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April 17, 2012

Portchester Castle VFX test shot

I wanted to test out a few VFX process' that I've had in mind for a while, so I trudge off 10 minutes down the road to my local castle,  Portchester Castle and filmed a few test shots with my trusty Canon 550d DSLR camera.

Here is the original footage:

And to contrast, here is the processed footage:

I started off by using Nuke X and FurnaceCore F_wire_removal, to remove the flag pole atop the keep. Due to the very shaky footage I could not automate the process, so pretty much had to do this frame by frame.

Next up, I used Rolling Shutter to remove the, well, rolling shutter effect! After that I applied the FurnaceCore F_steadiness to smooth the jitteryness of the hand held camera.

This was then rendered out and taken into After Effects, where I graded it with Magic Bullet Looks.

I'm pretty pleased with the final look, it could definitely be improved but hey, it was just a VFX process test so I'm not gonna be too fussy and spend too much time on it.

March 9, 2012

Another body in a New York alley

This NYC city scene has been one of my favourite to work because there was more to model and it was great fun getting that horrible grimy look to it!
Most of it was modelled in 3DS Max, but I took the bin bags into Mudbox to sculpt in those creases, I love using Mudbox and it was the first time in a while I’d gotten to do so. They then had a bump map added on top to get all of the fine crinkles in there. The puddles were achieved through the use of various maps and masks in the shader. All of the other various bits of rubbish were simple poly models.
The comp for the most part was pretty straight forward, with just an edge and core matte pulled using the IBK and Primatte nodes, and a garbage matte. Due to the bad colour of the green screen floor, it was quite hard getting a clean shadow, so I had to use a work around based on the original shadow matte and a few tricks to clean it up.
As there was no reflection recorded with the original plate, I had to make one by mirroring, breaking apart, and then reconstructing the actors. This final process involved 7 sections to ensure that the reflection’s contact points were correct and that it looked accurate. The reflections were the blurred and graded to match the CG, with a soft blend added to the bottom edges.
The CG was graded to match the plate, with a gentle edge blur & small overall blur to soften the image, and some grain added to break up the smoothness. The plate had substantial spill suppression to remove the green screen reflections on the actors, and then graded to improve its look. Finally I added an edge blend to bind them into the image further, then a subtle green hue was added to the whole image to give it a grimy look and tie it all together.

I thought I’d show some more behind the scenes images, so have included some clay and wire renders as well as the original green screen image.

March 6, 2012

The Sports Studio

Here’s the latest comps for the sports studio scene for Ocean Storm Films

As it’s a studio scene it is fairly simple on the modelling front; a wall, some glass, a background plane and a few blocks to give something to reflect. The football pitch is just an image, as I didn’t see the point in spending hours modelling a stadium!

The scene was modelled on 3DS Max, rendered with V-ray and comp’d with Nuke. The comp consisted of four combined mattes for the actors, and some rotoscoping for the reflections on the table as it was impossible to get a good result from pulling a matte. The CG bits were rendered out as EXRs and reconstructed in Nuke so I could grade and adjust each element individually. For the actual comp, I used the process’s I’ve described before, but this time I added an extra trick of using an edge blend to soften the outline of the plate and blend it to the CG.

I have been requested to show some ‘behind the scenes’ shots of how I achieve some of these images, so here is a simple wire viewport shot. As you can see there isn’t much to this scene. The white curved plane to the left is for the background image of the stadium. The three figures and couches were my stand ins, my low-tech solution to help align the different camera shots. The blocks on the ceiling and background are there to give some interest in anything reflective.

Here's the original green screen image.

February 7, 2012

And here's the 6 o'clock news....

Thought I'd post up the two News scene compositions I have just finished for an up coming TV show pilot.

The backgrounds were created in 3DS Max, rendered with V-ray and composited with Nuke. I'm pretty happy with these I think, but I may come back and tweak them further after I have had some time away from them.

January 12, 2012

Going Nuclear

I little while ago I was watching a few training vids, brushing up on my VFX techniques for some up-coming work later this year, when I had an epiphany that it was time I learnt compositing!

I have always thought compositing is a whole art in itself and the artists who do this have the hardest job of all, so I have avoided learning it this far in my career. But now felt like it was the time to man-up and get on with it. Partly because the compositors Nick knew were always snowed under, partly because I thought it would benefit my career and partly because I was just massively curious on how it all worked.

I started out using Autodesk Composite, but didn’t get on with it very well and couldn’t find much support. So after some research I decide the Foundry’s Nuke was the one to learn, as used by Weta, ILM and many others. And I have to say I love it, simple to use but very, very, powerful and there is a lot of support and learning materials out there.

So after lots of studying and experiments, here is my first attempt at compositing:

As you can hopefully tell this is much better than the original composite done in Photoshop. In hind sight this probably wasn’t the easiest one to start with, as I had to pull two mattes for each actor (core and edge) and even use some rotoscoping in places. I also had to do a fair bit of spill suppression to get rid of the green on the edges and reflections. To bring the CG into Nuke I rendered it to an openEXR file (one single file that contains all of the separate passes), then split this open again and individually adjusted each pass. To better match the CG to the plate I softened the edges, added depth of field with a z-depth pass and graded it. I also added a slight grain and light wrap.

I still feel this shot needs some work on it, and when I get the original images (instead of the JPEG's I had to use), I should be able to make it better yet. I think I’ll come back to it after I’ve done the rest though.

Right then, I guess I’d better get on and make the desks and composite the rest of the shots...

January 11, 2012

A Storm in the Ocean

Without actively searching, I occasionally get the odd offer of freelance work coming through via my website. They often tend to be someone wanting me to work for free on their latest project which ‘is gonna be huge’, and maybe they will be, but experience tells me they often are not and I generally decline because I am too busy working on other things.

Last year I was contacted in a similar way by Nick Lean at Ocean Storm Storm Films, but something about his email made this sound different. It might be because he lived fairly locally to me and actually wanted to meet in person. So after a brief bit of internet research I tentatively agreed to meet for a beer. It became obvious from that meeting that Nick certainly knew what he was talking about and was worth working with.

Shortly afterwards he sent some footage to me, and I began working as the environment artist for TV pilot. He had filmed the actors on green screen and needed four CG backgrounds; an awards stage, sports show, news show and a NYC alley. I discussed what he wanted in them, did the usually research and drew up some very quick concepts. Then once they were signed off I started work.

Here are the (almost) finished shots:

News Show:

 Sports Show:

Awards Ceremony:

NYC Alley:

I still need to add the foreground desks and tables and do some tweaking and proper compositing, but I’m nearly there.