Friday, November 27, 2009

Candles Test

Since my film is set back in the World War II era, my lighting design would be affected accordingly. I thought that for my opening logo of Digimator's Render does not suit quite well. So I'd thought I would do something along the lines of candles. I plan to get this shot done before next week starts.

So I built a simple candle model. The tricky part was setting up subsurface scattering for the candle. I had never done this before, so the process of experimentation took me quite some time before I got to the final (almost) result:

The lighting and the shadows cast on the floor by the candles isn't right at this point in time. I am merely testing the effect of light entering the candle surface, scattering and bouncing around a few times before coming out of the candle. I set up slight displacement to get rid of the smooth surfacing of the candle, as shown in the shading network diagram below:

Then, I decided to try lighting the surrounding of the candle, as if the candle is emitting light. I got this so far. It's not final yet:

5 different lights were used to light up this scene, though it's nowhere near perfect. No global illumination or final gather used in the images above. This small test allowed me to explore SSS in detail and gave me slightly more confidence in setting it up.

I shall probably continue working on this tomorrow.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


For  better viewing quality, visit link

Interim 1

So today was Interim One assessment. Everyone’s pieces were interesting. I was kind of nervous for my turn to come, and when it did, I presented.

It didn’t go bad at all. Bertrand said I made a good choice about my 2.35 framing for a more cinematic look. The only downside was that I did not include my reference that I had painfully gathered to show the time period in which my story would be happening.

Overall, I was quite happy with today’s presentation. There wasn’t any issue about my story nor my primary aims. My friends’ reactions to my animatics were also pretty positive, which was very encouraging for me. So overall, it’s a good push towards production.

There are roughly 56 shots in this short film. I’m kind of nervous – I need to finish it properly. This is my first 3D animated short, entirely created by me. I want to make it good. Here’s a screenshot of my Gantt Chart:

gantt chart 
Here comes production!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Second Sequence of Animatics

Something bad happened. It happened during P1 too during the most important times - technical failure! Not technical difficulty, literally technical failure!

Three days ago, my computer received a virus and refused to start up. Luckily, I was able to access it through safe mode once and backup all my FYP and other important data onto my external HDD. Then, I had to reformat, which is such a painful, long and tedious process. I had to instal every single program back, configure my computer again to its maximum potential and install all the updates! Real pain! It took up my whole day and I couldn't get any work done.

When everything was finally set-up (almost!), I decided to continue on the second sequence. So far, I have 36 shots in total completed. Here are a few screenshots from the second sequence:

This sequence is entirely lit using the night sky or moonlight. There are no other sources of light, except at the last part. My focus again is on look development. So I've been a lot of attention to the cinematography. In this sequence, tension is built up again, hence I decided to use longer shots. After a while, I couldn't quite figure out on what kind of shots to use. Thus, I decided to export the animatic and mix the audio to whatever I have so far. This gave me more ideas and made me re-arrange some of my shots in different order, and this in turn made me change my audio accordingly. So it's a back and forth process, which is really helpful in times when I have no idea how to continue my shots.

I hope I'm able to finish the animatics on time. Also, I hope I'm able to handle all the shots once production starts. I think it's getting a lot more intensive than what I had imagined this project to be.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Animatics – First bombing sequence finishing…


The consultation with Alan went quite alright today. He mentioned that he could refer to the mood I was trying to emote with my camera angles, which made me feel really happy. I was and still am focused a lot on the cinematography of this short film as I work on the animatics. I had issues continuing the pacing of the story after Angela’s father went to put out the fire. I thought of the fireplace idea again, and Alan told me that I could make him use a bucket of sand to put out the fire.

However, I was running out of camera angles and shot sizes. I realised I had used almost every kind of camera techniques – zoom, dolly, crane, rack focus and ‘zolly’ (zoom + dolly). I then thought of one of the making-of featurettes that I had watched previously of some Michael Bay movie. I remembered seeing a cameraman running behind and actor with a camera mounted on some kind of tripod.So I thought I could probably have that kind of effect in the shot, as seen above.

Alan also mentioned that audio in my short film is a very important element in conveying the mood to the audience. I couldn’t agree more with this. I pray I have enough time left to mix in the SFX and music properly before the interim next Wednesday.

Well, I’m kind of happy that this first bombing sequence should be finishing. The above image is a still from a second last shot of the sequence. Hopefully over the weekend, I can finish off the second bombing sequence, and finally, spend next Monday working on the opening and ending sequences. Then on Tuesday, I would be finalizing my character designs.

Lots to do!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Animatics and Reflections


The above is one of my favourite shots in this film.

Animatics is making me think a lot. I’m really glad I chose to use this 3D method as it really helps me visualise the cinematography, which otherwise I would never have been able to do so by drawing storyboards. If only it had struck me earlier to do use this method, I would be pretty far by now. But regrets aside, this is the rough outline of the workflow I’m trying to follow:

1) Create shots in Maya
2) Compile and edit a sequence of around 10-15 seconds using Premiere
3) Mix in the audio – rough SFX and score & bring back to Premiere to see how the edit is turning out with the audio
4) If it works, leave it, if not, back to Maya to edit (and the process repeats).

I guess this process really helps me think about the pacing of my story. Right now, I’m stuck at the part after the first bombing and how Angela’s father rushes to switch off all sources of light so that they do not seek attention during the air raid. This made me think about small details, such as how many light sources would I need in the scene to be put out by Angela’s father. Currently, I have two kerosene lamps and one fireplace. I intend to put out the fireplace last (or do I even want to use a fireplace in the first place?). But regardless of that, I find two kerosene lamps insufficient.

My direction is such that after the suspense reaches the climax (the bombing), the pace. This means I would need more shots (reaction shots and such). Hence I am wondering if adding a couple  more light sources for Angela’s father to put out would help keep the pacing of the story.

I hope to get something done before consultation with Alan tomorrow – last consultation before interim.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Moodboard Animation

I’m not really supposed to be focused on this, but anyway…

I tested some animation on grass using hair dynamics. I then separated out all the layers during rendering and rendered them at HD resolution (2.35:1) using the school computers. After the render, I took all the passes in After Effects and composited them.

Comments are most welcome please :)

P.S.: Rendered in Maya using mental Ray. No global illumination or final gather used.

As far as my animatics are concerned, I’m done with roughly 1 minute. I showed it to a couple of my friends and Alan, and they seem to accept it. At least they could tell what was going on, which of course made me really happy. This was a good motivational boost for me. The only issue was the background score. Alan suggested that there was no surprise about the bombing event as the music already hinted that something bad was about to happen. Since my story is all about look development through mood, then I should have a happy family time being disrupted by warfare events and have my background score tell that part of the story. He made a lot of sense. So I would be working on that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In the midst of animatics...

Right now, I'm in the midst of my animatics. Character designs are still in progress.

So for the animatic, I decided to go for a 3D approach, since I have difficulty drawing characters in perspective. Moreover, I get to play around with the various focal length and camera moves as well. Hence, I downloaded a couple of free rigs and posed them. Then, I added crude lighting to give a tinge of mood instead of leaving everything grayscale. Here are a couple of frames from different cameras.

I'm still in the decision making process on whether I should have the fireplace lit up. The downside is that it would be an additional technical hurdle - creating fire. Of course I could cut this down to having fire visible in only a few shots and having off screen effect of the flickering light from the fire place. Then again, there's this scene where Angela's father puts out all sources of light when he hears the fire alarm. I have not thought about how I would do it when it comes to putting out the fire.

Well that's not important right now, I could probably focus on that later.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Countryside Field Concept 02

Countryside Fields 02

I rendered this is several passes with displacement working again. Still works in progress. Composited in Photoshop. Pardon the few glitches here and there. This is by no means the final shot. As compared to the previous one where the lighting was different:

Countryside Fields 01 Still working on the grass animation.

Angela’s Father - Character Concepts

I did some research about the characters first before coming up with something. I looked at the way they dressed especially in the 1937 era. So before approaching any specific kind of character design, I drew a few rough concepts just to see in general the basic shapes of the characters.

I started out with Angela’s father first. I drew a few basic shapes of the head to see what works and what doesn’t:

001I looked up a lot of references to get inspiration. In particular, I looked up Clemenceau, former president or prime minister of France back in those days. I felt that he had a lot of features on his face that I could use, like wrinkles and loose skin. I also tried creating hats for the characters.

From these sketches, I realised that I liked the one on the extreme right, in terms of the basic shape of the head. Hence, I decided to experiment around that. This is what I came up with:

002 I came up with the guy on the left. I wanted to avoid doing hair because it would complicate a lot of things when I get down to production. Thus, I tried him bald, but then I realised he looked kind of old. So I tried adding some facial hair, and I felt this made him look slightly younger. The clothes are just a placeholder for now – nothing finalised.

I then tried it with hat and combinations with or without facial hair:

003 Well, this is it so far. I’m in the midst of dressing this character up. I’ll post that up once I’m done.

Initial Environment Concept Work

Earlier on, I had this idea of having Angela’s house in a countryside setting, probably somewhere in the middle of the woods. So I did this concept painting to illustrate my lighting scheme:

Cottage in Woods

But I had this discussion with Alan that firstly the environment looks very forbidding – especially the looming jungle at the back. My intention was to emote a very warmly spring feel. Another issue was that if I were to include off screen air raid sirens to indicate war, then a house in the city would be more ideal. So I would be changing that aspect.

Next, I went onto doing a rough concept work for my opening sequence. I knew I had to have a countryside setting with vast fields with grass. I found this to be more of  technical challenge as I thought on how I would be making grass on a large scale without having to slow down the system performance.

I thought about using paint effects, but in my experience, it slowed things down by a lot. I could be wrong – there could be techniques to counter that. But I wasn’t very sure all the same. Thus, I decided to go with a fur approach. This was my first time trying out fur. Here’s what the final comp looks like – more or less:


The scene is kept pretty light actually. I have a NURBS plane which has been sculpted to give a hilly look. I created a shader which had random brown parts as mud and green parts as grass assigned on the hill. Then I created a displacement shader for it such that the brown parts would rise up as rocky or muddy areas and the green part would remain as it is. I also plugged this map into the fur attributes such that the fur would only appear on the green part and the brown part would remain empty.

Turns out that my displacement couldn’t work properly at highest level so I had to optimised it, which is why you can’t see much detail on the brown part. As for the grass, I’m still trying to figure out on how to have it caste shadows on the plane. The background distant mountains and the sky are photographs color corrected and composited into the scene.

I’m continuing to work on this scene more to improve the lighting. I managed to get the displacement working at its full quality without having to sacrifice too much render time. Also, I managed to get the grass moving slightly by connecting it to a dynamic hair system. I’m still working on the set-up of render layers so I will upload once I’m done. For this kind of shot, I’m hoping to keep the render at less than 2 minutes per frame per pass. I hope that’s reasonable for the amount of time I have.


Okay, so I am not going to lie. My drawing is not the best, but I do try :) So here goes…

I felt that even though the train opening sequence wasn’t important to the storyline, I felt it was important to establish it. It was after all an opening sequence, which was going to introduce my film and I wanted to pay equal attention to it. So I did a lot of research and gathered numerous references on landscapes and trains. Here’s a rough storyboard concept I came up with:

boardI have to admit, I did trace most of it. But the shading and lighting was done by myself. I think I may open with the bottom two frames of the viaducts.

And then I moved further down the line to do storyboards for the main story:



Pardon my drawing – most of it is traced. But aside that, I got feedback from Alan that the shot from above the fan is not necessary. So I would be removing that. Next, I would be uploading some concept artwork that I did for this production.


This blog will contain all my production history. Since I kind of started late on my blog, I’ll jus fill in with what my project is about.

When I graduate and look for a job in the industry, I want to enter as a 3D lighting/rendering artist. Be it for 3D animation or visual effects. I just enjoy the process of lighting. There’s no greater satisfaction for me other than to take a scene, light it up and watch the final rendered version emoting different moods and feelings. I feel that lighting plays a very important part in telling a story visually, and this love for lighting and rendering has motivated me to revolve my FYP around that.

Thus, my project is a prologue of another story of a much larger scale. My prologue is about this 8-year old British girl, Angela, who lost her father during World War II and was orphaned. The bigger story is about how she moves on to an orphanage and as she grows, she realises that she has to fulfil her father’s dream of finding her mother. But my prologue is going to focus solely on how Angela was orphaned.

The goal of my FYP? To do relevant lighting and rendering to emote different moods and feelings throughout the story using different color palletes. In the beginning of the story, I have this sequence where a train is chugging along the European countryside and in it, we see Angela for the first time sitting alone in a compartment and reflecting on how she was orphaned.

Well that’s enough verbal description for now. In the next few posts, I would be posting up my storyboards, character sketches and some concept art that I have done so far.