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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.