Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sunset View

I know this is a little bit off my workload but I had gone to watch Wall-E with Jake, Greg and Wendy at Downtown East (great movie by the way) and after the movie finished, we accidentally came across this car park on the top level - and the scenery from there was beautiful. Immediately, a lot of CG scenes started coming to my mind and I could almost visualize a visual effects sequence happening. Here let me show you..

You can almost imagine this as a runway although it's just a car park. With a bit of CG set extension in the background, removal of the bump on the road, the lampposts lighted up and a CG plane approaching from the background, it would be a perfect VFX shot.

The sky just happened to be so beautiful that I had to take a few shots for the sake of reference. The interesting part was the sunset. I had Greg standing in the middle of the scene with the sunset happening beside him, and I told him to jump so that I could take a snap of him in midair.

I really feel very proud of this shot - I don't know why. I took another shot of some spikey things in front of the clouds. I wanted it to have a silhouette as light shined from behind. I adjusted the image below in Photoshop to make it more dramatic.

Overall, my take on this entire experience would be that it was very inspiring. A lot of ideas came into my mind and how you can simply transform a car park scene into something else. Very motivating! =)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Snow Scene Composite

Second post on the same day. I followed a tutorial by CMIVFX (thanks guys, you rock!) on compositing and giving life to a static image in Fusion. What I did was look through the tutorial once, then look through while taking down brief notes and finally made the composite based on the notes I made. So let me explain the process briefly.

To start off, this is the original image, in HD 720p format.

The first thing I did was animate the clouds using the grid warp feature in Fusion. This took me quite a while because I was new to this feature. But it wasn't difficult, it just took a little bit time to get the motion right. Next, I masked out the clouds and color corrected them to make them look as if they are lighted up by lightning behind. Then I created a small mask to create a lightning "patch" on the sky and animated the mask to have the effect of random lightning across the sky. This is what it looks like:

Before moving on to doing more stuff, I decided to color correct the image a little because I felt that I did not quite like the blue that was in the image. Next, I went onto creating the background snow, using the SpeedSix plug-ins. Once I adjusted the parameters to make it look believable, I had to make the snow collide with the ice berg. So I masked out the ice berg:

And color corrected the mask to make it look white so that it would serve as a matte or an alpha channel for the snow to collide on:

Next, I created the foreground snow, which was meant to look a little bigger and falling at little faster rate than the background snow, just to create and fake the effect of depth. Below are two images that compares the scene with and without foreground snow.

Background snow only

Background and foreground snow together

Finally, I made the water animate using the SpeedSix plugin again. This was a tricky part, and I feel that it doesn't look quite right. But if its a shot for a few seconds, then I guess it should be okay:

And this is what the final shot looks like, with animated clouds, snow falling and settling on the berg, water, lightning and color correction.

This is by far the most complex composition I've done so far, because it's very different from the other previous compositions I worked on. The node flow is very different and very complicated too. I had to watch the tutorial a few times before understanding the workflow and then trying it on my own:

But it was a very good and valuable practice on compositing. Anyway, here's the video for the composite. Forgive the low quality though, I don't feel like uploading it on YouTube yet. Enjoy, and more later! =)

Forest Composition Progression

Well, I don't know why but I still can't seem to fix the flickering effect that's happening with the trees. I did manage to reduce it with a little motion blur and two resize nodes, but it's not completely eliminated. But just for the sake of progress, I'll post up what I have so far.

So let's start with the forest. I took 10 different images with alpha channel from the net as I mentioned earlier and used a particle emitter to replace each particle with each of these 10 trees and randomized the order so that it's more believable. Next, I duplicated and aligned the emitter to form a hilly forest look and created a 3D camera in the 3D space. I took a sky image which I had taken from my balcony, colour corrected it and placed it all the way behind the trees. If I'm not wrong, this technique is called multi-plane compositing or 3D compositing. Either way, it's still compositing :D

I animated the trees's spin variance in the emitter settings so that it would have this look of the trees swaying due to wind. For the foreground forest, I put in a higher value for the spin variance so that it would fake the effect of depth.

I went on to colour correction and adding fog based on the z-depth. I did not add depth-of-field because I felt that it wasn't necessary when it was such a long shot. So here's the before and after.

Before color correction / fog

After color correction / fog

With these, I was basically done, except the flickering effect as I mentioned. Took approximately half an hour to render without motion blur and 5 hours to render with motion blur! Here's the nodal workflow for the composition.

And here's the video. Simple camera move. My aim of this composition is to create depth and have the camera move through the space.

Here's a high resolution frame from the animation. Some would say that it isn't sharp, but that's the kind of effect I wanted it to have.

That's all for the forest composition, as far as my progress is concerned. I'm starting to get the hang of node-based compositing and I realise now why it's so much better than layer based compositing. For compositing, I would definitely use a program like Fusion or Combustion rather than After Effects, but for motion graphics, I would still stick to After Effects.

More later.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The idea was to create an entire forest using a few trees. I found about 10 different images of trees on the net which already had the alpha channel attached. I brought these into Fusion and attached them to a particle emitter so that each of these 10 trees would be multiplied and randomized to create a forest-like effect. I animated a 3D camera. Simple track. Here's what the node flow looks like:

My first render went wrong because the particles kept flickering, meaning the trees flickered. I still can't figure out what's the problem. So will do that and post the final animation as soon as I'm done. Meanwhile, here's the basic look.

I'll explain more details of how I made this when I'm done with the final render.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Compositing in Fusion

Still in the process of playing around with Fusion. This time, I'm trying to create a matte painting of grass, trees, mountains and sky in Fusion and have the camera track in slightly. Well so far, I've just progressed with the grass part, which doesn't look any realistic at this point in time. Here's the node flow and a preview of what I've done so far:

Compositing is really fun if you come to think about it. All of a sudden, you tend to look things from a different perspective. Even when you step out of the house and you see a beautiful scenery, your mind tends to compose the image in front of you into layers and see the depth in it. Personally I think it's a damn cool thing, just that it's very tedious. Heck of a job. The only key trick to compositing is to get the lighting and colors right to make it look realistic/believable. Other than that, technical knowledge plays a pretty important part to help get things done.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Updated Hydrant

Thought I'd brush up my hydrant a little and share it here once more. Click on the image to expand.

I'll try to do this kind of thing for every piece of work I produce - the software's used and my initials.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More Fusion

I'm practically addicted to this program. Can't emphasize how awesome it is. I was practicing my compositing skills with different passes of the fire hydrant I created in Maya previously. For the previous composite, I did not change any color values. But this time, I decided to give it a warm look with a gradient background. So here's the node workflow of it:

And here's the final render of the composite:

Fusion Test

Hello everyone. I'm back again. I had been experimenting on Fusion for the past 5 hours approximately and I managed to come up with a composite of an earlier project that I had done. This time, I relied completely on the node-based workflow and created an entire composite out of it.

And here's the render of the final composite.

I just have one thing to say - Fusion is simply AWESOME! I had so much fun compositing in this program. Comparing it to a time-line based compositing workflow such as that in After Effects and Combustion, I had so much more flexibility using the node-based compositing workflow in Fusion. No doubt I'm feeling really at the top of the world that I'm starting to get the hang of this awesome program.

Think I'll catch some sleep now. It's 4.45 in the morning (=

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mini Personal Project - Hydrant in Live Action

Okay, so this blog has been pretty dead recently, so I'd thought I'd update it with a little bit of what exactly I've been doing recently.

Okay, so mostly I've been doing research lately on compositing. A lot of it. I've been exploring Combustion, which I personally find to be much better than After Effects in terms of compositing. However, I'm still not very comfortable with it, so I'm still going on about it. I'm also partly exploring Fusion, which is a hell of a complicated node-based program. Lots of patience required. Other thank compositing, I've been researching on different lighting and rendering techniques using Maya and mental ray. All of this research will be applied on a short mini personal project I'm working on.

This personal project of mine involves the latest fire hydrant that I've modeled. What I'm aiming for this project is seamless compositing of my CG hydrant into the live action background footage. So I went downstairs with my video camera and still camera and did a little bit of shooting.

The above represents a still frame from the live action shot. Basically, the hydrant will be placed at the empty area on the frame. After shooting the hand-held camera shot, I used my still camera and took about 7 photographs of different exposure levels of the surrounding area so that I could create a HDR image.

After the shooting was done, I converted my footage into a sequence of frames and had them tracked using boujou. Awesome program to get accurate 3D tracks. I also created my HDR image using Photoshop. Once that was done, I got into Maya and started creating the geometry to match up the orientation of my hand-held camera with Maya's 3D camera.

Once the geometry had been matched up, I imported my hydrant and placed it in the scene and scaled it accordingly.

This is where I've stopped. Basically the whole point of this personal project is to practice and test out my lighting, rendering and compositing abilities to get as perfect a seamless composition as possible. Once I'm done rendering several passes such as diffuse, occlusion, specular, etc., I would composite these elements in Combustion and Fusion and try to get both the end products to look as similar as possible.

So that's the update so far. More later.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Textured Hydrant

I laid out the UVs for the hydrant. I still don't know much bout UV, but I decided to apply a simple cylindrical map. Then, I added a fractal map as a bump map and assigned the blinn shader to the hydrant. I rendered in three passes - diffuse, specular and occlusion, and composited everything in photoshop. This is what it looks like: