Advanced VFX, in class assignments 2 & 3

July 3, 2015 at 7:00 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , )

Next on the docket was to become familiar with more complex scene compositing and utilizing OpenEXR files. The cool thing about .exr files (among other things) is that they can be multilayered. So. You can have 1 file in with all of your render passes (beauty, reflection, refraction, lighting, ambient occlusion, alpha channel, specular highlights, etc.) and each can still be manipulated independently within Nuke. That is so freaking cool. ANYWAY. I had to composite the exr footage of this Robot:


…into a moving pan on this city scene:


And for extra giggles, why not add a crashed ship in the parking lot? So, I dropped a hole in the ground, added some rubble and fire, and comped a ship in. Then. I set it on fire. Asset reveal!

Since the shot of the city was actually moving, I had to use motion tracking and the 3D scene elements in NukeX. Cameras and cards and nodes! Oh My! I was pretty proud of this for 3ish hours of work.

The next assignment was pretty similar, but was about simulating a building fire. I’m not going to break it down, because I’m sure you get the idea, but I’ll post the final video. I was pretty happy with the central fire, but not so convinced with the smoke coming out of the right window. If I knew then what I know now, I would just have used particle effects in Maya to custom make all my smoke and fire, but we’ll save that for the next ADV VFX installment.

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Advanced VFX, in class assignment 1

July 1, 2015 at 2:08 pm (School) (, , , , , )

One of our first in-class assignments was to take a green-screened actor and remove his arm. The footage was delivered as a TIF sequence, so basically instead of a .mov file, we got a folder of each movie frame as individual images. Like so…

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 6.36.47 AM

This is actually pretty common and is easier for some programs to handle, especially the one we were using to composite: Nuke.

So here is the first frame up close:


As you can see, the floor was dirty and the green a little uneven. Several key nodes were used to knock out that green and masks, of course, to hide that equipment in the corner and disappear the arm. Now where to put our zombie?

I found this room that could pass as a storage-type space, but most importantly, it was very large and at a good perspective. And the lighting was pretty even so it wouldn’t fight with the zombie footage. Of course it’s awfully bright, but that is what post is for, amiright?Theatre-Empty-2

So I comped the zombie and the room together. Did some color grading to give the ambience more of a cold, sickly feel. Added some questionably placed blood splattering (hey this was all in class after all…). And BAM: zombie sequence.

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Digital Matte Painting: haunted house

March 26, 2014 at 6:31 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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.

haunted house5

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Digital Matte Painting: lavarrific

March 18, 2014 at 6:01 am (School) (, , , , , , , , )

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:


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Digital Matte Painting: day to night

March 11, 2014 at 6:01 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , )

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…

Bath Abbey_day to nightUPDATE

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Digital Matte Painting: fill in the blank

March 4, 2014 at 2:09 am (School) (, , , , , , , , )

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?


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backlog of updates: lighting & texturing

February 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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.

Image converted using ifftoany

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:Image converted using ifftoany

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:

Image converted using ifftoany

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.

Image converted using ifftoany

Next, to start on the diffuse (color) layers:

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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?

Image converted using ifftoany

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.

Image converted using ifftoany

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.

Image converted using ifftoany

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:

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Image converted using ifftoany

Image converted using ifftoany

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backlog of updates: image manipulation and compositing

January 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm (School) (, , , , , , , , , , )

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:


Final render:


*mic drop*

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backlog of updates: intro to photography

January 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm (School) (, , , , , )

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.


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