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:

Image converted using ifftoany

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:

Image converted using ifftoany

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: 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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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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Sanditon’s Friendly Ghost

August 11, 2013 at 6:16 am (Etc) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have really enjoyed Welcome to Sanditon. I don’t love it in the same way as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time so that would be unreasonable to expect and it is unfair to compare them really. The Pemberley Digital team put together another talented cast and wrote a story that is fun and engaging. I couldn’t have asked for more. Not only did they give us another great show, but they facilitated a virtual space for interested fans to build a community and culture around it. Before the show officially launched, hundreds of RP accounts were created on twitter and tumblr. The town of Sanditon was suddenly populated with restaurants and their owners, doctors and nurses in hospitals, schools with students and teachers, clubs, tea shops and more fanciful residents like a tumbleweed, a deadly spider and a dragon. Using the story-telling platform Theatrics, they set up a place for the Sanditon residents to blog and vlog as part of the official beta test of the fictional Domino App.

There were several paranormal-based RP accounts, Haunted Sanditon and Sanditon Paranormal and an actual ghost, which made me think about how a ghost might participate in the Domino experience. The idea I settled on was that she couldn’t set up cameras or move laptops to record, but maybe she could use ghost energy and “possess” someone else’s recording with her own image. I got in touch with the local ghost and asked if she wanted to do any Domino vlogs and if she wanted help with vfx and sound design for them. She liked my ideas so I told her to shoot whatever she wanted in front of a solid color bedsheet, preferably blue or green. She did…

Sanditon’s own Clara Breton made a video in which she demonstrates creating her Trick or Treat ice cream. Since the town was in the midst a heated debate of Old Sanditon vs. New Sanditon, Scoops vs juice bar… this seemed like the perfect video for a ghost to hijack:

SO. I downloaded the Trick or Treat video and rendered it as a PNG sequence. Using a few different stills I painted out most of Clara for a background plate behind the ghost. I put the bg plate, ToT sequence and ghost footage into Nuke. I removed the blue screen from the ghost video, which had the added bonus of removing the black eyes. I toyed with masking them back in, but I really liked how it looked with eyes as holes. Next, I masked the original ToT video to get enough of the little spinning logo in the bottom corner without Clara’s hand moving behind it. I layered that over the bg still plate and added a little moving grain so if looked like the same footage as the original ToT video. There was a little color correcting, etc. Once I rendered those clips out, I dropped them into After Effects to create the visual distress of the cinematic ghostly possession. Finally, I used ProTools to do the sound design, the audio noise to match the visual as well deciding what the ghost voice would actually sound like. This is the first time I’ve really stepped out and done something not school-related, just playing around with various skills that I’ve been acquiring. All in all, it was really fun to do! So here’s the final vlog post:

The best part was that the Sanditon team over at Pemberley Digital really liked it! It created a mini-sensation on twitter when they actually incorporated it into the show (SQUEEE!!). I captured it on Storify. I love what this team is doing by creating these immersive, interactive shows. I got the opportunity, not to influence the direction of the story, but to leave my mark on the landscape of this fictional world; to watch characters and RP fans react to what we did. It was exciting!

I got to meet some of the PD team at LeakyCon 2013 in Portland, including Sanditon show runners Margaret Dunlap and Jay Bushman, and they were really nice and complimentary about it. Jay was so excited he gave me a hug! Actually, the whole Lizzie Bennet cast and crew were really lovely and I had such a wonderful time meeting other fans like me. Now that Sanditon has wrapped, I’m really going to miss these people. I have to comfort myself that Emma Approved is on the way and if I’ve learned one thing: Jane Austen and Pemberley Digital are an unstoppable combination.

These shows and the people connected to them have, in turn, left their mark on the landscape of my life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. ♥

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After Effects. love it.

July 20, 2012 at 9:31 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

First assignment with Adobe After Effects: make a self-portrait (or a portrait of whatever…), 30 seconds – 2 minutes long. This took FOREVER. Why did I pick so much stuff!!! It was fun, though. Definitely room for improvement, but overall I really like it. Anyone who knows me will get the references.

The second assignment for After Effects was to find a comic and animate using specific features in After Effects. Art from the online comic Lackadaisy by Tracy J. Butler. She is AH-mazing.

Also, the amount of time this 1 minute short took (about 30 hours)… MAD RESPECT for all animators. Seriously.

Motion graphics with typography assignment: Animate song lyrics in Adobe After Effects. I picked (with the encouragement of others) “8 Mile Wide” by Storm Large. Because it is awesome. It is not safe for work. Or children…

If you want to see her official music video… and you should, because it is pretty great.

Next, make an identity video for a real or imagined film company. The cheesier, the better as far as the instructor was concerned.

Use 3D (or 2.5D, as some say) and camera features in After Effects. Length: 10+ seconds. Concept: a nod to Kamelot (yes, I meant to spell it that way): My friends asked me – the resident expert on special effects – how they made the Game of Thrones intro title sequence. Well, GoT titles were definitely done in Maya or some other actual 3D modeling software, but I was taking After Effects, so… I made this for them. AE doesn’t really have 3D, per se. You can manipulate flat planes in 3D space. So to build a 3D object, you have to construct it like a house of cards, using flat pieces… It was a fun experiment.

There were a lot of assignments… next we learned to use the rotoscoping tools (roto) – you trace around something to replace it with something else or replace everything around it with something else. Tedious, but oddly calming. I chose to torture Ripley… as though she hasn’t had enough already.

Now motion tracking… where you track 1 to 4 points of motion to match movement. You’re welcome, nerds. And, uh, I totally jacked this song clip from MrVoletron’s channel. Because it is awesome and it fit the mood… I wish this clip were longer. Not sure what I did?


I replaced the license plate. Added color effects and blur effects to match look of clip.

Finally… the AE FINAL.

Create title credits (open or close). I chose to make opening credits for the characters from my D&D game night.

The art assets were mainly acquired via deviant art using searches to find art that roughly matched each other and the characters I was trying to portray. Having said that, most of them were modified in Photoshop to adjust the background, add features that were missing, change weapons, etc… then put everything I wanted to move on layers and painted underneath to fill in holes, as needed. In AfterEffects I did all of the animations and effects.

Very sad update… Loki and Relic have died… Ok, Relic is not dead, but he was turned to stone and we have to leave him behind. What? We are in the middle of a forrest and he weighs, like, 300lbs… We can go back for him in a few levels… NOT THE POINT! DON’T JUDGE US! A moment of silence, please.

Thank you.

AE Final art & asset credits:
Ayrel by deviantArt user eliz7; I painted her some legs in Photoshop, so she would be standing, and gave her red eyes for the transition at the end of her sequence
Ayrel’s background by deviantArt user jermilex
Bobetta from flickr user twen5: I removed background and changed her two-handed war hammer into a one-handed mace and added a shield
Bobetta’s mace from a work by deviantArt user MarkWinters – I just needed the top of the mace, but it is a cool image so check it out…
Bobetta’s shield by deviantArt user ZombWill (Will Owen)
Bobetta’s background by deviantArt user ink-head
Loki by deviantArt user isriana; I removed background, added glow and wings, used bounce lightning in AE for his magicalness
Loki’s wings deviantArt user littlegoblet
Loki’s background wallpaper by user sasha2d; I painted out the little creatures
Relic by deviantArt user BenWootten; I painted out the flail and added an axe, replaced the rune on his forehead with an anvil
Relic’s axe by deviantArt user vielmond
Urs by deviantArt user Shikamaru-no-kage; I found some vampire teeth (I think I used Kate Beckinsale’s mouth as character Selene from Underworld) and gave her a second mouth for the transition at the end of her sequence
Urs’ background by deviantArt user jermilex (again… his art is pretty great, not gonna lie…)
Brim by deviantArt user NadrojWobrek; I just had to layer and fill in the background – the fire is on 3 separate layers to grow the flames and there are two layers of smoke around them that come in as the fire gets bigger, very subtle but adds something nice…
Minions by deviantArt user ZombWill (Will Owen again – I love his little dudes!)
Minions’ background by deviantArt user jermilex (YET AGAIN)
D&D Logo (a TM of Wizards of the Coast & Hasbro) found on this Adam Ryen Daniels nerdy wordpress review of the Facebook D&D game
Parchment texture image from Mitch Featherston’s blog The Public Domain

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