3rd Year’s Work and Study Placements

Talking to the 3rd years on the 13th about their placement was great. I was most impressed by Kristian Glenn’s work and thought it was cool that he got to work around music that he enjoys but I think it was Fiona Mc Laughlin who gave the best advice and insights.

  • The right team mates aren’t always found by going out and actively seeking them. Always keep your eyes open for potential team members. Socialising in groups dedicated to different subject areas is important e.g. Farset labs.
  • The energy, enthusiasm and dedication that you pitch a project with is more important than your current skill level. You need to show your dedication in order to sway people to work with you, show you’re serious.
  • Do whatever terrifies you the most. I think this last piece of advice is the best. I too often let fear and unsurety lead the way:( Ha mum reminded me today of how close I’d been to not applying for art university. I sent my application in the day before deadline! How much I would have missed!

fxguide – The Art of Rendering

A few weeks ago I was asking Alec what renderer would be better to use for our animation. I think we ended up just using Mental ray because we all had a bit more practice with setting up lights and materials to use with Mental ray (apart from Mark maybe who might have used Arnold more than us). My knowledge is still very lacking about the whole thing so I thought it would be worth my while to look into it more. I came across this article on fxguide which is pretty packed with information. It focuses a lot on Global Illumination and the different solutions to this: conventional radiosity, photon mapping, point clouds, brick maps and Monte Carlo ray tracing, and it then goes on to discuss the different renderers; RenderMan, Arnold, Mental ray, V-Ray, 3Delight, Maxwell, 3dsMax Scanline renderer, Mantra (for Houdini) and Modo’s, Lightwave’s and Cinema 4D’s renderers. I’m not going to pretend I understand all this but it’s still good to know a little more:


Also, I’d forgotten what global illumination is:

“Jeremy Birn (lighting TD at Pixar and author of Digital Lighting and Rendering, 2006) succintly defines GI as any rendering algorithm that simulates the inter-reflection of light between two surfaces. When rendering with global illumination you don’t need to add bounced lights to simulate indirect light, because the software simulates indirect light for you based on the direct illumination hitting surfaces in you scene.”

James Gurney: Color and Light

Gurney, J. (2010). Color and Light. China: Andrews McMeel Publishing.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for too long now without me reading it. It’s a guide to color and light with a focus on painting but as Gurney says it’s very applicable to all other media also. I can’t help but see our animation as a series of paintings anyway.


These are some pages I scanned that I think are particularly useful for us to think about for our animation:

The form principle:

  • Separate the different planes of an object with different values of light.
  • Reduce texture in the shadow area. I’m not sure if that happens automatically with the 3D lighting setup in Maya but it might be worth keeping in mind if our shadowed areas appear overly detailed.
  • Consider the source of reflected light. Planes facing up receive more reflected light from the sky and planes facing down receive more reflected light from the ground.

Rethinking the color wheel:

  • The YRMBCG wheel. (You Ride My Bus Cousin Gus) places RGB evenly between CMY.

Grays and neutrals:

  • “Most paintings fail because of too much intense color rather than too much grey.”
  • Create greys from mixing complimentary colors. This grey will harmonize more with the two accents.


  • Consider gradations between hues, lightness and darkness and/or dull and saturated.

Limited palettes, triads, gamut mapping and shapes of color schemes:

  • “A triadic color scheme is composed of three basic colors, but not necessarily full chroma colors.”
  • Limited use of accents in an unsaturated scheme can draw the eye very strongly to areas of interest.
  • The group of possible colors to be used in a painting (the gamut) can be seen as a polygon over the color wheel. The gamut for a triadic color scheme is shaped as a triangle (three parent colors at the tips and then the resulting colors from mixing these three). I think our colors would be a lot stronger if we could practice and get familiar with thinking like this. It would be awesome if Photoshop had a feature for creating gamut masks like this over a color wheel built into the interface.
  • I think planning our colors would have been an easier task if we had of created stronger concept pieces before moving to Maya. It’s very time consuming waiting for renders to finish every time one tweaks a color.

Itchy Animation – Light, A Detailed Tutorial

This is a useful source of information on lighting. Even though we’re going for a fantasy feel it’s still good to know about realistic lighting set ups.


These are my notes from Yot’s tutorial:

  • Natural Light: mostly affected by scattering and cloud cover. Sunlight is scattered by air molecules. The thicker the atmosphere it has to travel through the more the light is scattered. Translucency of clouds diffuses light. Blue is scattered more as it has shorter wavelengths. Red has longer wavelengths and is scattered less, therefore the light is warmer at the beginning and end of the day when the sun is low and the light has a thicker atmosphere to travel through.


  • Midday sunshine: light is at it’s whitest and strongest. Contrast is high.


  • Late afternoon/early evening: the light is starting to get warmer. Sky becomes a deeper blue. Colours appear more saturated. Yellow highlights are close to complimentary colour of blue shadows.


  • Sunset: light is a deep orange or red colour. Light has softer contrast. The light is weaker therefore sky colour affects shadows more. Long shadows and apparent textures. Clouds are lit from below and can affect colour of sky. Sunsets vary in colour.


  • Dusk: The sun is not above the horizon so the source of light is coming from the sky. Soft contrast and delicate colours. Sometimes an alpenglow occurs which can cast a pink light on reflective objects. Non reflective surfaces become dark.


  • Open shade: The sky is main source of illumination, therefore the light is blue. Diffuse light with soft shadows. Shadows are illuminated by the scattered light from the atmosphere.


  • Overcast: soft contrast, high saturation of colour. Light is white and bluer toward sunset but colour can vary. Reflections can be broad and soft.


  • Bright overcast: some directional sunlight creates stronger shadows.


  • Broken cloud, stormy light, dappled light: broken cloud covers blue fill light but allows bright sunshine through gaps in clouds.


Images from

Yot, R. 2008. Light – a detailed tutorial. [Online]. [Accessed on 15 April 2015]. Available from: http://www.itchy-animation.co.uk/tutorials/light01.htm

His book also looks to be worth reading:


UV Mapping Recap

These are good videos to recap UV mapping.

James Taylor:

Digital Tutors:

Also some issues that came up today:

  • How to make polygons render 2-sided:


  • I didn’t know for a while why my alpha channel textures weren’t showing in the viewport and it was because Clare had the legacy default viewport turned on instead of viewport 2.


The Five C’s of Cinematography

Mascelli, J. (1965) The 5 C’s of Cinematography. U.S.A. : Silman-James Press

This book is quite dense with information. It’s split into camera angles, continuity, cutting, close-ups and composition. I read the first four sections after Christmas and picked it up again to finish the composition chapter. I took notes this time for quicker revision of concepts as I think I’ve lost bits of what were in the first 4 sections. It’s probably worth re-reading anyway.


These are my rough notes for composition:


  • motivate audience reaction according to scripts intent. Balanced or unbalanced?
  • Space and time dimensions: movement holds the viewers attention, guard against insignificant/undesirable movement. Secondary actions such as dialogue also attract attention.
  • Compose the shape of motions
  • Language: lines, forms, masses, movements. Imaginary transitional lines are created from following action – these are important too.


The different types of lines and their possible effect:



  • Lines can lie flat on surface or recede into picture. Diagonals are dynamic. Line sharpness is connected to speed and forcefulness.
  • Form: abstract forms can be created from the arrangement of physical objects: triangles wide, based triangles, inverted triangles, circles, crosses, radiating lines, L-shaped composition.



  • Mass: the pictorial weight of an object. Light mass on dark bg or vice versa. Large versus small mass. 
  • Movements: right to left movements are harder to follow, moving against the grain, should be used for actions which are difficult such as moving towards the villain. vertical movment: upward or downward? Diagonal, opposing forces, stress, the use of force. Curved; fear. Pendulum; pacing, monotony. Cascading. Radiating; growth. Interrupted or movement which changes direction. Towards or away from viewer.
  • Balance: unbalance upsets the viewer. A large static object can be counter balanced by a small moving object.The two sides of the screen are like a see-saw. A moving object possesses more weight than a stationary object. The upper part of a picture is heavier than the bottom. The left side of frame can support more weight. An isolated object has more weight than crowded or stacked ones. Warm colours carry more weight than cold ones. Light values are heavier than shadowed objects.



  • Formal and informal balance: symmetry versus asymmetry. Gravity inflluences balance; an objects center of gravity.
  • Unity; perfect integration of elements.
  • One center of interest. A group of people or objects can also be one center of interest.
  • Positioning center of interest. Avoid vertical or horizontal lines cutting the image in half. Diversify: horizon placement, position of center of interest, player and camera movement.


  • Attracting or switching center of interest: Position, movement, action and sound. Lighting, tonal value and colours. Selective focusing.
  • Eye scan: within the frame and also from one frame to another. Usually smooth and orderly unless you want to add shock and abruptness to a subject.
  • Image placement. lead room. head room is determined by image balance. Avoid cutting joints with the edge of the frame.
  • Image size: give a clue (objects of known size) to scale. Framing influences how you perceive the size of a subject.


  • Integrate composition and camera angles: continually revise player/background relationship.
  • Perspective: linear; convergence of parallel lines. Aerial perspective; gradual lightening and softening of distant objects.
  • How to increase perspective effects: camera angles which reveal the greatest number of planes/facets; angle plus angle. Choose angle and lens focal length that gives best linear convergence. Partially overlap players/props so as to convey spatial relation. Overlapping on movement introduces motion parallax. Move toward or away from screen to indicate spatial depth. Light a scene so as to get contrasting planes. Light an interior scene with a ‘hotter’ background for something similar to aerial perspective.


  • Backgrounds: actions in foreground should be tied in with background. The background should be a constant subtle reminder of setting.Use lighting, tone and colour to separate the character from the background.
  • Frames: Compose an internal frame at an angle for depth. The frame should some tonal contrast with the subject it”s framing. Keep large foreground frames in sharp focus. Avoid wildly moving frames that detract from subject such as leaves in a high wind. Frames relevant/connected tto story may aid story telling and convey setting.


  • Dynamic composition: move from a quiet scene to one which contains sudden movement close to the camera. Use this for dramatic situations.
  • Suspenseful composition: Show a few frames where the action is hidden from the audience.
  • Catalog pictures: grouping and arranging shapes.
  • Compositional variety: variety in composition, camera angle, image size.
  • Always think in terms of creating depth.
  • Simplicity: be economical in terms of line, form, mass and movement. Have one center of interest and employ one unified style. Get rid of anything in frame that’s not needed for the storytelling. “If a vast number of compositional elements must be photographed then they should be harmoniously grouped.”
  • “remember that the viewer mst be affected both pictorially and psychologically.

Alpha Channels for Textures

My imported textures from Photoshop weren’t behaving as I expected them to do. I thought that I could control a material’s transparency by plugging in a black and white image into it’s transparency node (with black making areas transparent). It took me a long time to realize that this only works for some attributes, like specularity, and that I needed to make an image with an alpha channel in order to control colour. I use masks all the time in Photoshop but somehow making an alpha channel has always flown over my head, even though it’s really easy! You literally make a selection (or select a mask), go into the channels tab and then press the ‘save selection as a channel’ button beside the ‘new layer’ button.

This Photoshop help page was useful:


No Film School – Learn How to Sculpt Hard Light to Add More Dimension and Contrast

It’s interesting to see how light is set up and controlled/sculpted in this video. I’d never even seen this before, there’s still so much that I need to learn about lighting alone! It can really bring a scene or subject to life. The video and article is here:


The Power of Shaping Hard Light from Shane Hurlbut, ASC on Vimeo.

“Shaping light can add a 3D quality to your image. This cannot be done with just firing a light through some pieces of tape. It has to be controlled and manicured so that the contrast and shadow are obtained in a way that give you that wonderful three dimensional quality.”