brasil Basin Drydock Company is planning the largest purpose-built ship-repair yard in the south Atlantic Ocean basin. The Empresa de Docagens Pedra do Ingá (loosely: Inga Stone Docking Company) will be built near the Port of Cabedelo in northeastern Brazil, an ideal location close to Atlantic shipping lanes, major metropolitan areas and bustling industrial centers.
The project has already passed Brazilian environmental muster and received local government approval. It’s also earned an undisclosed amount of early-stage investments, allowing construction to begin this year, with BBDC planning its first ship repairs by the end of 2018 and targeting full capacity by 2021.
To get there, the parent company needs investor support. Enter MindYolk, contracted to digitize a lifelike rendering of a fully operational repair yard for an investor video that extolls the facility’s state-of-the-art repair capabilities and regional economic impact.
Lipsky’s company was actually contacted by project manager McQuilling Services, a subsidiary of Garden City-based McQuilling Brokerage Partners, an international ship brokerage and marine transportation consultancy. A principal at McQuilling, one of the international companies comprising the BBDC consortium, had done business with someone who recommended MindYolk, Lipsky said, and in September, the Plainview-based 3D animation studio got the call.
With absolutely no visual clues, rendering the proposed shipyard represented a massive technological challenge, and Lipsky had to quickly find his sea legs.
“Everything [in the video] came from outlines,” he told Innovate LI. “We had no visual information to go on. We had to read all these technical documents about what dry docks look like, how they work, shipping technicalities and what they wanted the administration buildings to look like.
“There was no there there,” he added. “We had to flesh it all out.”
The final video zooms in from virtual Earth orbit, showing the exact spot on Brazil’s east coast where the Inga Stone Docking Company will be located and how the massive yard will be laid out. From there, a female voiceover explains the facility’s size and functionality while perfectly scaled 3D animations show dry-dock cranes, seaborne ships and office complexes in action.
The facility will include three major docks that can accommodate “any vessel in the Royal Merchant fleet,” according to the video. Smaller vessels under 150 meters in length, including fishing boats and supply ships, will be docked using an innovative “hydro-lift system,” which incorporates water chambers and a rail-and-trolley system. Larger vessels will rest in one of three major repair dry docks, including one designed to accommodate three massive ships at once, increasing the yard’s productivity.
MindYolk’s video shows all that in lifelike detail, from actual satellite imagery of surrounding Brazilian countryside to a CGI shimmer on the water. Producing the exacting animation required hundreds of hours – Lipsky worked with one primary freelance animator and a team of ad hoc contributors – and an assortment of cutting-edge software suites.
To overlay the docking facility onto actual Brazilian lands, Lipsky purchased a high-resolution 3D map, which looks “awkward” if you flatten it out, he noted, but offers brilliant digital imagery when curled into a globe.
From there, “at least five other 3D software packages” were called into play, he added. Primarily, the MindYolk team worked with Autodesk’s 3Ds Max modeling software, “the glue that really holds everything together,” according to Lipsky.
Lipsky and his team didn’t work 24 hours a day on the animation, but Autodesk did. It took between three and five minutes to render each frame of the animation, Lipsky noted, and each second of the three-minute animation incorporates about 30 frames.
The animator likened the process to stop-motion photography, a tried-and-true motion-picture technique wherein inanimate objects are photographed one frame at a time, moved slightly and photographed again, giving the illusion of motion.
“But instead of moving the [object], the computer does it,” Lipsky said. “I set up the extremes and the computer fills in the key frames.”
Lipsky, also the founder of the networking/support group Long Island Visual Professionals, boasts more than a quarter-century of professional programming and animation experience. Refreshing techniques developed in his entertainment-industry and game-programming days was “really exciting,” he said, but the most excitement stemming from the BBDC project is MindYolk’s beefed-up international cred.
The Inga Stone Docking Company doesn’t mark the Plainview firm’s first global exploit – MindYolk has done work for companies in Ireland and Taiwan – but it is the company’s biggest project to date. And the fact that it sailed into international waters, the CEO added, doesn’t hurt.
“This is the largest dataset MindYolk has ever had to manage,” Lipsky said. “I’ve done international before, but this was the largest project I’ve ever done. And in Ireland, they didn’t speak Portuguese.”