Guillermo del Toro: Monster Design

Research

These are a few videos and articles with advice from del Toro on designing monstrous creatures. These have been sitting in my blog drafts for a few months now so it’s worth looking back on how we’ve applied these thoughts. Looking at the creatures that we’ve developed over the past few months, I think that a lot of the advice below came quite naturally to us out of the necessity of creation. With Púca, the strangeling (both skull and house form) and Tato, we seem to be getting good feedback in that people don’t instantly compare them to other monsters. With regards to the environment supporting the monster, we’ve planned in the color script for different atmospheres so hopefully we can pull it off! Maybe the one thing that we haven’t looked at more is the metaphorical meaning of our strangelings and their ability to possess objects with faces. I feel like this could come with developing the series more and making more episode ideas for our series bible.

 Guillermo del Toro How To… Create a Movie Monster

  • Silhouette
  • Don’t make your creature perpetually angry. Imagine them in a relaxed pose. Don’t pile on the kitchen sink of horns and teeth. Imagine the lion in repose, majestic.
  • The color should say more about your character.
  • How does it move?
  • Never reference another movie monster when designing a movie monster.

The ghosts of “Crimson Peak”. How were they created?

“Socially, biologically and mythologically explained. Monsters were created in myths used as a way of explaining the world around us.”

Guillermo del Toro: “Monsters Are Living, Breathing Metaphors”

Guillermo del Toro’s sketchbooks – Commentary – The New Yorker

Guillermo del Toro’s 4 Steps to Creating Memorable Movie Monsters

http://nofilmschool.com/2017/04/guillermo-del-toro-creatures-monsters

  1. Draw on a multitude of sources.
  2. Tone and environment are as important as creature design.
  3. Think about all the angles.
  4. Convey the emotions driving the thoughts and therefore the character.
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Asset List and Layouts

Semester 02 Weeks 01 – 02 (2018/01/29 – 2018/02/11)

Artistry and Planning

Kerry and I have been working on asset proxies, layouts and camera setups while Matthew and Sorcha have been working on animation/characters and Andrew has been working on the character rigs.

 

Kerry and I made a list of all the flora and other elements that will go into making our forest backgrounds interesting as well as the props for the interior of the house and other environment features unique to certain scenes such as step ruins. We are working with the aim to get the layouts blocked out with very basic proxy models so that blocked animation can begin as soon as possible. Sorcha and I planned out a maya project folder system where props, characters and layouts are within the assets folder. Props are referenced into the layout files. The layouts and characters are then referenced into the scene files within the scene folder. This way animation can be happening in the scene files and props can be worked on in their individual files while layouts are being developed or vice-versa.

For layouts, Kerry is responsible for layouts 02, 04/07 (before and after explosion) and 06 and I’m responsible for 01, 03, and 05.

Once the cameras are more in place from the animatic then we’ll be able to do another pass on the layouts so that the compositions are better. I’ve made a start on setting up the camera sequencer for the layouts I’m on but some moving cameras are better left to whoever is animating.

 

MASH Research

Week 18 (2018/01/22)

Technical and Research

These are some of the videos which I found useful when researching how to use MASH for set dressing.

MASH – Placer Node

This video shows how to scatter geometry using the brush-like placer node. I found that MASH only works in cm. There is an option to set “strict no collisions” but I found that my geometry was still colliding no matter how I played around with the settings. It therefore took a lot more care in placing geometry than what is shown in the video.

 

Set dressing using MASH Placer Node & Arnold Procedural /Standins

This video introduces the workflow of scattering low-poly geometry with the mash placer node which are then swapped out at render time with the detailed versions. The arnold help page on An Introduction to Stand-ins shows how to export geometry as stand-ins and be re-created as bounding boxes in the viewport. So far we haven’t had the need to use this method.

 

Maya 2017 – Intro to Mash

This video introduces how animation from an origin mesh can then be duplicated and controlled with a time node. This node is only available with non-instanced MASH and therefore requires a low to high number of meshes workflow.

MASH – World Node Clusters

I looked into this as an alternative to using the placer node. An option in the World Node allows you to generate clusters of geometry around the first geometry ID in your network.

Color and Light Summary

Research and Artistry

These are some of my summarised notes from the Schoolism course on Designing with Color and Light by Nathan Fowkes. We should try and keep these in mind when planning our color script. These were wrote with 2D concepts in mind but applies to 3D also.

  • Use Photoshop layers/groups for editing depth from foreground to background – 3 to 8 layers (from my own experience of working in Photoshop)
  • Consider atmospheric depth – values.
  • Consider atmospheric depth – color temperature.
  • Use depth of field blur
  • Use repeating shapes in z-space to create depth.
  • Consider the light source, where it hits local color, and where it is blocked.
  • Consider shadow color. Is it affected by bounced light from sky, or bounced light from light source?
  • Vary each of hue, value and saturation. Consider the key of the light (the levels distribution). Consider variety across the color script sequences and how they lead into each other. 
  • Does the light and color design (hsv) reflect the mood of the story?
  • Use variety in color temperature harmonies to create visual interest.
  • Use local colors for visual interest.
  • Use optical mixing to create greys (etc.) that are more alive e.g. dots of grey-yellow beside dots of grey-magenta.
  • Contrast should be reserved for the focal point. Draw the eye with sharp edges, contrast in value and light and contrast in hue temperature.
  • Group your values for readability. Adjust photo textures to the same value groupings.
  • Use weather to build atmosphere and mood.
  • Check perspective for every part of the painting – sky, ground, characters, textures, effects etc.

I went into more detail on the course in earlier blog posts:

Schoolism Color and Light with Nathan Fowkes Week 5

Schoolism Classmate Feedback Week 05

Schoolism Week 06 Light and Atmosphere

Schoolism Week 06 Feedback: Atmosphere and Light

Schoolism Week 07 Designing with Light

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 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.

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

Nuke swapping channels

http://help.thefoundry.co.uk/nuke/11.0/Default.html#comp_environment/channels/swapping_channels.html

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.