Week 10 Maya Lighting, Arnold AOVs and Nuke Compositing

For week 10, the team divided into two segments. Matthew, Sorcha and Andrew focused on the animatic while Kerry and I focused on trying to recreate the house scene exterior. I blocked out the scene trying to match the scale and perspective/focal length and composition of the concept and then shared the project with Kerry. Kerry focused on modeling the house and bridge while I focused on modeling the trees and testing the lighting, rendering and compositing.


I was having trouble getting the Z depth pass from Arnold to work in Nuke so this first render test was created by rendering the geometry in separate render layers in depth and then manually adding the atmospheric depth on each layer in After Effects. This resulted in a lot of control over the layers but created more work in setting up different render layers. I think that ideally we’d want a lot of control but not as many separate layers.



AOVs and Nuke

I was loosing hope in using the Z depth pass. I had got it working before by grading the Z pass in Nuke so that it was visible in the viewport but hadn’t tried it in a long time so was missing a step. Alec as usual was lots of help!:) He went through an Arnold to Nuke workflow with Kerry and I and showed that the Z pass could be read by a zDefocus node in Nuke for simulating depth of field. Alec also showed us the benefit of having separate AOVs that could be edited in Nuke.

Andrew shared this video from Arvid Schneider’s YouTube that goes through the same process of rendering multiple Arnold AOVs into one merged EXR file and then extracting and recombining these in Nuke with shuffle nodes. This video also shows how to use the Z pass to create atmospheric perspective (finally!). The Z pass needs to first be extracted from the merged EXR and then the depth channel 0 to 1 space needs to be normalised by grading the white and black points with values from the clipping plane (if I understand that?). Schneider also shows a useful way of creating a custom AOV for material IDs using the aiWriteColor utility.

Arvid Schneider MtoA 120 | AOVs for Comp | using Arnold with Maya 2017



It took me a while to understand the different steps in this workflow. This page has useful information on the different sets of passes/AOVs that can be used to compose the beauty pass.


Nuke swapping channels


I got the composite working for a simple scene with spheres. Alec showed us a possible method of creating light bloom by rendering a rim light in Maya with the indirect light turned off and then blurring this in Nuke to get a soft light halo effect. I added a separate render layer for the rim light’s direct light as I can’t yet figure out how to render different lights into their own AOVs with attribute overrides. Creating light bloom needs to be further looked into. Alec had advised to work towards making rendering and compositing templates that could be used as a base across scenes.


Alec suggested pushing the atmospheric fog and cinematic composition even more, as in the last image. I also made the mistake of making the depth of field too strong so that it looked like miniature photography. Sorcha pointed out that dof should be used for objects close to the camera. I had a feeling that this was the case but I haven’t experimented much before with where the blurring starts and stops with objects of different scales.

We haven’t started experimenting with any textures or shading yet. The light in the window is just a temporary Photoshop layer. Alec suggested creating light scattering with either environment fog or faked god rays wrapped around geometry with an alpha channel. The grass at the moment is also just simple Maya Paint Effects so this might change with the texturing process. The rain and fog are Photoshop overlays so will have to be looked into further also.



Week 09/10 Concepts

Some feedback from our last presentation on the concept for our opening shot:

  • Nami’s forms are getting lost. Try rim light to make her pose read better.
  • Try making the perspective of Nami more dynamic. The camera is close to the ground and Nami is far forward so she would be warped mored in perspective. Also think more about her scale in relation to the trees.
  • The trees should have their texture receding more in perspective as they go up.
  • Pay more attention to the value range. Add more nuance and contrast at the focal point.
  • Look at Hotel Transylvania for how they deal with night time lighting and characters who need to read against the dark.
  • Alec thought that this scene felt like it was during the night with eerie light beams, which wasn’t my intention. I often make the mistake of painting the sky too dark. It’s meant to be approaching sunset. Alec also advised against using absolute black if I wanted realistic light bounces for daytime. I had been looking at Samurai Jack for reference but was maybe mixing flat and realistic rendering too much without committing to one or the other.

I was also having difficulty drawing Nami’s pose from this angle. Sorcha offered to draw Nami into the scene but it’s something I want to improve on so I went back and forth getting everyone’s feedback more instead. Matthew suggested creating the pose in 3D and had some good advice on how to think of where the weight  is placed on the staff. I looked at snowboard poses for references but surfing references turned out to be more applicable as the stance is wider, as on Nami’s staff.

Trying to make the pose in Maya was more problematic than I anticipated also. I tried to match poses from photographic reference but once I switched to the low camera it tended to look odd and poorly silhouetted. Kerry and Sorcha suggested that Nami looked like she was aiming for the ground too much and to curve the staff to suggest direction.

These are the before and after feedback results:


Reymond Scene

I also worked on developing Reymond, our tree spirit. Andrew’s designs in the animatic make me laugh a lot so I didn’t want to detract from that by adding unneeded complexity. I feel like I could ruin the joke by changing him too much or not pushing his facial expressions the way that Andrew did but at the same time, Mike pointed out that he didn’t look all that beautiful in the animatic. Part of the joke is that Reymond initially looks noble and beautiful as the characters are approaching and then he breaks out into his goofy self at the flick of a switch. We’re thinking of going for the more sculpted/chiseled look in the sketches below along with using clumped and hanging moss for hair.



For the lighting in Reymond’s scene we want it to be the most warm and welcoming scene in our short. We’re considering doing this by either lantern light, magically motivated lights in Reymond’s foliage or as in the concept below, where Reymond is made of an emmisive, translucent material that acts as a warm (point?) light source to contrast the cold directional moonlight. I tried blocking and roughly lighting this in Maya before painting the concept as an aid to see how the light would react. We’ll hopefully be able to push the concept painting even more when we get to Maya and Nuke.

I also tried to keep the tree designs the same as the trees in the first house concept as Conánn pointed out that we’d be reusing assets as much as possible. Sorcha suggested adding more glow and reflective puddles to the scene also.

The references are from our Monsters Character Design Pinterest.