The production company behind the heart-pumping new simulation experience at North Carolina’s Airborne & Special Operations Museum is Raleigh’s BREAKIRON Animation&Design, LLC. BREAKIRON’s team created a high-definition adventure that puts riders in the boots of soldiers during major actions in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The new ride, Experience the Legend, debuts Saturday, May 16, after a short 1 p.m. ceremony. Rides will be complimentary for the rest of the day.
What does it take to depict the prestigious 101st Screaming Eagles, 187th Rakkasans, 82nd All-Americans, a Ranger regiment, and Special Forces on a screen nearly two stories tall? It takes detailed historical accuracy across five eras and geographies, plus cutting-edge software that renders high-quality animation in less than a tenth of the usual time.
It was a dedication to historical accuracy that sent Paul Galloway, executive director of the museum foundation, on the hunt for the chateau near where the Screaming Eagles gliders landed in Normandy on D-Day. He chose to depict a glider experience because many Americans don’t realize that the Airborne went in on gliders that day. It’s all part of his aim of educating while the ride also entertains. For Korea, he scripted a jump from a C-119 boxcar into the actual drop zone where the 187th jumped in Munsan-ni in 1951. And for the Vietnam piece, he made sure visitors are with the 82nd Airborne and an element of the 17th Cavalry as their Huey helicopter flies the nap of the Earth—a flight path at extremely low altitude—until they face off against the enemy in a landing zone. In Afghanistan, three of the Ranger’s advanced light strike vehicles exit a Chinook helicopter and travel a road in southwest Kandahar. And for Iraq, riders will find themselves with a Special Forces team, plus a K-9, on the Euphrates River passing Saddam Hussein’s palace.
“We share the true exploits of Airborne and Special Ops soldiers. We don’t make anything up,” Galloway explains. “This is an opportunity to walk in their boots and see what they do. Not only are the young and old alike going to have fun, they’re going to learn without knowing it, because it’s all historically accurate.”
Galloway worked on the script for nearly five years. “We called in artillery experts and helicopter pilots, and we worked with representatives from the 82nd Airborne Division and the United States Army Special Operations Command. If we were going to call for fire, for example, I wanted to know exactly how that would sound.”
For Charlie Breakiron, the project’s patriotic mission motivated him to deploy a brandnew, highly advanced rendering solution. “We made some serious strides on the bleeding edge of technology,” Breakiron says. “We needed to build out five different environments, five sets of soldiers, and five sets of vehicles, all of it highly detailed and historically exact. That could have easily taken a year. We cut the time in half.”
In technological terms, he explains, “We chose a GPU rendering solution instead of rendering on the CPU. We rendered on the video card itself, allowing for higher quality and much faster renders.” A GPU is a graphics processing unit; a CPU is a computer’s processing unit.
“With GPU rendering, we could render a frame of CG animation in 28 seconds, for example, versus 11 minutes. For a project that has 14,400 frames, the difference is months. Instead, we produced all five military eras in one month using only two machines.
“Our 3D was all Autodesk – Softimage, Maya, 3ds MAX, and Mudbox. Mootzoid’s emFluid 5 allowed us to do realistic combustion explosives. We propagated rocks and trees with 3DQUAKER’s Forester and rendered with Redshift. We used some gaming techniques, but we did it as a cinematic. It’s taken on the look of modern-day FPS games. That was our benchmark.
“The breadth and scope of this project made for an excellent challenge. We’re absolutely ready for more.”
Adds Galloway, “Working with Breakiron has been great. We talked to many firms. Some were outrageously expensive. What put Charlie over the top were his willingness to work within our budget, his location not far from us, in Raleigh, and his experience in the field, including a multitude of awards. It’s been very enjoyable to work with him.”
BREAKIRON Animation&Design, LLC, is a high-end, full-service animation, visual effects and 3D graphics company that has produced work for medical applications, advertising, television, film, and the military. Among their honors are prestigious Telly Awards for 3D animation and the Addys. Owner Charlie Breakiron has created visual effects work for the film and broadcast industries, including productions such as Union Bound, The Janus Project trailer, Barnyard, Answering the Call, and Titan A.E. For further information, visit breakiron.com.
The Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation supports the museum with marketing, advertising and financial support for its programs and exhibits. Opening the doors on August 16th, 2000, the 60th anniversary of the original United States Army’s Test Platoon’s first parachute jump, the museum offers free admission, a main exhibit gallery, a temporary gallery, a four-story tall theater, a video theater and a motion simulator ride. It is located in historic downtown Fayetteville. For more information, visit asomf.org.
Contact: Charlie Breakiron, 919 523-8414, email@example.com
Paul Galloway, 910.643.2778, ExecDir@asomf.org