Olympus Has Fallen

I presented this Olympus Has Fallen promo recently at After Effects World in Seattle. Tools used include IllustratorPhotoshop, Cinema 4D and After Effects with plug-ins from Red Giant Software. This was my first attempt at a flag in Cinema 4D and it was easier than I expected.


A photograph of the US Flag was used as reference.


The flag was recreated in Adobe Illustrator, with attention paid to overlapping areas and stitching. These details are what helps sell the final look and are worth paying attention to.


The stitches were created using dashed strokes. Using dashes allowed for easy experimentation.


The flag was imported into Photoshop where the Lasso and Brush tools were used to cut out large sections to create the tattered look. Smaller brushes were used to add detail to the alpha channel and roughen sharp edges. A soft black brush was used to add shading around the edges of the holes.


Scorch brushes were used to add detail. Brush Pilot is a useful tool for finding and installing Photoshop brushes on your system.


A stained parchment stock image was used to add extra dirt and colorise the flag.


The parchment layer was combined with the flag using the Multiply blend mode.


Larger scorches were added using the scorch brushes.


A soft shadow layer was added using the Multiply blend mode. This adds some subtle, ambient occlusion style shading.


The finished Photoshop composite. Note the overall transparency of the flag was decreased slightly.

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The flag was then imported as a material into Cinema 4D and added to the Color and Alpha channels.


The Tiles shader was added to the Bump channel (Textures > Surfaces > Tiles) to create the weave pattern.


The flag material was added to a Polygon object and made editable. The Knife Tool was then used to cut out polygons to match the alpha channel, with care taken not to cut away any of the texture.


The remaining polygons were then triangulated. Triangulated polygons give a more natural result when working with cloth.


A Cylinder object acts as a flag pole, with Belt Tags used to attach the flag to the pole.


Once the belt tags were set up, the Cloth Tag was applied.


Getting the look you want takes a little trial and error. These are the Cloth Tag settings I used.


Rather than caching the simulation using the Cloth Tag settings, I followed this Point Cache tutorial by Tim Clapham. Using the Point Cache Tag to cache the simulation gives you access to the Point Cache “Scale” setting for a slow motion look.


Once the flag was cached it was dropped into a Cloth Nurbs to smooth it out and add “Thickness”.


The finished flag was then rendered out of Cinema 4D at 1920 x 1080, and imported into After Effects. The final resolution was 1024 x 576 but the extra size gave more flexibility to experiment with position in After Effects. Cineware wasn’t an option as I was using CS6 for this project.


Position keyframes were set for a slow zoom out, the Exposure effect was used to increase the exposure slightly and Curves adds some contrast.

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Rampant Design Tools 3K fire footage was positioned behind the flag.

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A combination of Set Matte and Fast Blur effects were used to create a light wrap effect. The light wrap is important for convincing composites.


Rampant Design Tools Dust FX were added behind and in front of the flag.


Turbulent Noise was used to create smoke drifting in front of the flag. Grab the After Effects preset.


The same Turbulent Noise smoke was used with the Compound Blur effect to add blurriness. Compound Blur adds 100% blur in areas where the map layer is white and 0% blur where the map is black, and when combined with the visible smoke layer is more natural and organic than adding a simple overall blur.


Magic Bullet Mojo was used for a subtle overall colour grade.


Red Giant Misfire Vignette was used to add a vignette. I use a number of different vignette effects and techniques but Misfire is my current favourite – quick and easy.

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The Gradient Ramp effect on an Adjustment layer was composited on top of the flag layer using the Soft Light blend mode.


The Exposure effect was used to brighten the area behind the logo.


The final composite with the logo supplied as key art.

  1. Ladozs

    Thanks for the extended breakdown,cool stuff;
    downloaded your preset too!

  2. Wally

    Love the breakdown saw you do it live and was quickly scribbling notes trying to capture it all, glad to see it here as a re-fresher. It was awesome meeting you and getting to talk C4D!


    • John Dickinson

      Hey Wally, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the session!
      Best, John.

  3. Mark Shingleton

    Thats a really nice look John – really great to see the breakdown too!

  4. illd

    Great job- thx for sharing JD! One question: Was it easy/fast for you to create the texture in AI – or would you have been faster in AE with shapelayers? Please be honest 😉

    • John Dickinson

      You’re welcome! I used Illustrator because it’s overwhelmingly faster for me to do it there.
      Best, John.

  5. I-Man

    I use this process always like this, but with a little of beat change.
    Photoshop – Illstrator – Maya and then AfterEffects.
    However your way is very good and i learned about light wrap.
    Thank you.

  6. Kevin

    Thank you for the detailed breakdown and also sharing your preset

    love it

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