Rendering and Compositing Look Development

Artistry, Technical and Research

Semester 02 Week 04 – 05 (2018/02/19 – 2018/03/04)

Artistry

These are some renders and composites from the start of semester 2 to get an idea for what the characters might look like in scene 03 – the road to Reymond. It still needs a lot of work. Reymond wasn’t casting enough light on his surroundings with the emmisive set -up so I’ve tried making him a mesh light in the images below and added a glow to his emmisive pass in Nuke.  This causes bad light bleed around his mouth. I’ll try light linking for his cast light.

 

 

Research and Technical

Andrew found this cel shader script for Arnold 5 which works much better than relying on hard directional lights! It’s free for download here:

https://encci20.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/cell-shader-tool.html

The light and shadow color are controlled by a ramp. Kerry and I are setting up the cel shader in each individual asset file. A little extra work is therefore needed to reconnect every referenced asset in the layout files to the same ramp so that light and shadow HSV can be changed from one control point. This shading network also doesn’t seem to have an imput for height maps unless we reroute to an aiStandardSurface.

Cell Shader Tool – Arnold 5 – Maya from Steffano Richi:

Artistry

These are some of the updated assets that I worked on with the cel shader. We’re trying to keep our asset textures broad, abstract and brushy so that they read like a painting from afar, especially when combined with the cel shader which simplifies the shading. I’ve also made a warm and cold version of the tree textures to help with our scene palettes.

 

 

This is our progress so far with rendering and compositing our characters in an environment. This is in layout 02 which Kerry was working on. The cel shader doesn’t work with the default AOVs from Nuke so this is only composited with the zdepth pass. It needs more work. Mike has also pointed out that we need to stage the characters with the lighting more.  This seems tricky with our current light-set up and workflow so it needs more research and experimenting.

 

 

I’ve started texturing the inside of the house while Kerry is working on the house exterior this week too. I was worried that the cel shader only seemed to work with directional lights but I’ve found that it works with the aiAreaLight also. Light will be coming from the doorway and boarded windows at the front and from a caved-in roof at the back.

 

 

Alec and the others have suggested using geometry with alpha gradients for light beams. I’ll also be developing the red strangling version of the house interior light/textures.

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Reymond Textures, Leaves and Trees

Week 17 -18 (2018/01/15 – 2018/01/26)

Technical and Artistry

I tried to match Reymonds textures in Substance Painter to my previous concept art of him. We’re trying to keep with Reymond’s scene being a mix of warm oranges from Reymond and cold blue moonlight.

 

These textures might need more work if they make the facial expressions too flat. Alec suggested using an ambient occulsion pass to help define features.

For Reymond’s leaves I modelled one branch of tertiary/smaller branches and leaves and then distributed this using the MASH placer node. MASH is somewhat fidgety in that it doesn’t always distribute geometry near the cursor or if I create a selection set of geometry it sometimes only distributes across the first few members of the set. I’ve also had trouble with getting the MASH network branches to move with Reymond’s geometry. There might be a setting to fix this in Maya 2018 but for now we’re doing all of our setups in 2017.

 

I tried adding a small amount of animation to the MASH repromesh by animating each of the original leaves. Animations can be easily looped, offset or scaled by using a MASH time node. This node can only be used on MASH copies (repro) rather than instanced meshes though. My result is a little too subtle but it’s something I’ll come back to if we have time to add environmental animations.

 

In semester two, week one I mostly concentrated on trees before Kerry and I started a full asset list for proxy models and set layout. I finished off the tree models that I had started before Christmas, UV unwrapped them and then textured them in Substance Painter.

 

 

I tried a different approach to leaves with groups of leaves on an image plane instead of every leaf being on one plane.

 

 

I tried using a blue texture plugged into emission to control the shadow color.

 

Portfolio: Major Project Mid-Module

My contributions to our project from August 2017 to January 2018, not including scripts:

I created the backgrounds in our first animatic:

Development Sketches:

 

I contributed these storyboards for our next animatic:

 

 

I contributed these boards for the next updated animatic:

 

 

Concept art and layout development that I’ve contributed:

 

 

I contributed to scene blocking, tree modeling, lighting, rendering, compositing and look development in 3D:

 

Developing our strangeling creature (possessed statue/skull) design:

 

Developing and modeling Reymond from Andrew’s 2D design:

 

 

Reymond Progress

06/Jan/2018 – 15/Jan/2018 – Technical and Artistry

I’ve been tasked with modeling Reymond. Below are the references that I was working from, from Andrew’s drawings and some of my own sketches from before Christmas. I had painted Reymond as a towering tree but Mike pointed out that Reymond’s framing would be completely changed with this, changing the comedic audience eye level in the animatic. I’ve therefore resized Reymond’s model to be more at an eye level with Nami and Púca.

 

Andrew’s drawings of Reymond from the animatic.

 

Topology

I haven’t modeled any facial topology since first year so I started by looking back on my research from back then.

My previous research on head modeling: link

The topology reference from hippydrome came in the most useful:

http://hippydrome.com/

I choose to start with topology in Maya instead of organic sculpting. I drew out where I thought the edge-flow would be based on the reference from hippydrome. I tried duplicating this by moving edgeloops on a box at first but then I just found it easier to trace my drawing with the quad draw tool. This made a flat plane of facial topology which I then pushed, pulled and pinched with the Maya sculpting tools until it looked like my drawing. I tried to make him chiseled like in the sketch by pinching the topology closer together in places but I hope this doesn’t cause any problems with the facial blend shapes and rig.

 

Work in progress of Maya sculpting:

Reymond progress turnaround closeup:

Reymond closeup with mesh:

Reymond progress turnaround:

With mesh:

I still need to add more hanging moss on Reymond’s branches and I’m going to experiment between Substance Painter or sculpted displacement maps to create his clumped moss.

Reymond renders:

 

I tried to create Reymond’s UVs in as automated a way as possible, as in my previous blog post rendering a tree. The unfold and layout tools have been working a lot better in Maya 2017 than they have before. I wonder if this is because I spent time using the mesh cleanup tool?

 

Look Development

Week 15 – Friday 2018/Jan/05 – Artistry and Technical

We’re trying to figure out how our cartoon world will be textured, shaded and composited. I tried making some simple textures in Substance Painter and brought them into Maya with the aim of combining them with a cartoony shading and lighting method.

 

 

I tried applying toon shading with the facing ratio shader to my tree model (Arnold tutorial) but did not like the result as it doesn’t pay attention to my light setup.

 

 

I’ve been trying to figure out how to render lights separately in Arnold for a long time and it turns out that it’s extremely simple. I found instructions for using AOV light groups on the bottom of this page:

https://support.solidangle.com/display/A5AFMUG/AOVs

By rendering lights separately we could maybe play with the contrast in post for getting the look that we want? Somewhere between cel shaded and having soft glows in places. This is what I’ve got from Nuke so far by rendering direct and indirect AOVs for three lights: dome, key directional and rim:

 

 

This tutorial was useful for UV unwrapping the tree. It makes the process as automated as possible, using planar mapping, auto-seams, unfold and layout functions.

 

Andrew has shared this rendering tutorial with us which will hopefully help our look development.

https://gumroad.com/l/CCGCb

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concept Sketches/Ideas Development Week 07/08

Week 07/08  – Artistic, Planning and Research

My tasks/goals for this week were to finish 3 production design paintings based on the animatic and to design the masked creature and Reymond, the sexy tree, further. The team deadline for reviewing the project concept art is November 20th so I’m definitely feeling behind on these tasks! This is what I’ve got so far.

A core rule in our world is that spirits possess inanimate objects with faces. This is an idea for a possible opening shot that plays with this rule. Ideally we would have a short opening before this which would convey the rule of spirits so then this opening shot could give a moment of “wait, but that means that any of these trees and statues in the environment could be alive/undead?!”. Some narrative could be then be suggested in the undergrowth if statues had been defaced or had magical amulets to prevent possession. I haven’t added these last details to the forest statues yet.

Sorcha had mentioned that our short could be set in autumn so I tried this palette. We’re also considering that the time of day could move from dusk to night.

I tried to draw Nami in but it’s tricky from this low perspective so she’s not quite right. In the animatic she’s flying into the frame but I wanted her face to be visible for this still.

These next few sketches are considering the staging of when Nami is talking to the creature who she has mistaken to be Púca because of it’s bright orange eyes. Púca could be concealed in the shadows behind Nami, perched on top of a totem-pole type arrangement of statues. Púca’s eyes could be the first things that become visible so that the audience might suspect a statue head is being possessed by a malevolent spirit?

I’ve gotten as far as applying value masks in this one but the value arrangement would probably be different, with the background in shadow and Nami the most illuminated.

Reymond still needs to be explored in sketches. Both sides of the crossroads could be designed with opposing palettes and lighting. Sorcha suggested that this scene be bright and sunny colored to suit Reymond. Alec suggested the possibility of lantern lighting too which is a good compromise for having an inviting palette which is still at night. The second frame is inspired by a similar crossroads, aerial composition in Samurai Jack, just to see what it might look like.

Masks and carved heads are often used as threshold guardians. This could be suggested in the detail above the doorway. The door should also suggest the dilapidated and abandoned qualities of the house inside. We have different options for how we can lay the stone. They could be large slabs or rows of thinner faces laid like dry stone wall.

The inside of the house could look abandoned and run down. The house has probably been used as a vessel for eating people before, so the center of the floor would be clear while dust and debris would have gathered around the edges. There could be a fire place towards the back with remnants of pots and tools lying around.

When the house is possessed it takes on the qualities of living tissue on the inside but should also feel like the insides of an otherworldly/spirit monster.

This is a possible idea for the design of the vessel/creature which lures Tato away. This concept plays with the idea that the one of the forest statues had not been defaced/sealed so that it was a suitable vessel for the forest spirit. Spirits monsters could be a combination of the materials that they possess along with the material of the ectoplasm bodies. The ectoplasm material could form solid limbs or remain as a ghostly, fluid material which allows the vessel to float in the air. The eyes could be orange flames of ectoplasm/soul. I purposely avoided limbs so that there would be less walking/running animation but the others say they don’t mind.

Sorcha and Kerry also suggested another idea for the creature which supports the narrative in the previous designs that Matthew created – the spirit could be using a skull mask as a vessel. I like this idea too as it makes sense for its forest habitat. Andrew pointed out too that Nami must believably mistake this creature for Púca so we’ll have to work with the staging more, maybe keeping it more concealed with shadow and foliage.

These are our various team Pinterest boards which give an indication of our design references. I’ve also posted some of the images below which I used specifically from the boards.

Monsters Character Design

Environment Reference 

Spooky Gothic Horror

House Texture Concept

Drawing inspiration from the traditional media textures and simplified shapes in Scott Wills paintings, I tried to paint the house concept in more of the style that we’re going for. I also tried to push myself to draw more of a dynamic perspective, with the house at an angle to show light on form better. Trying to paint in the style of Wills also made me think harder about using values and shapes within the frame to frame the focal point as I sometimes over-rely on vignettes and light sources to draw the eye.

We’re considering using the silver ratio (2.414:1) for a more cinematic feel in our short.

house_wip_08

Story Development and Monster Sketches

We came together to take our Cassandra Cottage episode idea into a new direction. In the old episode the characters were trying to steal an amulet that would help them contain the stranglings/monsters. We felt that the concept of the amulet and the curse twist were weak in the plot and required a lot of exposition. We’ve decided to do away with Cassandra and instead are aiming for a more general example of an episode where our characters have to overcome the perils of encountering and capturing a monster. We tried to focus on Dan Harmon’s story structure 101 while going along – you, need, go, search, find, take, return, changed.

An overview of the plot: (witch – Nami, creature – Puca, potato – Tato)

  • A young witch is practicing her capture spell on a dummy. Her mentor creature gives guidance and her potato friend cheers her on. She messes up the spell spectacularly and the dummy explodes.
  • (Title) Nami – The Last Witch
  • The witch, creature and potato are walking along the moors. Creature is lecturing her about how she should study when they happen upon a tree shrine with pictures/offerings to missing people at the edge of a forest.
  • They see a glowing light in the forest and have reason to believe that it’s the cause of the disappearances. The witch rushes ahead, chasing it on her hover staff with potato in tow.
  • The witch pursues the light into an old house on a cliff side. The door slams shut and she sees that the light is part of the house. The floorboards turn into teeth that try to eat her but her hover staff saves her.
  • Creature turns into owl outside the monster house and tries to save the witch but is struck down.
  • The witch tries to do a spell while dangling from her broom but it fails. The potato falls into the monster floorboards. The witch throws her books at the creatures uvula causing it to gag and spit the witch, book and potato out.
  • They land on the creature. The witch takes a breath, concentrates and manages to do the spell. The house monster gets captured.

Sorcha wrote a script using these beats and also added an opening monologue which gives some context to the story.

I’ve been trying to develop what the monster house might look like. We wanted to keep the house-on-tall-stilts idea from the last episode. I started with some thumbnails to explore house shapes and how these could combine with monster features. The challenge is to make architecture that belongs to a fantasy world, make it recognisable as a house and then create a mimic and monster form.

I think that doing more architecture research will be of benefit. We thought of using medieval European stone houses as influence but this might a be a bit too traditional/overdone in fantasy. Sorcha and Matthew also suggested looking at more real world predators for influence, like the gelada baboon who peels back its gums drastically to reveal large teeth. I’m also considering how a shark’s mouth is designed.

Link to our Pinterest board Monsters Character Design

We also need to develop the mechanics/muscle movements of how the teeth floorboards work. We want the inside of the monster house to be fleshy.

Cassandra Cottage Concepts

These are some early thumbnails for trying to figure out the composition for Cassandra’s cottage. The idea was that we would start the episode with the characters arguing while the cottage is somehow framed in the background, either above or below the clearing that they’re standing in.

Matthew had some more pushed perspectives from directly below, looking up. Looking at these I could push the feeling of looking down from a height more also.

I tried to paint this concept while using the simplified shapes in Mikael Gustafsson’s work (instagram link) as inspiration. Christian also shared interesting ideas for rock formations with us (Kilian Schönberger Earth Pyramids).

I don’t think that I captured the feeling of danger and foreboding that the story needs with these. We’re also reworking how this setting functions in the narrative.