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.

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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.

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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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backlog of updates: advanced vfx

January 10, 2014 at 4:28 pm (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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).

Original clip:

Sky Replacement:

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.


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backlog of updates: sound design 2.0

January 4, 2014 at 3:54 pm (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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.

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backlog of updates: digital sculpting

December 28, 2013 at 12:01 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This class was all about learning to use ZBrush. In the industry it is primarily used for concept art. I loved it because where most 3D programs are all about geometry and building to smooth, ZBrush couldn’t care less about geometry. It is like sculpting with digital clay. You push and pull the surface around until you have what you want. SUPER fun. If you wanted to see kind of what it is like, Pixologic makes a way simplified version called Sculptris that you can download for free onto Mac or PC. Actually, I think it’s something that kids would love.

Random assignment of subject: we had to pick a letter and a number from a certain range and that determined what our modeling assignment would be. I got Donald Duck dressed as Boba Fett. … Boba Duck. Whaaaat:



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last term (part 2)

December 12, 2013 at 11:52 pm (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

… and by last term I mean over a year ago. Holy crap I am so behind with these updates.

Our big project for Intro to Sound Design was to make an animatic using Avid’s ProTools for the sound design and whatever we wanted for the animation. An animatic is basically an animated story board, though the idea is to tell the story primarily with sound fx. I chose to recreate an adventure from my D&D gaming experiences; luckily we keep pretty good records. This is somewhat condensed from what we actually did.

*it was supposed to be a very simple animation*

*I may have gone a little overboard*

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Last term, part 1

March 12, 2013 at 6:53 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Realized that I never posted anything from last term. LAME.

Nuke. There are always a crap-ton (technical term) of Nuke assignments in a VFX class, rather than a large/term-long project.

Blue screen removal: added noise (aka clouds for the cam to fall through… wheeee!), roto to correct the blue screen removal inadequacies around the legs and cord.

Source assets:


Final video:

Compositing: We got to learn about shuffling & compositing. Basically, you shuffle out different render passes of an image (specularity, shadows, lights, depth, highlights, ambient, etc – there can be a lot). With each shuffled, you can manipulate/adjust each thing independently of the others to maximize the final result.

Original image, pre-shuffle:


I added a glow to the lights, but a specific color glow to the robot wires, etc., and used masking to create the glow reflection in the floor; darkened the room and changed the backlighting. I added smoke, because reasons. Post-shuffle composite:


Fake 3D: Take a 2D image of a hallway and fake a 3D camera movement in it. BAM:

MOAR VFX! SO CHEEZY! Hey… lets play spot the fake thing… Ok, so here’s what I did. Took the original video and generated a 3D space using motion trackers to define a ground plane, etc. Once the 3D environment was established, I plonked a spherical primitive into the scene and found a relatively appropriate texture (Why, yes, that is a ridiculously large thermal detonator. Do you have detonator envy? YEAH, YOU DO!), added a shadow. It’s kinda lame, but it was fun in-class exercise and could totally be more awesome with more time to clean up the shadow and color correct… add some snazzy gun fire, etc.

This was our ridiculous final… some doofus decided that in order to make the kid freeze over the pool while the lady walks by, adjusting her suit, they should put a partial green screen behind her for no apparent reason. BTW, this was a real job brought to one of the Ai staff to fix. They wanted to make it cheap. That did not so much work out. FYI… It is MUCH harder and more expensive in human time and effort to remove green screen plus its reflection (aka spill) from people and puddles and metal than it is TO SIMPLY USE THE ROTO TOOL TO CREATE A FREEZE FRAME FOR PART OF YOUR VIDEO. Also… if you are going to use a green screen where the objective is to remove all the green and replace it with something else DON’T HAVE YOUR SUBJECT WEARING AND CARRYING GREEN BECAUSE THAT WILL ALSO BE FIXED ONLY WITH EXTREME TIME AND CARE.

Thus ends the lesson in common sense.

Original cannon ball with freeze frame already completed (water motion reinstated in final video):

Sample of original woman walking by:

Final composite. Painful, le sigh, but got rid of the green junk LIKE A BOSS:


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