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.

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