Below is my first story board, this was a quick sketch I used to later create my concept/storyboard piece also listed below. The first storyboard was me just quickly getting my first ideas down which later helped me to layout my second storyboard on Photoshop. This second story board was more for expressing the mood and colour for me scene than it is for showing the camera angles.
My third story board, although similar to my first one is a better representation of the camera angles and detail I intend to use in my scene and is more inline with my animatic. Currently I feel there are not enough shots within my story board really tell my story in a clear manner, so I will be creating another, more detailed storyboard, in the future.
It is a visual effects artists job to recreate real world phenomena in a digital environment. These effects are used on multiple platforms from games to movies to virtual reailty. My main focus is going to be on VFX in films, that is the area I want to go onto in the future so it seems to be reasonable to focus my research on that. There are many different job roles within the VFX industry, compositor, concept artists, FX artists and matchmove artists, to name just a few.
What is the work flow to produce these effects?
How has innovation in hardware changed the use of effects?
What other forms of innovation are there in the industry? Glassworks – jordi bares, dneg – Clarrisa engine, photo gammatry.
Innovation – Jordi Bares creating FX that work in harmony with the environment instead of being over the top, a good combination of live action and FX where it is needed create a much more believable scene.
A relatively new innovation in the world of compositing I have found quite interesting is the art of deep compositing. Rather than layering multiple 2D images ontop of each other and using mattes and masks to manipulate them, deep comping creates a rendered image, that doesn’t just have a single Z depth for a certain point on the image, but instead it has an array of values that define the distance of each pixel relevant to a certain point in space. Basically giving the pixels of an image a position within a 3D space, thus allowing for compositors to place other assets inside the image without having to create multiple nodes or layers with separate masks.
Here is an example of deep comping being used in the ‘Orrery’ sequence in ‘Prometheus’. We can clearly see how each particle in blue has its own depth in the image as each particle passes in front and behind each other encasing the actress in the middle. This allows for a lot more realistic effect making the scene more believable for the audience.
Here is the model of my cave created in ZBRush, this is my first time using the software and I have found it quite challenging, but I am slowly picking it up. I am pleased with the final outcome however. The main issue I have been having is with the texturing and UV maps of the model, when applying texture in ZBrush it looks OK but seems very pixelated, there is also stretching some points, this is when using the spherical UV option. I am also having issues when I try to create the normals within Maya using transfer maps, from the high poly to low poly. The next issue is also in Maya when I try to unrwap the UVs its very messy, this could be due to the still relatively high poly count even on my low poly model.
Here are the first screen shots from the basic blocking out of my scene. I have been playing around with the camera angles and basic lighting to give a feel for the mood of the scene. The first shot is to give the environment a setting, up in the mountains, dead trees, pale light, all these help the audience identify the location and weather. From the outside everything looks like a normal cave dwelling. As we move inside there is a more warm glow from the fire, giving a homely feel. On the walls and surfaces we see odd objects you wouldn’t expect most cave men to have. Currently there are blue prints, tools, books and calendar on the wall. I’m still going to add some fur pelts on the floors and walls; also some kind of bedded area and general clutter so it looks lived in. There is a mysterious blue light coming from the back, obscured by a curtain, this I intend to stay hidden and just subtly show a flickering blue light, to make the audience curious and then, towards the end, reveal the source.
Here is my first animatic based off of my third story board, it is currently not as long as i wanted it to be and doesn’t contain enough detail to convey my story as I want it to, however it does give a good example of the setting with the first few seconds. I’m still undecided on the concept of having it all in one shot, although it may look nice, I’m unsure whether or not it is appropriate for this piece. It was created by attaching the camera to a motion path and parenting the aim to certain aspects of the scene, I have done this to create as smooth a camera movements as possible but at some points it is still not how I want it to be, this will be improved with further refinement of the technique, which is still quite new to me. I will be creating another animatic with separate shots, some of which can be seen in my blocking renders.
For the portal like time machine, I wanted to create some fluid effect to simulate the portal aspect of it. I hadn’t worked with fluid effects much before, other than using Bifrost, and as it is an area I am greatly interested in, I wanted to take this opportunity to develop my skills and also to enhance my final piece.
Here is the tutorial I have been using to help me better understand Fluid Dynamics. In this tutorial he creates a tornado and I have used similar techniques to create my portal effect, sort of like an inverted tornado.
The main issue I have had with these simulations, is the amount of time it takes to simulate when using a high particle count, this is necessary however to make it look more realistic. These effects also have a big impact on the render time, which is why I have allowed myself more time to render in my Gant Charts.
Below is my second animatic, this animatic has an improved camera over the first, as well as, the final cave model, extra assets and lighting. The camera is still not perfect and a few of the assets such as the fire are not quite up to scratch. However this gives a good example of the finished product.
Here are my designs for the different assets I will be having in my scene. They are all designed to fit in with the prehistoric style of the environments, from bone handles to stone axes heads.
The time machine is the the asset i had the most difficulty coming up with an idea. my first idea, the box like machine I felt was too cliche and boring, plus would require some kind of power source, sadly there are no plugs in a cave! My second idea was a portal like creation, this solved the issue of power as it drew power from the earth itself, with big plug like sockets and cables, this allowed me to also experiment with particle and fluid dynamics, as well as, nCloth dynamics.
Creating many different assets has given me an opportunity to improve my modelling and texturing skills. Before this project I had not done much of either and was an area I found quite challenging. For this project I have used both Zbrush and Substance Painter to create and texture my models. These pieces of software have made the process much easier for me, so much so that almost every model has first been modeled in Maya, a high poly version created in Zbrush, baked on using transfer maps back in Maya, and finally textured in Substance Painter. This has made it much easier, not only to model everything, but to also easier to keep a consistent style throughout. Below are my various models and their accompanying textures.
This time machine functions like a portal and it gains its power from the earth through the cables and large sockets at either end. It is loosely inspired by the portal from Battlestar Galactica.
This trailer was created by piecing individual pieces of wood, all the same model, just scaled differently so they don’t all look the same. It is supposed to look like it is in the process of being completed as it is the final thing the time traveler needs to introduce to the caveman population.
Wood and Stone Axe
This axe is created from a wooden handle a stone head, I wanted to create some twine that connected the two pieces, however when I tried creating this in Zbrush I could not get any useable UVs so I have left it out.
Bow and Arrows
I wasn’t originally planning on having a bone saw in my scene, but after creating the trailer, out of planks of wood, I thought to my self, “this doesn’t make sense, how would he have cut these planks of wood without a saw” so after having a look at various reference images online I came up with this.
Stone and Bone Hammer
For the books I used the same models for each book and scaled them differently to give some variation, I also applied different textures so they weren’t all the same colour, but still the same, word old style. They have this old worn style as the books contain information, from ancient times, that the time traveler needs to help man-kind
Similar to the axe I wanted to create some twine or string to connect the two objects but i couldn’t work out an effective way of achieving this. However it doesn’t look as obvious on this model and the blade fits in nicely into the cracks.
Within my scene I have a few environment rocks so give the impression of a rocky mountain side, this rock is the rock used to cover the entrance to the cave, I was inspired by the cave from the lion king to include this type of entrance. All the rocks are also covered in snow so the viewer knows it is nearing an ice age.
This fire was created using FumeFX, this is the plugin used in the industry and I managed to get a hold of a copy. I wanted to use this plugin, one, because its good practice for me to learn and industry standard and two because it offers much more realistic results as opposed to Maya’s own fire through fluid dynamics. I have used models of logs as the emitter for the fire.
This calendar is supposed to be on a stretched piece of hide, I felt this would make it fit in with the style of the scene instead of using paper. This also is a visual representation of the ‘Judgement Day’ or incoming ice age, this along with the stone labels is supposed to help the viewer understand this.
London is a massive hot-spot for VFX across the globe. There are over 140 VFX dedicated studios, varying from feature films, to commercials and games or even a bit of everything.
Double Negative: VFX TD
Job Description: FX Technical Directors gather a variety of 3D assets produced by our Build, Layout and Animation departments and use off the shelf software – primarily Houdini but also Maya – and custom pipeline tools to create particle, rigid body, fluid, cloth, fur and hair simulations.
Responsibilities: -Use an array of commercial and proprietary software tools to produce photorealistic simulations of real-world phenomena while developing innovative solutions to complex problems.
-Create bespoke effects setups to fulfil client briefs.
Produce test and often final renders of FX elements for a shot.
-Create working test composites for review by the supervision team.
Work in partnership with lighters & compositors to ensure shots are delivered to the very highest standard.
Required Skills and Experience: -Proven experience in producing effects such as smoke, fire, clouds, water, steam and explosions, plus experience with particle and voxel based rendering.
-An eye for details, good sense of timing, and thorough understanding of techniques and technologies relating to physical simulation in computer graphics.
-Experience in live action FX work preferred.
-Extensive knowledge of Houdini and/or Maya (Python, Hscript or Mel knowledge a plus). _____________________________________________________________
Framestore: FX TD
Job Description: FX Technical Directors create CG renditions of naturalistic physical or magical phenomena such as fire, water, clouds, smoke, physical destruction and particulate.
Responsibilities: -Creating particle, rigid-body, fluid, cloth, fur and/or hair simulations or animations
-Applying lighting and shaders to produce the final rendered image or passing the simulation on to a Lighting Technical Director
-Using a variety of commercial and proprietary FX tools including Maya, Houdini and Naiad
-Working in partnership with other departments to ensure that shots are delivered to the highest possible standard
-Working within the team to determine the various design solutions needed to create the effects
-Designing and creating images, elements, effects, pipelines, tools and techniques
-Helping to design solutions involving a more procedural approach in order to create the effects required
-Producing reviewable composites of all FX elements for a shot. Sometimes FX TDs will be expected to produce final renders too
Required Skills -An excellent knowledge of Houdini and/or Maya
-A thorough understanding of the techniques and technologies relating to FX simulation and procedural animation
-Previous experience producing effects such as smoke, fire, clouds, water, steam and explosions in addition to simulation techniques for rigid-bodies, cloth and hair
-A good understanding of animation and an eye for motion
-A working knowledge of Renderman or Arnold
-A good understanding of the entire visual effects process
-A familiarity with pipeline issues, especially working between multiple packages
-A working knowledge of at least one compositing application (e.g. Nuke) and a solid understanding of the compositing process
-Strong Vex, hscript and/or Mel scripting skills
Desirable Skills -Knowledge in other simulation packages such as Naiad
-Programming skills with C/C++ along with knowledge of the Houdini HDK and/or Maya API
-Python and Unix shell scripting
-Experience with other render packages
As you can see, the requirements to be and FX TD, at both Dneg and Framestore, are very similar. This is to no surprise as they require a lot of people with varying specialized skills to produce such high quality content. There seems to be a big emphasis on Maya and Houdini being the main propitiatory software used within the industry. Having already got a basic understanding of Maya, I feel it is a good idea to start learning Houdini as well. I planned to use it for our current 3D environment project but I am unable to find the time, so it will be a project for over the summer.
I want to compare the big companies and the smaller ones, based in London, to see the difference between the way they operate. Sadly, after look at a few companies like BASEBLACK and Jellyfish, they don’t display what is required to apply for a job, so, I have contacted them asking if the can supply me with any information.