This is super fun. Find a picture of a really nice house…
…and totally creepify it. Break things like siding and windows. Add grunge and grime. Overgrow the foliage. Remove the surroundings and add dead trees and forbidding clouds. Enhance the lighting effects to be eerie.
So this shot also involved a day to night transition, but mostly as a device to best showcase the glowing lava. Still have to put in the work, though. Basically, I took this rocky scene:
I went through the rigamarole of making the transition to night, then scoured the internet for lava assets. Using multiple layers, painting and a fair amount of warp and liquify I added the lava into the scene. To make the lava really set into the scene, I painted in the cracks and ravines made by the flow. Using Vivid Light and overlay, I painted in texture and glow on the rocks. Like so:
So much time goes into a transformation like this. First you have to block everything out. Group things categorically so you can grab them as selections quickly later. It takes so long, but it is totally worth it later. Next you have to remove all harsh shadows and shading, because that nonsense doesn’t happen at night, and paint out people and other things that shouldn’t be holding a freeze-frame in your background. Next, you overlay a dark blue to cast night, but mask out areas that will be flooded with light from any source. Drop in a layer of you light source and mask the whole thing, then paint in your light. Take a look at night scenes and how light behaves, because nothing will ruin this shot faster than light misbehaving. Finally, add in details like glowing windows and light sources. So you start with this…
and many hours later, you end up with something like this…
This class is challenging, but I am definitely learning a lot. One of the best things about it is that we can always resubmit work for another critique and improved grade. He feels that in an educational environment, just pointing out how to improve work is a missed opportunity to actually do the work to make it better.
Our first assignment was one of the most common for a matte painter, to fill in an area and make it look like it belongs to the scene. We were given this tropical scene to expand and graded on matching colors, textures and resolution.
Mainly, the first question he asks is, is it believable? So… is it?
This was a really good class. I learned a lot and if I have to work in Maya, I’m all in for lighting and texturing (that’s probably because a lot of it would happen in Photoshop haha). Aaaanyway… The first major assignment was to take one of school’s characters, Bloke, and put him in any setting we want and light it. The facial expression was locked, but we could pose his body. I did have to model and texture anything I put in the scene other than Bloke, but the main focus was to create dynamic lighting that tells a story. I decided to set my scene in the forest with a campfire. Believe it or not, there are 5 lights: 2 yellow-orange lights in the fire pit, slightly offset from each other, in order to cast those wonky shadows you get from flickering fire, 2 blue lights on either side of the camera acting a little as moonlight in order to compliment the orange glow of the fire and define the dark shapes of the characters, the final light is directly on the fire in order to actually light it, since none of the others could. The geometry of the fire also has the incandescence turned on so it glows.
The final project was to texture a garage scene the instructor gave us. We could model more things for the scene, but had to fit everything, well-packed, into 3-5 UV mesh files. A UV mesh is your 3D geometry laid out in 2D space so you can design custom textures, like so:
In order to have the mesh, I spent many hours moving UVs around. In order for everything to be in the correct proportion together, put a grid texture on all surfaces. Then you can see if all of the squares are the same size or if there is any stretching and fix them up (pro tip: there always is so be prepared to fork over some time). There is also a lot of cutting and sewing seams together so they are in the least conspicuous places and so the pieces are as easy to lay out as possible. Once you have that, Maya can look at the geometry and create a rough Ambient Occlusion (the shadows objects cast on each other just by being close:
In order to make things go quickly, I set up tools. Color highlights of each section, so I could easily grab areas with the wand tool and a “lipstick” layer to let me know what direction things are facing. I applied the texture on the geometry so it was possible to see saved updates in Maya by simply reloading.
Next, to start on the diffuse (color) layers:
Once the basic color patterns are applied, it is necessary to give the surfaces texture and character. How lived in is this garage? What is new and old? If it is well-used, in what ways does use affect the object? Where do wear and grime and scratches and dents collect?
The next step is to make a bump map in grayscale. Bump fakes depth in a surface based on the scene lighting. So at an angle, it looks like there is depth, but along the edge it is straight. You can also make a displacement map that will actually affect the geometry to create depth, but you have to have a high enough poly count for it to work, which is not always possible. In the bump map, white = the most raised and black = the most inset.
The last thing I did was create a specular map. This tells Maya how shiny an object is: white = 100% shininess and black = 100% matte. There is another kind of map for specularity called specular power, which dictates how concentrated the shine is and what the fall off of the shine is, but I did not get to those in this assignment.
There are so many different kinds of maps you can make to customize the look of an object, like translucence and incandescence, that once you know how to use them, you can pretty much make anything you want. It’s pretty cool. Here are the final renders of my scene:
Back into Photoshop!
Create a still life in photoshop. I started with a picture of a window, a bumpy texture for the table surface, and a dimpled texture to use as the base for the orange. The image was created using effects, adjustment layers, masks and hours and hours of painting.
The final project required me to find a black and white concept line art of a fictional vehicle. Using a combination of painting and integrating found images, I created a realistic rendering of what this vehicle might look like. I started off masking out all of the sections of the vehicle and assigning grayscale values to each section. and painting in the details.
Line Art from Free Patents Online:
So many photos. This is the class where I got to learn to use a big girl camera. I’ll just throw up some highlights.
Project 1: Getting to know the camera
Color contrast: Starte developing that eye; frame pictures with complementary color contrast.
Aperture variation: photograph the same scene and adjust the aperture setting vary the amount of light let in during the exposure.
Project 2: Shutter Speed Variation
Frozen Gesture: capture an action mid gesture
Blurred Action: capture motion over time
Panned Action: move with the action
Light Painting: find a room that can be totally dark and set camera to the longest exposure possible. Use lights to paint in the dark and illuminate isolated objects.
Project 3: Depth of Field
I’m not going to include many of these photos because it is mostly a close up on someones face to manually adjust focus to tip of the nose, eyes, ears, just behind head, 10 ft away, 25 ft away. While he was awesome about helping me, I’m not sure he wants his face plastered online…
Visual Closure (aka the tree looks like its growing from the disc):
Project 4: Focal Length Variation
Project 5 was a written and sketched assignment to analyze the lighting in advertisements.
Project 6: Lighting
Photograph different kinds of studio lighting (point, diffuse, backlit, transillumination) then find examples, as close as possible, in real world settings. See the PDF… Project6
Project 7: Personal Project
I saw the light painting work of Darius Twin which made me want to try making a gif using light painting and stop motion animation. It was quite an adventure. I must credit my lovely assistant, cousin Lady Kyle. She gave time and space and resources and hands and MacGyver-like troubleshooting. I LOVE YOU, CEE DUBS! We had to capture the smoke at a much faster shutter speed to get movement and definition so I had to layer that in later using adjustment layers in After Effects.It was pretty fun.
This class was all about think in terms of a cohesive system. When you go to a website or open an app there are graphics and symbols used to represent different things and can be used as graphic aids to identify area or visually express ideas. Often these symbols are used as navigational buttons, but the main point is that they go together and represent the product.
There was so much work for this class. We had weekly quickdraw assignments where the instructor would give us a topic or system of ideas (like types of play: childlike, adventurous, technical, outdoor, intellectual) and we would have 20 minutes to draw as many different symbol systems as we could (minimum of 5). There was also a weekly requirement to find 20+ images of different kinds of graphics (like geometric, silhouette, pictogram, representational, etc). At the end of the term, we had to design and print a book that included all of the quick sketches, including a vectorized render of our favorite from each set as well as the sketches and final renders of all of the major projects.
The first major assignment was to design the look of a phone app for a grocery delivery service. I had to establish who the target audience of your app is and design towards that demographic. Some of the examples from class: exclusive clientele; young, single guys; busy moms; hipsters.
To start, I had to design a logo for my client and then a system of symbols to use in the app. There were specific symbols required (like checkout) and then a certain number beyond the required, but left up to me on the specifics. Finally, I had to develop the layout and look of the app, including: splash screen, menu and shopping experience.
The next assignment was to create an infographic for milk. I had to describe the process of getting milk from the cow to the store. I also had to include impact to the environment and health.
The final project was to rebrand a local company. I picked Portland Bee Balm. I liked their story and lip balm is cool. Anyway. Process: sketches, refine and vector, refine and final render.
There are a lot of little assignments for these VFX classes and most of them are in class exercises, which does not leave a lot of time for perfecting, but we do learn a lot. In any case, here are some highlights.
Week 1: sky replacement. We had to take a clip of people waking across the screen and replace the sky. I also stabilized the shot so there was no camera shake. This was using Nuke for all of the effects and compositing (make sure to watch these on 360p, the lower setting looks like total crap).
Week 6: compositing and motion tracking. In Nuke, I tracked the motion from the clip and exported the data to Cinema 4D. In C4D, I matched a plane to the ground and put a sphere on it textured to roughly match the stone in the clip. I added lights to match the lighting in the clip. Then rendered passes so the C4D camera recorded the sphere to match the footage. Then put renders back into C4D and composite everything together. Whee!
Final Project: This is basically like the Week 6 assignment, but more complicated. I added transparency and reflections into the mix to make these floating alien water cubes fly in formation across the screen. I also darkened everything to make it more moody and creepy.
This was next level sound design to learn more in depth control of ProTools: how to actually create sound effects by recording and layering multiple sound tracks and adding effects. For example, think of the sound light sabers make or Harry Potter casting spells. Those are not things you can go record and pop on a track. You have to decide what that sounds like and build the sound from nothing. It’s actually pretty cool.
One of the most amazing things I learned form taking these sound design classes is that pretty much everything you hear in a film or even on TV was created by the sound department. Very little is captured during production and often what is is not usable. That means everything from the incredible (dragons roaring, which is probably a compilation of animal sounds or even adding something like an engine) to the mundane (footsteps and clothing rustling and picking up keys) was artfully placed to enhance the mood and intent of what we see. Someone decided what we would hear at every moment of this film (in other words, movies that are super heavy on soundtracks either had lazy sound designers or did not expend budget on getting someone to do the job).
Anyway… I actually resurrected an old project, added some new animation and of course created the sound design. Thanks to my badass cousin Lady Kyle and her super cool boyfriend Man Kyle who came in to record the dialogue. They also voiced the dialogue for my intro project as well. FOR SHAME I DID NOT CREDIT THEM BEFORE BECAUSE THEY WERE AWESOME AND GREAT. Also, HUGE thanks to Tracy J. Butler for being totally cool with me jacking the art from her fantastic online comic, Lackadaisy, to create this little slice of fun.