Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Z-brush Creature

I was inspired those hyper-realistic creatures from movies like Lord of the Rings and Spiderwick Chronicles. Thus I decided to try one of my own designs. I had no design in mind initially. I jumped into Z-brush straightaway and decided to experiment with the program. I started with a sphere as a base and started sculpting from there. I used a mouse as I don't have access to my Wacom tablet at the moment. This was my first time using Z-brush.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Digital Painting Continued

I continued working on the digital painting where I last left off. I made it into a widescreen ratio.

To make the cliff more grand, I made the horizon line higher and shifted everything upwards. I felt that the water had too much green inside. Thus I color corrected it. Next, I went onto adding my main focus - the waterfall. Finally, I added more foreground cliffs with forest and vegetation details.

Painted in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Digital Painting

This is my first try at digital painting. It's a concept I'm working on as part of my school assignment. Basically, I'm supposed to create a background for character animation to be fitted in. Since I love landscapes and oceans, I decided to paint that. This is still in concept phase. It's not complete. I still have to add a waterfall from the cliffs on the left and make a few more changes to make it look more dynamic.

Done in Photoshop CS3, using a Wacom Intuos 4 x 6 tablet.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Audio Assignment

Hello everyone. Been busy with school work. Recently we had this audio assignment, and this is what I did for my final assignment. Basically we ripped a clip from YouTube, Poseidon in this case because I'm an action fan. We took out all the original audio and replaced it with our own. Angie and I were in charge of this assginment. I was in charge of all the dry parts, meaning I did the crashes and explosions and things breaking - basically the first half of the clip. Angie handled the remaining half of it with the wet stuff - all the water sounds and things interacting with water. Then I mixed in the background score, which happens to be from the Dark Knight movie. Finally, both Angie and I adjusted the sound levels and volume and voila - that's our final product =) Enjoy!

Voice-overs (ADR):

The woman who says "What is that?" - Angie
"Connor, Connor!" - Andrea Lek
"That way's a valve, come on let's go!" - ME =)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Water through nParticles

Hello. It's been a long time since I last posted here. Well, I have been onto something new- Maya 2009's nParticle system.

I had a lot of fun playing around with this new engine in Maya. At first, I had no clue how to use it, but soon it was pretty simple to figure out the techniques of using nParticles. It's very similar to Maya's other dynamics engines like nCloth or just plain rigid body dynamics - make your static object that's going to be collided with a passive mesh and the particles to collide with the passive geometry.

I read that water simulations could be done with this new engine and I decided to go for it. I modeled a simple tank and had the nParticles fill it up with fluid simulation properties. The rendering and calculating time was kinda expensive, that's why I have not rendered the animation yet. However, you can take a look at the rough shaded version of it and a single rendered frame below:

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I went to take some footage near my house. I wanted to create a meteor crashing on a road. I saw this tutorial done by Andrew Kramer from Video Copilot and I was very inspired. He created it using 3ds max, and I decided to challenge myself my doing it in Maya instead.

So currently, I am still at the very beginning phase. I tracked the footage in bojou - apparently I have to re-track it because it wasn't tracked properly for some reason. I created the crater in Maya, textured it with a photograph of asphalt I took and rendered it without lighting it. I took it into Fusion and tried to composite one frame and see how it matches up with the background footage - and this is where I realised that I have to re-track the footage and make adjustments to my crater geometry. For now, I painted out unnecessary stuff and made the final scene. Of course it's not complete.

Raw footage

Crater created in Maya

Final composite created in Fusion

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I recently created this explosion in 3d Studio MAX by following a tutorial by Andrew Kramer from VideoCopilot. Amazing guy he is.

Well anyway, just to briefly describe my process - the basic method was particle instancing. I created 3 big debris pieces and 1 small dirt pieces and used particle instancing to emit these pieces of geometry that I created. I created a bump texture in 3Ds max itself. I did not know where I was going with the explosion - all I knew that I wanted to show the massive scale of the explosion, thus I made it slow motion by rendering it out at 100 fps instead of the usual 25. The rendering time was a killer - almost 2 full days, mostly because of the skylight casting realistic shadows. I rendered it out in two passes - the beauty pass and the z-depth pass. So here's what the beauty pass looked like:

Hardly any color information. However, I brought the rendered sequence into Fusion and added a gradient background and used a speedSix plug-in to simulate an explosion. This plugin is just supposed to give out light rays but after modifying it a little bit, I managed to get a slightly explosive look.

Then I went onto creating the source of the explosion - the meteorite, and timed it up so that the explosion happened at the correct timing.

I was quite happy that I managed to turn something with only grayscale values to something with slightly more color.

Below is the final version. Please rate and comment on it. Thank you!

Enjoy! =)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fire Hydrant Complete

I have finally, finally completed my fire hydrant visual effects shot after working on it for more than a month. Here are the details:

- Shot with Panasonic DV Camera
- Matchmoved using boujou
- Fire Hydrant modeled and textured in Maya
- Rendered 6 passes through Maya's mental ray
- Composited in Nuke

The matchmoving isn't very accurate though. I should have used trackers during the shooting phase. Oh well. Enjoy! =)

YouTube Update

I have added some clips on my YouTube account.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lighting Issues

I am having a lot of problems lighting my interior set. I added materials and textures to my models. I set up a directional light as my sunlight and an area light as my photon emitter. But for some reason, it doesn't work. No matter how much I increase the photon value, the render still remains dark. Then I decided to take off the sunlight and use two area lights, one for emission and one for sunlight. Still did not work. Don't understand why. Having a bad day already and this is making it worse.

So what I did was used one area light as both sunlight and photon emitter and placed it behind the two windows and stretched it to fit the size of the two windows. Well, here's the render but it's still screwed up as you can see:

I don't understand why there is so much light between the two windows when the area light is behind the windows and is set to caste raytrace shadows. I decided to change the position of the light and went onto to doing a night scene.

For this, I modeled a light bulb and added a point light to it. I made sure that the bulb was set to not receive or cast any shadows in the scene so that the light can pass through it. I used this point light as my photon emitter also. However, when I tried to render, the photon emission went about a quarter way before it got hung there. I tried reducing the photon energy, yet the problem persisted. I even changed the point light to an area light, yet it didn't work. Very frustrating. So I just decided to use Final Gather to render the image and see what it looks like.

No, I'm still not happy with it. There is hardly any indirect illumination. Very frustrating and bad day, so I decided to close down Maya and continue working on it tomorrow.

Interior Lighting - Beginning Phase

This would be my first time properly lighting a scene with Global Illumination with the proper theory of mental ray understood.

I added in curtains and windows and a flower vase with a few tulips on the on coffee table. I made a texture in Photoshop for the vase. Once I was happy with the modeling, I decided to get into lighting. Well, as expected, nothing went right the first time. Maya crashed on me, the lights did not give me any shadows, no GI seen even though everything was activated. Well, after fixing the normals of a few pieces of geometry, things started to work. So here's the first and very very extremely rough render:

There's only one light source - an area light behind the windows, which is giving direct and well as indirect illumination to the scene. However, some of the photons are screwing up as you can see between the two windows. I have no idea why this is happening. I was trying to get rid of it but failed to do so - so much so that I got a headache and decided to quit Maya and write this post of progress. Tomorow, I'll try fixing this issue as well do the following:

- add a glass material to the coffee table top
- add a chrome material to the table legs and the lamp body
- add wood texture to the painting frame
- make curtains translucent
- add texture to the sofa sets and the flower pot

As for now, I'll go to sleep. Been working for approximately 4 hours straight on this scene. More later.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Interior Modeling

So this week, I've been doing a lot of R&D on lighting. The key thing to making believable visual effects is lighting. So I decided to go really in-depth into it and discover what mental ray for Maya can offer. I researched on Global Illumination and a little bit of final gather and certain mental ray features.

Well, to put my R&D into practice, I decided to do a little bit of interior modeling. I looked up some reference for sofa and created my own version. After that, I made the coffee table and the lamp purely out of my own imagination. I added the paint effects tree for the flower pot and added a painting frame on the ceiling.

I'm not finished yet actually. I still plan to add windows and curtains on the wall and other details such as the wire cord of the lamp, flower pot on the coffee table, cushions, etc. After I'm done with the modeling, I plan to texture my set and light and render it through mental ray using GI.

As for my hydrant - haiz, it's darn slow. It's still rendering. Shall post up the final clip when it's done.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hydrant in Nuke

Well, my hydrant is about 90% rendered and I was really getting impatient to get onto compositing. So I decided to just give it a try to whatever I had so far. But instead of using Fusion, I decided to try Nuke this time and see how different or how similar it was to Fusion.

Well I guess I did have fun using this program. Just that I find pulling the wires out of the nodes to be a little troublesome as compared to that in Fusion. Also, Fusion has this drag and drop function regarding the nodes to display in the view. In Nuke, I would have to pull a wire from the viewer to a node everytime I want to preview it. Definitely troublesome, but I guess I would get used to it.

I did not follow any tutorial on how to composite in Nuke. Based on my knowledge of Fusion, I composited the several CG passes and got what I wanted. Below you can see the node graph. It would have been similar to that of Fusion.

I'm still extremely new to this program, so I couldn't quite figure out how to get my z-depth pass as a Z channel integrated with the rgba channels. In Fusion, I would have to make use of the channel boolean tool. In Nuke, I tried using channel merge but it didn't quite give me the results I wanted. Color correcting was also quite tricky and complicated. But I kind of figured out my way to get the result I wanted.

Overall, I was quite happy with the result. It's still incomplete though - I still have to match the grain of the raw plate, adjust my reflections and specular highlights, etc. But I would polish it up once my render has finished. Currently, about 100 frames or so left to render from the reflection pass.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mini VFX Project

It's been quite a while since I last posted, and I'll tell you why. My hydrant renders kept failing as I mentioned earlier. But I found a way to solve things. I realised that my laptop got heated excessively inside, thus it shut off on its own. So what I did was put it on top of a book, so that there is more space at the bottom of the laptop for the heat to escape. Then I took a few wet cloths and placed it on the hottest part on my laptops to cool down the laptop. Funny thing you might say, but it actually worked! My renders carried on, although at a very slow speed. The diffuse, specular, shadow and occlusion passes are all rendered. The only one left is the reflection pass, which is less than a quarter way done. I added a new pass - z-depth / luminace pass so that I would have more control over the depth of field during compositing, although its just one object.

Moving on, I haven't had time to do much work because of the rendering. But, Greg and I decided to do this mini visual effects sequence. The entire point of doing this short project is to firstly test out all the vfx techniques we both know or want to explore, such as matte paintings, 3D integration, matchmoving, minitature shooting against green screen, etc. Secondly, we want to see how it is like to work on a visual effects sequence in a pair. After all, teamwork is what the industry wants.

So we got started. Using the resources we had, we came up with a simple plan of the vfx sequence. In this case, Greg had this toy Hercules plane which looked pretty realistic from certain angles. So we decided to base the project around it. Greg came up with the storyboards, and we further developed it. During one of the recent meetings, we decided to have a shot of the plane taxing on the runway before take off. Thus we decided to actual create the foreground minitature set shot against a blue screen. But all this would be at a later stage.

Thus for now, I decided to do a moodboard to have a look and feel of the sequence. I took a snap of the plane from my handphone camera and brought it into Fusion. I took out the background by rotoscoping the plane out and cropped the image to a HD 720p look.

Next, using about 8 paint nodes, I painted out unnecessary things that gave the realism away such as the red sticker, some dents and cuts, the guns in the foreground, etc. Below, you can compare the before and after shot of the paint work.

Next, I color corrected the plane. I wanted it to be mid-air at night, so I wanted this bluish hue. Of course from the way the photo was taken, the highlight was pretty big and the shadows pretty harsh, thus nothing much could be done with that. Hence, I used a couple of color correction nodes to get the desired effect.

Now that the foreground element was finished, I had to take care of the background - the sky. I used the clouds 3D plugin from speedSix and created a night sky by positioning the perspective to match to that of my aircraft image.

Next, to add a bit of realism, I added lights to the windows. However, Greg told me that combat planes do not have such bright lights or any lights at all for it would give away its position to the enemy. So in the final shot, we may not have lights after all. But I just created them for the sake of realism.

Finally, I added forground clouds to add that element of depth.

And this is what the final moodboard image looks like:

Of course this is not 100% complete because of a few missing elements such as consistency - if there are lights on the windows, there should be lights in the cockpit as well. The propellors aren't done up properly also.

I could have used Photoshop to create this entire image and get the same results. But I chose not to because eventually for compositing, I would be using Fusion. By doing this moodboard, I realised the technical challenge that I would be facing when doing the real composite. Also, I'm so used to the node-based way of compositing that I'm starting to drift away from layer-based compositing. For example, the paint operation - it's much easier to classify different paint operators as different nodes rather than have them all on a single layer in Photoshop and not being able to edit once out of the paint mode. Or I maybe wrong. But Fusion will still be my choice.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sky Replacement

Update on my hydrant render - bad! Very bad! Desktop too slow to handle, and laptop keeps crashing. Have to find a way to fix this soon.

So meanwhile, I decided to do something else. I was walking home from school and I came across this big patch of grass with buildings in the background. It looked pretty interesting to me, so I took out my handphone and took a video of the place. Just a simple plan. I had no idea what I would do with it. This is what it looks like:

When I reached home, I transfered the footage to my laptop and analysed it - the quality was horrible, it looked totally flat and the sky was siply blow out with zero cloud detail. That gave me an idea - why not colour correct the shot, key out the sky and replace it with a better one? I proceeded, and I gave it a very dramatic mood, as if it was about to rain. I also found a sky photograph which I had taken earlier, and colour corrected it to match the footage.

Clouds Image

Color Corrected Clouds

Then, I realised that the camera was constantly moving throughout the shot and thus the sky image had to follow it. I wasn't familiar with Fusion's tracking tool thus I imported the original footage into boujou and tracked it there. This way, I would get accurate 3D camera information. I imported the tracked camera as a Maya camera file and imported that into Fusion. I then placed the clouds in 3D space, duplicated them and positioned and rotated them to form a kind of a panorama.

That was the final step in terms of 3D compositing. I cropped the shot to a widescreen one and rendered it out with motion blur enabled.

A very interesting practice with Fusion's color correction and 3D compositing tools. On that excuse, I got to use boujou as well =)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cool Compositing Book

Well, my hydrant is supposed to be rendering at the moment, BUT, my laptop crashed and shut down while still rendering the 11th frame of the ground occlusion pass. And there are a total of 162 frames per pass, with a total of 7 passes to render. And it's not that I did not try to render again - I did 5 times and the same thing happened. Well, frustrating no doubt, but I think I'll have to reformat my laptop and render the frames on my desktop. Oh well, it happens.

So I thought that meanwhile, I would share about a book which I borrowed from the library - The Art and Science of Digital Compositing.

This is one of the best books I've read so far - a must for anyone who's interested in compositing. I am just halfway through my third chapter and I'm already learning so much. Not to forget that there real world examples of how certain shots from certain movies were composited. Very cool.

I was exploring the DVD that came with it and I found out that they had actually included a few source files from certain movies. I took the source files from King Kong and did a small composite in Fusion:

The pass breakdown for Kong and the T-Rex wasn't provided - only the beauty pass for each was provided. So I had to make do with that. Nothing great actually, but I got to practice the Ultra-Keyer tool in Fusion to remove the blue screen. Very cool!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hydrant Rendering

This evening I told myself that I should not procrastinate and decided to get the hydrant rendering done.

I started lighting the scene and found this to be really challenging. The lights had to match to that of the actual scene. I added an area light as my main keylight, something which represented the sunlight. I know in most cases, a directional light is usually used for a sunlight. But I guess in this case, an area light suited the best because of the way the shadows were soft during render time. I then added a point light behind the hydrant, somewhere inside the building as my back light and finally another point light as my fill light. This is what the rendered scene looks like:

And this is what the light set-up looks like:

Of course things such as ambient occlusion and things like that will be done during the compositing stage. Right now, I only focused on getting the lighting almost accurate. Next, I went onto creating the render layers. I added two layers for occulusion - one for ground occlusion and another for the hydrant occlusion. I did this so that I could control each occlusion pass separately during compositing instead of masking and rotoscoping. Next, I added the usual diffuse and specular render layers. For the reflection layer, I used a phong shader as a material overide for the hydrant and made it super-reflective so that I could reduce and control it during compositing. For the shadow layer, I used a background shader as a material overide instead of the default shadow preset. This gave me more control over how my shadow looked like.

Once the render layers were set up, I did final touch-ups such as naming each pass, turning on final gather and ensuring that every pass was being rendered as high quality through mental ray. Currently, all the passes are being rendered.

The compositing will be done in Digital Fusion. I know I mentioned in my previous post that I would composite in Combustion as well and try to get similar results from both the packages. Well, I'll try to do that but Fusion would be my first choice.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

First Works using RenderMan

I was just looking through my old works and I came across these two images which I totally forgot about. I used RenderMan to create these images. The first one, I used Slim to generate a glass shader. I decided to go the extreme and increased the refractive index to a very very high level. I rendered the image in Maya through RenderMan of course, and this is what it looks like.

For the second image below, it required more work. That time, I was really into RenderMan and the RenderMan Shading Language (RSL) and I did proper research on it. Well, I didn't exactly copied the RSL code, but I learnt and memorised it and wrote the anistropic shader in my own way for the following container which I modelled in Maya.

One thing about RenderMan - extremely steep learning curve. I guess one requires good mathematics background to master RenderMan, which I currently lack. So I decided to put it aside for the time being, and decided to concentrate on visual effects and compositing instead for the time being. Once I have mastered that, I want to explore advanced CG lighting using mental Ray and RenderMan and really go into its depth and then use that knowledge to create some good VFX.


Okay, nothing new about my works so far. I've done something for my school project. Wish I could post it up here, but I can't as yet. Have to go through some paperwork first.

But anyway, I read a lot about Digital Domain's in-house compositing software, Nuke. There were a lot of debates on whether which one is a better choice when compared to Fusion. Well, I decided to give it a try on my own without consulting any kind of tutorial:

My take on it - the workflow is almost the same as Fusion when it comes to basic CG multipass compositing. Simple mathematical operators and a few merges and there you have your composite. I used the same old files to try this composite and I did a bit of colour correction. Well, this was the tough part. The colour correcting nodes are so complicated, that I couldn't quite understand. For now, I would still stick to Fusion because I'm starting to get very familiar with it. But I would still learn Nuke since it's industry standard.

Well, that's my take on it. Very short post. More later =)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Flickering of Trees - Fixed

I finally managed to fix the flickering of the trees in Fusion. I had to keyframe a few values to stop the flickering. I re-animated the camera, but I don't quite like the result. Still prefer the previous camera move. Another addition to this animation is the animation of the clouds - its animated using the same technique of grid warp.

This animation was rendered with a hell lot of motion blur, so the rendering time was really expensive - 8 hours! Oh well. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dramatic Sunset + Rain

Okay, it's been quite some time since I posted an entry. I'm so busy currently because I have so many projects at hand - both from school and personal. And most of these projects revolves around Fusion =D

So a very brief and quick post for today. One of the projects I'm working on is a dramatic sunset which transforms into a night sky, after which it starts to rain. It's part of a logo animation for Crewsade I'm doing. And a good thing is that the techniques used are all discovered by myself while exploring Fusion. So what I did was I started off with a simple static jpeg photograph of clouds which I took from my handphone camera.

I animated it using two grid warp nodes - one to animate the background clouds and the other to animate the big foreground cloud. Then I went onto color correcting this animation - one to make it into a warm sunset evening and the other into a night scene. I also created the sun, added the light rays and a lens flare.

Sunset Scene

Night scene

And I went onto add the subtle lightning happening behind the clouds using color correction and a mask.

Can't really see a difference here but in the animation, the lightning is very obvious.

Once these three passes were done, I merged them all. I animated the sun setting and the light rays to follow it. The scene changes here gradually into the night time scene, lightning strikes and then it starts to rain almost immediately after that. This has been the most complex work I've done so far:

One thing I learnt from this mini project - be organised when compositing. Keep the nodes nice and organised so that the entire flow is easy to read.

Unfortunately, I haven't rendered the animation yet because it takes a hell of a long time to render with motion blur and the fact that it's in high definition. I'm currently busy with a school project (which I can't talk about right now). Once I'm done, I'll probably render and upload this short animation.

More later! =)