Schoolism Color and Light with Nathan Fowkes Week 5

Week 5 goes through demonstrations of painting quick thumbnails. An emphasis is put on using the fundamentals of combining warm versus cold/hue, value variations and saturation variations to create abstracts of emotional beats.

Focus on principles over tools and techniques. Tools quickly become outdated but the principles will stay the same. Create your own process for working quickly. Photoshop tool presets and actions can speed up your workflow.

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Nathan Fowkes process

Fowkes knows that he’ll have cool light filtering in so he starts with a warm background.

A neutral on a warm feels very cool.

Paint abstractions with the feel of real light and an interesting color palette.

Everything is kept very neutral apart from some select areas of contrast.

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Nathan Fowkes thumbnail painting.

Pay attention to the flow of lines in your painting.

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Nathan Fowkes thumbnail painting.

Look at your scenes in relation to each other. Your painting might not be as bright and vibrant as you thought it was. Use adjustments to correct contrast and vibrancy and to create more variety in the context of the color script.

Week 05 Homework

Create a finished painting to this level:

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Start by roughing out an idea in simple values.

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Think of the relationships between cool and warm. Where are your light sources? Paint with lost and found edges.Screen Shot 05-20-17 at 11.52 AM

James Gurney Gamut Masking

Gamut Masking (2011) James Gurney

I haven’t fully understood the use of a gamut mask before beyond simply choosing a palette. The same color scheme, as perceived by our eyes, can be cast into warm or cool light depending on the gamut mask which is chosen. The gamut mask will shift the colors within the frame towards less/more saturated depending on how warm/cold they are. E.g. an intensely saturated yellow will become quite grey under colder/bluer light.

I have potentially a lot of illustrations to paint over the coming weeks so this basic concept will be helpful.

Pluralsight: Creating Dynamic Fur with XGen in Maya

I went through the following tutorial on Puralsight to learn the basics of using XGen. I then experimented with this to try and create a soft fleecy body for the Octaves. Learning a new system and trying to apply it in time for a deadline was quite challenging. University projects were good preparation for this but I found that there was an extra level of stress involved in the workplace.

Creating Dynamic Fur with XGen in Maya

An important note that wasn’t explained in the tutorial is about file paths. XGen likes to create folders for each modification that is applied to the groom. If any of the file paths to these folders are wrong then the groom will disappear. I found that XGen would sometimes make errors and save folders to the wrong collection directory. It’s therefore important to check that the initial folder creation is where you want it to be. I also found it helpful when working across multiple computers to make sure that all the file paths are relative. Instead of having the full path directory, start the file path with “$DESC/” so that the ‘description’ folder will be searched from whatever collection the XGen is set to.

XGen also seemed to have a bug for me. Whenever I imported a collection into a scene, two ‘description’ folders would be created within the ‘collection’ folder. One of these folders would contain all the information needed but would be ignored by XGen while the other folder would be read by XGen but contained an empty setup. This was fixed by a simple cut and paste. Maybe there was a reason for this?

My notes from the tutorial:

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Chasing My Tail With Plug-ins

So, today I was trying to match the perspective of my Maya scene/model to that of a photo that I was studying. I thought, wouldn’t it be handy if I could zoom into the view without messing my camera settings. I remember hearing something about this in Devon Fay’s tutorial on Creating a Sci-fi Alleyway (very awesome) so I asked the Google. I came across the Creative Crash website, which seems to be a good source for scripts, and the “shotView” script.

Then after digging through my notes for the script that Fay uses, I found “zoomerator”.

“Great, I just need to copy and paste these into some folders in Maya’s/version directory.” said I. But of course, me being me and Maya being Maya I misread the instructions. Instead of putting the files into the users directory/documents I put them into the c/programs directory where Maya has similar folders. So after many copy and pastes into different folders and errors in the script editor later I discovered that Maya had been telling me the correct directories all along in the script editor. How nice. Although I wasted a lot more time than was necessary I did learn a little, or at least discover more doors that I haven’t looked much behind yet. I’ll leave links here to these articles that I found for future reference. Pointless story aside, this is the main point of this blog post. Also, future me, don’t half ass the reading of the instructions.

Installing a Maya plug-in

Setting environment variables using Maya.env

The whole environment variables thing didn’t work for this purpose for me but maybe next time….

Video Copilot Blast Wave Tutorial

Blast wave tutorial (after effects)

I had a look at this tutorial a few weeks back and it was a great introduction into how various assets can be integrated seamlessly into footage. Some points that I took from this tutorial are:

  • Apply your tracking data to nulls instead of precomps as movement in the footage will reveal the cut-off edges of a precomp. Parent your assets under a null. Then parent this null under another null with the tracked movement from Mocha’s ‘AE transform data’.
  • Study how different explosions work in real life. What are the order of events? Blast gets kicked up, reacts to oxygen and blast waves move out.
  • Mocha is good for this type of heavily blurred motion tracking.
  • Use time stretching to retime assets as needed.
  • Use colour adjust, tints and levels adjust to match assets to the footage.
  • Blend the assets using feather masks and watch out for sharp unnatural edges.
  • We can turn on motion blur as we’re using nulls to hold our data.
  • For a spherical explosion, animate a cc sphere effect.

This is my own attempt of going through the tutorial and trying to get the same result:

Video Copilot Motion Tracking

Video Copilot After Effects Basic Training 05: Motion Tracking

Continuing on from trying to learn more for a possible Junior VFX Artist job, I looked at this tutorial on video co-pilot. This tutorial was a good introduction into using the motion tracking controls within After Effects. It also showed me how to use null layers for containing tracking data and how to parent effects to this.

This could be cool for tracking a fantasy character’s head and then adding dynamic hair e.g. made of fire, particles etc. Animate the dynamics in Maya to follow the motion trail of the character and then parent to a null object containing tracking data in After Effects? Or maybe it would make more sense to do that the other way around. Is it possible to bring tracking data from After Effects into Maya to create the motion path for you? I guess that would be motion capture, which I haven’t looked into yet.

Images from  and

My notes from tutorial:

Stabilize the footage. Motion track in the layer view. Open the tracker controls. The tracking squares are made up of an inner tracking point and an outer search area. Place on an area of high contrast. Tracking rotation creates a second track point/square.

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Choose track motion and perspective corner pin. You can align the tracking squares to an off-target area of contrast but move the corner of your shape to e.g. the corner of the sign you’re tracking. Track the area, edit motion target to layer you want to apply tracking data to and apply. You can precompose a layer into a composition if you want to add more details (e.g. after motion tracking).

You can apply your raw tracking data to a null object. Null objects can be used to contain other data. Create new layers e.g. solid and text layers and then shift select these layers and use the parenting pick whip to parent them under your null object. If you make an effect, you can also parent this with the pick whip. The pick whip is revealed for effects by alt clicking the effect stopwatch.