This project has been both exciting and challenging. This unit has taught me so much about the VFX industry as well as the talks we were given from industry. This unit for me was challenging because of using a new software BUT that dosen’t mean i haven’t learnt a lot. This project has given me the excuse to learn a new software and create very cool outcomes! This project was all about integration and creating photorealistic vfx. This was something I kept in mind throughout every stage. The lighting, the texturing, the modelling. Each stage was carefully considered in order to create a realistic looking integration.
The process started with modelling the mushroom, as this is my first term using maya I was still a little bit slow with texturing. I used references and my own sketches to create the ideal mushroom for my shots! The modelling and texturing in maya, took some time. I feel like i spent too much time here, mostly because of some of my texturing troubles which when I resolved I was able to move on. This is something I want to reflect on however for future projects. This limited some of my time in comping. After texturing and modelling it was on to lighting the scene ready for the still shot.
The locations I decided to shoot was a tudor garden.I felt this would be a good integration area for my “giant mushroom”. This would make it not look so out of place and make for even more realism (though the possibility of locations are endless!) I wanted to film here because the hedges were very geometric and spaced meaning i could get a good measurement between the spaces. However what i did forget about was how the light would actually catch all the leaves! I used nuke to play around and create a realistic light which appeared as if it was catching the leaves. Furthermore I was looking into the spline grid and morph grid nodes as well.
The lighting was the next stage of my VFX journey and it was quite tricky. I designed the mushroom to only glow on the gills so I had to use light linking to achieve this look. Furthermore sometimes the software would not always work… Which was something I was not used to facing!! However In the end I created a light that matched my design concept so I was really happy! The spotlight however was white and the gill light was yellowy warm colour. I decided i would edit this in Nuke after by separating the lights in render layers. This was something I kept realising! Nuke is your friend and can be used to edit certain elements such as the shadows matching the colours. In fact it was easier for me at time to match it whilst I had the object integrated.
The camera tracker I actually really enjoyed! I felt really comfortable using it by the end and could remember everything from memory. I liked using nuke>Maya>nuke it felt nice having everything keyed and ready to go! Some promblems i did have however with this was putting it back into Nuke. This was because of some silly mistakes I made..
Naming my file Cameratracker02 < so when the frame padding was added in maya it would only play on frame 20001.
Reformatting! For the tests I created smaller tiff sequence but forgot to reformat so I was really confused when it was smaller and playing in a random spot.
These were really simple things which I now know are just as important as the big things. Because of creating these mistakes in the previs I was able to really quickly deposit my actual one! My footage was quite shaky which on later consideration I wish I had controlled it a bit more. But on the positive side it was able to show how well it stuck to the ground! I was able to create passes using OpenEXR. I didn’t realise how easy it could be to shuffle out my passes. In fact when it came to shuffle and copy I was scared of them but I can safely say now they are so very useful. They were used often in my node graph.
The still shot required me to build dummy geometry this really confused me when we did in class so I was slightly put off with the thought of creating (what at the time) seem a complex hedge. However I was pleasantly surprised. At first I tried to recreate the whole scene, which was silly as I only needed a smaller section so I reworked it so it was more accurate. The still shot for me was harder than the camera track, I found it difficult to split up the render layers as the glow was attached to the gill..I did find a way around it eventually but I did spend too long trying to figure this section out.
What I really enjoyed was turning the day shot to night. This was practically the same thing we had to do our homework. When I did my homework I remember being really stuck but I can now confirm I really loved grading and editing the scene so it was dark. This was actually one of my favourite tasks throughout this whole project. I struggled a bit with merge nodes and whether I was putting them in the right locations.
In the end I feel I have progressed so much from the beginning of the project. I was so scared to use Nuke at the beginning of the project; now I feel really comfortable using Nuke and most importantly interested in learning more.
I really happy with my camera tracker because it has a good stick and shadow integration. I did have some problems such as the shadows. The ambient light was not fitting under the mushroom as i realised I pushed the mushroom into the plane. Another problem was the white outline when deposited into Nuke. Because the white line was so evident it made the shadows looked fake! I used a Matte node and shuffle to rectify this problem.
I am not as happy with this shot, there was a lot of things which went wrong. Such as the transparency is very noticeable and the glow was really not working. This is something i wished I spent more time doing.
For this brief I have been asked to do the following “You are required, seamlessly and photo realistically to integrate a CG object into 2 filmed outdoor shots, which you personally have built and acquired. You will be working and be assessed individually but operate a collaborative ‘buddy’ system. Shot 1 is a locked off shot, day for night Shot 2 is a moving camera, daytime”
Some advice from advice from Alex was the following:
I like the idea of a kind of surreal piece, but the key is too keep it simple, clearly consider the integration and remember to prepare. Specially as I have not worked on modelling that much or Nuke.
Below I wanted to consider how the light could emit. My idea could be something which already emits light, like a light bulb. Or it could be something I design like a floating thimble that shines out light (bad example.) Below you can see I have created two mood boards. Both show how objects emit light.
The first shows glowing or illumination like an aura from the lights source.
The second shows how light can directly shine, almost like streaks that fall on an object.
Both are potential ways of looking at this project. Hopefully these mood boards will help me when it comes to recreating a realistic, integrated, light source.
Coming up with the ideas!
Idea 1 – Mushroom
Roots and tree. Quite delicate with the mushroom- perhaps the mushroom could be larger and light up the roots
Hall Place as a setting. Round the shaped bushes or through the flower bed garden. There would be people here. It would also be a perfect habitat for the mushroom and make for better integration.
Idea 2 – Binocular
Abandoned house at the station near where I live could act as a location acting like a mystery which is associated with binoculars. It could create a nice atmosphere. Below are some of my sketches for this concept.
Chosen Idea – Giant Mushroom in tudor garden”
The chosen idea that I went for was a giant mushroom which will appear in a Tudor garden at Hall Place.
Camera Workshop, using Canon 6OOD
In this short workshop I was able to start using a dslr camera. I was able to learn a bit more about the different elements such as iso, aperture etc and how they can impact a shot. This is something which is really important in order for me to make advantage of the cameras and setting up my shot! This lesson was very valuable for me as I have very little knowledge of working with cameras.
Below are some of the shots I took below. I tried to photograph blocks and sort of vanishing points as this was something I am going to shoot at my location. There were some shots which were blurry and too dingy in colour tone so I need to make sure my footage is in focus for my main shoot! I like my photographs above it shows considered cinematography something I want to carry through for my final shots.
Modelling in Maya
Before Modelling I did some sketches of mushroom, in my mind it was a chunky mushroom. So I got lots of reference imagery and reference books and worked from them. Below are some of my sketches from this little exploration. This was really fun as I was literally able to craft my own ideas.
The several below are some of my final mushrooms I am trying to take on into development.
(above Authour’s own sketchbook scan)
From this reference material I started modelling in Maya. Below is some of my experiments based on some of my sketches. I created quite a lot of models and may have spent a little too much at this stage but as I still quite new to Maya it was really good experience and allowed me to really develop my modelling skills.
Mushrooms spotted! I kept spotting mushrooms everywhere and felt it appropriate to put it here. This primary resources meant I could see in real life the look and texturing of a mushroom. Furthermore could see how they are actually integrated into the real world!
Visiting the location.
I am shooting at a Tudor Garden, I chose to visit the location in order to see all the potential locations I could shoot at. My location was at Hall Place a beautiful Tudor home and surrounding gardens.
There was a lot of beautiful areas when we (me and my buddy) looked around the shoot. I tried to be creative in my cinematography looking at making my shot look even more beautiful.
We was able to borrow the black magic camera and practice using it whilst we checked the location out.
I was hoping to film my shots today. However In the end I decided to spend some time looking for a good location as this is something I want to put on my show reel. Therefore I wanted to take my time to choose a specific section of the Tudor garden as there was a lot of it. After taking reference photographs, I began to sketch out several storyboards and consider how I wanted to shoot it. Cinematography is something I am really interested in therefore this stage is was really fun for me! We took some footage in order to get used to the black magic pocket cinema camera for our real thing.
(some of the footage I shot, as you can see alot of the footage is shaky, I need to find away to prevent this when I shoot my final footage this weekend)
Grading our footage!
When we got back our footage was really dull and lifeless. In Nuke I used the Colour correct and grading node in order to get back some of the beautiful greenery!!
Above I used after effects to consider where I could position the mushroom. As we were not able to camera track on my version on my laptop I used after effects a substitute. These tests are vital to visualizing the images in my head.
Above are several Pre-vis I created. Either to see how the mushroom will animate and also to see what position the mushroom would sit in the moving scene.
Using the Jib!
Today we was able to see a Jib being set up. The Jib tripod, allows for swift controlled movement which reduces shaky footage. It glides so the footage looks much more appealing in the end result. The Jib works with a weight on the extending end and the camera on the opposite. The weight end also has a handle which can be used to control what direction, or height you want the camera to be.
After modeling the mushroom it was time to do some texturing!! However as I am new to using Maya and texturing in particular it was a little difficult to begin with:
Texturing my mushroom has left me with some problems, so I have been working to resolve this. Below are simpler versions of my final model. I was experimenting with UV Layout Hexus a software I had not used yet. I need to gather my textures and create a realistic looking mushroom so that it will integrate into my scene more naturally.
I was able to sort out the textures in the end and subsequently took my time to texture some of my models and creates lots of tests. I was able to create
The above are my favorite mushroom test I did. Therefore I chose to develop this mushroom. Below you can see the UV Layout for this scene, I was also able to use bump mapping for the first time another aspect which subtly made for a more realistic peace.
Above you can see the final model. Overall I am happy with the results of my final model. I was able to build on my technical sensibilities of modeling and texturing and learning things. However there are somethings I would have experimented like the size of the stem, the textures and maybe experimenting with bump mapping more. Furthermore I feel I may have spent too long on this stage as well, but I feel it is an important element to creating a realistic integration. The base of the subsequent steps.
Final Filming session.
Camera used : Black magic pocket cinema camera
Location: Hall Place Tudor garden
I buddied up with Alice and we was able to get two shots each. We were lucky enough to have an overcast day with no reflections on the floor or harsh shadows.This would mean I could have a clear camera track and allow me to convert my day to night scene easier. I later come to realize however when editing my comp for camera track scene. The shadows were something to match and make for a better integration. I watched several tutorials on Lynda about the black magic camera. What it did do was use a lot of battery up!! In order to get round this we made sure our shots were positioned correctly and shot slightly longer than the required 7 seconds to ensure I had back up footage.
Below are my two final shots with my thumbnails I jotted before we filmed.
Shot 1- Still shot.
There was luckily movement in the trees surrounding the shot so it doesn’t look just like a photograph.
Shot 2 the moving shot.
Walk forward, the shot was a little shaky However from testing, it actually makes it better as you can see the mushroom sticking and sitting in the environment.
Documenting the information below.
When I got back I re -write the information into sort of visual maps to help guide myself in the position and recreating the geometry later.
I am a little behind in my working pace so I have decided to create a rough schedule so I can see how long I have. I want to get my work done a week before the deadline so I can render out everything and edit etc. In order to do this I need to hit the following targets.
Camera Track- Shot 1
One of the shots we were asked to carry out was a camera tracking, in a day time shot. I did quite a few tests before putting my mushroom in. Here is a quick box test to see if the box would stick and to work out the location of where I would like my mushroom to sit in the scene.
Analysing the shadows in this scene there is no harsh shadow, slightly dark in the base of hedges and slightly faded.
Light come from top right corner shining down.
Passes I used:
MushShadow_A0(Ambient occlusion so only this shadow is renderable)
MushShadow_Shadow ( Just shadow) Only the shadow <—-Edit further in Nuke
Mush_A0<—-Mushroom ambient occlusion -“Contact and deep shadows”
Mush_Beauty<——“All the passes layered together as they come out of 3D” “Final color computed by mental ray for Maya.”
Mush_Diffuse<———-“Diffuse shading of material.” “Diffuse shading of material.” Diffuse Material Color will render the diffuse color, but without shadows, and without shading.
Mush_DiffuseMaterialColor<———“Provides constant diffuse color or textured diffuse color, excluding light contribution. ”
Mush_Indirect<————[“This is bounce light generated in Mental Ray’s Final gather”] Indirect lighting from final gather, global illumination, and caustics.
Mush_Specular<————-“The areas where the light source hits a shiny surface. In this specific case, reflections have been incorporated into this pass as well” – Incase for my mushroom I want the highlights like on the flesh. If it dosen’t work I don’t need to use it.Control highlights
[This didn’t work in the end, so i disabled it]
Comping my passes:
Doing this test comp above I realised that I would need a motion blur. This would make for more realistic integration. Furthermore I was given the motion blur task to carry out. From doing this research I can understand why motion blur is used and the importance of it in animation especially.
Below is what the 2D Normalised motion blur pass looks like, having this pass means I can add a vector pass, the vector pass will use the path of the mushroom to create a motion blur. However I’m not sure whether this had much of an affect on my final piece. But after doing the research project I understand why motion blur is needed specifically for integration.
Pixel analyser is a really great tool for matching the colour tones of the darkest and lightest shadows. This was a really good tool that was a basis to correcting the colour to fit the original footage.
Shadows were a really important part of my footage. As I previously stated when I was filming I was hoping for an overcast day, but when it came down to editing shadows in nuke the shadows proved a valuable part. Using the existing shadows i could match and create a greater sense of integrity.
Shot 2 Still, Day to night scene. lighting mushroom!
Experimenting with Light
The light from my mushroom is an important part of my still shot. Therefore considering how it looks will not only make the piece look more appealing but ultimately help me to create a more realistic integration.
Below you can see two moodboards. As I have created quite an organic object of a mushroom I had to figure out how I would like it to light. As mushrooms don’t usually admit light I had the fun task to work out how it would light if it was real!
In my eyes I think the mushroom would be witchy and mystical like a fantasy. Therefore the glow would need to be soft and slightly haunting. Below are moodboards I created ( as well as the two at the beginning of this project above). The two below depict one with stars and universe. The glow of these are very beautiful and mystical I felt this is a really nice source of inspiration. Below that is a mood board in the sense it gives of a mood of witchiness and softness. I like the effect in the lightings therefore I put them together. Hopefully using these moodboards I can begin to experiment.
For the day to night scene we needed our object to light up! As there isn’t really mushroom glowing and floating it was down to me to decide how it was going to work (see above). I used these moodboards and some other references to begin to light the mushroom.
Things to note* Glow is warm yellow light on floor is white* Change this.
Adding the geometry was something I struggled with when I was doing the research project. Using the measurements I took down at the shoot I was able to build the scene. The main thing my mushroom will be integrating with is the mushroom and the plane, I built some of the remaining hedges in case I did want to work with it.
Integrating the light mushroom into the scene.
Turning the shot from day to night Test 1.
I really enjoyed playing around with this. I wanted to experiment with some still shots before I worked straight onto the footage so that I have some preparation time and also so I can see quickly if something worked or not. I really like my night image, if you click into the image to enlarge it you can see the little glimpses of moonlight. I did quite a lot of roto the light in certain areas and the sky for instance.
Depending on how much my light, lights the scene will depend whether I lighten the scene up slightly.
Rendering out passes for the comp test 1,
I decided I wanted to work with one frame to begin with and come back and render the whole sequence. Sean who came in to give us a talk and helped us, said he did this all the time with his studio. I think it is important to make sure the comp is working and integrating the passes before dedicating lots of time to rendering out something which could potentially not work!
With shadow. The light is shadowing here, i don’t know how realistic this is as the light is actually shining onto the mushroom. I am not too sure how realistic this actually is though if the gills are lit underneath would there be a shadow above?
Okay so above is a test with a frame I did using one of my light set ups however I don’t think it is really that effective? The light is delicate and soft sure but it isn’t really making an impact with the scene? it seems to literally just be lighting a little bit of it… So I am going to try testing out my other tests.
Above is a short test I did with the light setup from above. I wanted to see whether in a film it was lighting up the geometry in the way I wanted.. However it does not really look like it is!! This short test has proven I need to figure out another way of presenting the light.
How do I want it to animate?
As there are not exactly floating mushrooms I had to consider how I wanted the mushroom to move in the scene. Although we are not getting solely marked on the animation, I still think it is really important to consider how it would move in the real world. If it looks really unnatural it will give away the show as it were! Realistic movements, realistic integration.
I like the way the lanterns rock gently back and forth as they float upwards maybe an element I could consider when animating my mushroom.
Delicate like a petal? This was another idea I thought I could carry back to my mushroom. So it floated down gently carrying through the soft lighting.
The last idea for the movement is based on the helicopter seeds which I used to do all the time as a child. I used to love watching the way they would fall swirling delicately similarly to the petal but with a little more movement.
Some doodles of how it could move based on the above ideas.
Nuke Comping PROBLEMS
I had a lot of problems with compositing here and I realised there was quite a few problems.
My mushroom was transparent
My glow was leaking through the cap
My light was having weird reflection in lambert?
My Mushroom completely wiped away for several frames
So as you can see quite a few problems. I discovered I could increase the transparency with copying beauty. I wasn’t sure how to correct the cap so I have rendered some tests and will explore this problem. The reflections seemed to go away when I turned off receive shadows on lambert layer. And lastly it seemed my mushroom disappeared because it was going out shot.
How I got round the leaking cap- the light is leaking out of the cap, i decided the best way round this problem would be to render out the gill light as its own layer instead of just the glow. This would mean the light would appear as though it is coming solely from the gills and not the top.
So the cap didn’t help.
This lighting has really confused me. So what i did was:
Render light out as a spotlight on, primary visibility on mushroom, white lambert,
I created a gill glow, so only the source material (the cap in this instance) let off the light- the stem primal visibility,
I created a mushroom render layer wit AO, Beauty, Matte, 2D Normalised Motion blur, Diffuse, indirect
This did not work!! The stem would not sit right or it would be transparent. The mushroom quality was really bad and In the end I don’t think i needed it!
After some help from some fellow peers, I finally understood that I would need to render the stem separatly!
My new layers are the following:
A stem with use background cap, use background geometry. :Then add passes.