Using the stargazing scenario, we challenged ourselves to see if we could translate the style which we wanted into 3D. Sorcha and Aidan worked on the characters while Molly and I worked on the environment.
For the environment, I started by focusing on the foreground. I blocked out where the rocks would be and moved some vertices around on a plane until it resembled the shape of the ground in my painting. I figured that it would be good to try and match my painting as closely as possible as I had already made a lot of compositional decisions while painting it.
I tackled the grass next and discovered Paint Effects, as I discussed in my post Paint Effects for Stargazing Environment. I found that the direction of the grass followed the direction of the stroke so it was better to paint stokes towards the focal point for compositional flow. I experimented with making different shapes with the tube’s attributes until I made a suitable grass shape, length and elevation.
Grass painted from left to right with no planned flow:
Grass painted with flow towards the characters:
Simple colours with a directional light:
As I learned from Mastering Autodesk Maya 2016 I was unable to use light linking with paint effects. I could unlink the light from the ground though and use incandescence to match its colour to the shadow colour.
Maya software render
This seemed to work well enough for the rocks also until I needed to use displacement maps which I’ll talk about in a different post. I rendered the grass separately in Maya software renderer and composited a texture in After Effects.
After I had some form of usable grass I moved onto tackling the rocks and then the trees. For the trees, I similarly spent some time editing the shapes of Paint Effects tubes to make the appearance of evergreen trees.
Trial and Error
Once I had a tree shape which I liked I looked up how I could save these settings as my own custom brush. This is the closest way that I’ve found to make my own brushes but I would still like to be able to paint with my own geometry made from scratch.
To animate the trees I used the turbulence attribute similar to the grass. The main challenge here was trying to make the trees look like they were in the same wind as the grass but reacting differently/slower due to their weight.
Turbulence too fast:
Adjusting the turbulence attributes:
For adding texture in After Effects, I had thought that using a background shader to shade the rocks with no shadows would work to create an alpha channel but in the end I needed to convert the Paint Effects to polygons and use surface shaders in order to make selectable areas. Using what I had learned about in my blog post Alpha Channels, Masks and Mattes, I was able to use these white/rgb shaded renders of the grass and trees as mattes for a canvas texture which I had created in Photoshop.
This was the composited result:
I don’t like how flat the trees look so I would like to return and continue experimenting with making the light catch foliage in a suitable way.