Flying NYC Subway Car

Been working for a few days on this shot tracking a flying MTA subway car over the manhattan skyline.

I made a similar shot earlier this year ( but there were a few things lacking from that shot that I’m trying to get out of this new project.

  1. Create an animation that has better still moments: A lot of my animated projects really don’t have many ideal freeze frames. It makes it hard for posting to websites like these.
  2. Engine heat distortion
  3. More realistic camera: a few people criticized my previous shot for having ungrounded camera movement/positioning (which I actually mostly disagree with) but this go I might play around with that.

Got the animation mostly blocked out today

Still minor tweaks to be made (not happy with the beginning of the pan – can’t see enough of the hudson river/central park).


Made a small amount of progress this week. Added traffic on the primary ave. Fixed a few buildings. Still working on the lighting/backplate. The lake is now too bright. Need to reduce motion blur at beginning.

Have had initial success creating a new aerial backplate from taking a regular aerial photo and scaling/translating it on the Z axis.

Finally worked on giving the train some thrusters. I like the look of them, but they’re BARELY visible. Gotta work on that some more.


Just about done with the lighting


The “anti-gravity” thrusters have been a pain in the ass to figure out.
My target has been this image of a “plasma engine” (source unclear) that seems to be all over the internet

I rendered out a sim through Embergen starting with the “torch” preset, reducing it to a single flame, and then dialing in the fuel rate and temperature.

I attached that volume to all of the thrusters and rendered out the emission pass. Compositing has been nothing but a series of shots in the dark trying different blurs, displacements, and glows to just make it generally look “not awful”


Oh wow, brilliant shot! How did you go about generating the cityscape?

Very cool animation!

How did you create the city-scape? Was it modeled, or something else?

Cityscape was pulled from Google Earth data.

i said i was done with the lighting, but i think i’m just about there now.

As it turns out getting this high altitude panoramic non-stretched sky was no easy feat!

The backplate is this made from this aerial photo that I content-aware-filled into a larger pano (i highlighted the original image for this demo) and then just scaled/displaced on the Z axis through a standard image node