Overall I have really enjoyed this unit, we had a few little bumps with the loss of one of our members, increasing our already heavy work load. Perhaps  it can be seen as a good thing as it has given me more work to practice on, allowing me to further my skills in areas that I am already confident in, such as Maya and simulations, but it has also taught me a brand new set of skills, mainly within Nuke and compositing effects in 2D, which will enable me to make any work I produce in the future much more refined.

From the get go we wanted to create a piece that looked simple on the surface but in fact had a lot quite intricate and advanced techniques to make it look as refined as possible. To an extent I think we have achieved this quite well. The live action and CG shots compliment each other well, following our theme of peace and tranquility.

We enlisted the help of my friend ‘Isaac’ to help us with our shoot. He has a lot of experience as a camera man, working mainly on music oriented work. But he was really excited when I asked him if he could lend us a hand on our shoot. As well has handling the camera, he also gave us input on where he thought a shot would look good or bad. With his help I really think we produced some really wonderful looking shots, in particular the fish shot, I think was all of our favourites.

In hind sight it would have been a good idea to try and find someone to help us do the sound for our project. Although the sound is OK, I believe some more refined sound would have really brought the whole sequence together. In the future I will bear this in mind as a vital part of the process.

There are a few things I would go back and change if I were to do this project again. Firstly, I would be more prepared for going on a shoot. Although we produced some nice shots, we weren’t really sure what we were supposed to be doing. Saying this it was our first time going on a proper shoot like this and Isaac also helped us with what he had experienced before.

Secondly I would have liked to change the focus on shot 5, at the moment it is focused on the pagoda, but I would have liked the crane to be in focus, or at least focused in on, so that we could really appreciate the sub-surface shader on the crane, as a lot of time was spent trying to achieve the paper look. Saying this having it blurred out made it easier to blend it into the back plate.

And lastly in shot 4, the motion of the crane was much too fast. I tried slowing it down in nuke but couldn’-t make it too slow without it looking odd. I would’ve liked to change the animation and slow it down. but this would’ve required it to be reanimated and re-simulated; we just didn’t have the time to do all that so we either had to stick with it or remove it, but I think it was good enough to keep in. My house mates said they didn’t even realise it was CG water.

On a happier note I was really pleased with the way me and Henry worked, we were able to mostly stick to my plan I had drawn up and complete everything on time. For two people I think we really produced a lot of work. We had a good distribution of work load, with me working on the more technical aspects like rendering and simulating and Henry, was working more on the animating and rigging, as I had seen his animation before and knew he was good at it.

This project has really improved my skills in a lot of areas and has been one of the most enjoyable units we have had so far, in particular actually going out and filming our own live action footage. It has only further enforced my plan of specializing in effects and dynamics simulation and more namely the VFX industry.



Nuke Process

Before starting this project I had never really used nuke before. I had downloaded it over summer  and started to play around with it but nothing more than that. Because I didn’t know much about Nuke I really valued the lessons we received from Clement, from Escape Studios, as he gave very well structured and detailed lectures, right down from the basics up to more advance techniques of 3D camera tracking and plate cleaning. Alongside these lessons I also attended a course of the Ravensbourne shorts on Nuke and compositing. There were 3 sessions with increasing dificulty levels, taught by Alex, a past Ravensbourne tutor. These sessions really helped me to concrete down what I had learnt from clement, boosting my confidence within Nuke, allowing me more creative freedom.

The first thing I needed to do in nuke was to track the camera for shot 5. This was our hand held shot that we included so that we could have a chance to practice camera tracking. We didn’t note down the meta data from the camera whilst we were shooting as I knew that the Canon 5D recorded that data like f/stop and focal length into the image file. I was the able to extract this date using a piece of software called efixtool(-k). Its a simple script that just pulls all the meta data from a shot and displays it in the cmd prompt. I needed this data like the sensor size and focal length so that the camera track would be as accurate as possible.capture

As well as imputing the correct meta data, I also needed to correct the lens distortion. This could be easily done using the lens distort node. I knew how much to undistort by looking up the distortion factor of the specific lens we using a canon 24-105 has a distortion of 0.015 so we did the opposite of -0.015. After this the footage was then ready to be tracked.


Once the camera was tracked I then exported it to Maya using the writeGeo node and saving it as either a .abc(alembic) or as a .FBX. These files can then be imported into Maya and lined up to the geometry in our scene.

By our own mistake we didn’t get any measurements of the distance between our camera and the position of the crane, when we were filming. So, by a small stroke of genius, we were able to use Google Earth to quite accurately measure the distance, using its built in ruler tool.google earth.PNG

After everything was render out of Maya (which overall took more than a week of pretty much solid rendering!) we split our shots between us. I was to do shot 4 and 5 and Henry was doing shot 7. Because shot 4 contained no live footage and the shot consisted of mainly reflections, it didn’t require much compositing, only colour grading and a few alterations.

First off I apply a simple grade to boost the blacks and whites and then I am using a chroma key to extract the greens from the leaves and create and alpha to use as a mask to drive the next grade nodes where I adjust the, black white and gamma, colour levels to give it the yellow/brown hue. I am then using the depth pass, that I render out in my .exr file, to drive my zDefocus node. This node allows me to use a depth pass to get a depth of field effect like you would on a normal camera lens.

Next was shot 5, this was the shot where I really wanted to showcase a various range of skills. First off we were having some problems with using a ‘hold out’ to create the alpha for where the crane touches the water. It was rendering out the alpha correctly so we had to fix it in Nuke. To create the alpha I used a Keyer node to key out the darker portion at the bottom, caused by the refractions. I then merge this keyed alpha with the top portion of the original alpha to create this composite alpha.alpha.png

Then I added in the water marks along the bottom of the crane where it meets the water. This was to get a more realistic paper effect. I used a tracker node to track the motion of the crane, I then applied this tracking data to the transform node of my rotoscope, which was masking out the grade node, giving the effect of water marks. I also had to animate the mask on the neck so that it would follow it as it dipped into the water.water marks.png

To give the crane the nice rim light effect on its neck, I shuffled out the specular pass and increased its brightness. I then animated the roto node to follow it as it moved. This was then merged over the crane. As well as extracting the specular pass, I shuffled out the ambient occlusion and multiply merged it over the orgional crane, this then made my shadows much more pronounced, giving the model more depth.

ao specular.png

The next step was to grade this crane to fit the colour of the back plate. After this, I again am using the depth pass on the zDefocus to adjust the focus so that it is slightly blurred to follow suit with the back plate. I did this for all of the elements of this scene, the water and the lily pads.


We had some people walking around at the back of our scene and we wanted to remove them in case they drew attention away from the rest of the scene. I first used a tracker node to track the motion of the areas I wanted removed. Then, using the roto paint tool, I painted out the people with other areas of the scene. Tracking data is then copied into the transform tab to cover the people with the motion of the camera.

I was rather pleased with the way the colour grade went on this shot. Shooting with the 5D produced some really crisp footage with was a pleasure to work with. Here I am layering multiple grade and colour nodes to give myself full control over the look of the scene. I start off by just boost some of the levels. Then I am extracting the greens, using a greenscreen keyer, so that I can mask out the leaves and trees and apply the grades that give it the yellow/brown hue.

Working with particles has always been something I have enjoyed, whether it be in Maya, Houdini or After Effects. For this reason I wanted to experiment on working with particles in Nuke. It has a solid 3D application built in which meant I could create particles with the depth of the scene no problem. Here I am using the particle emit node to simulate the particles. To this is then connected; a sphere node to give the particles physical geometry; a cube node to emit and contain the particles; then a series of effect nodes, like wind and turbulence, to give the particles some natural movement.


For the rest of the shots I applied a similar grade to shot 5, to shots 1-3. Just extracting the greens and making the orange. On shot 3 there was not much green so instead I extracted the blue and increased the saturation a bit, which really made the blue pop, the effect Henry and I both really like.


Colour Grading

When I’m looking for inspiration on colour, I like to look at a couple of websites. Moviesincolor.com is a great website which gives you the general colour spectrum of a movie, where you can clearly see how the colour effects the mood of the piece. The second website is: thecolorsofmotion.com, this website create a an average colour for every shot in a film and then puts all the colour into one image. So you can scan through the film and find the shot with the specific colours you are looking for.

When browsing on moviesincolour I came across Fantastic Mr. Fox, I really liked the monochromatic colour scheme in the movie. It gave it a very warm, autumnal feeling, which was a similar theme that we were going for in our project. I want to steer away from the traditional colour spectrums we see in movies, where complimentary colours are over used and can become quite cliché. The deep oranges are really powerful and compliment the orange fur of the fox brilliantly.


We started filming in October, so just at the start of the Autumn season. Some of the trees we just starting to turn so this gave us a reference to grade the rest of the scene to match these autumn oranges. I was able to do this by first using the greenscreen key in nuke to create a mask just for the grass and green leaves. Then using a grade node I was able to adjust the red and green channels to give them an orange/yellow, almost mustard, hue.

Here is an example of the grade we have put on our scene. In the first image are all the different nodes layered on top of each other so we can see how the colour is built up. On the left of the image is the final grade and on the right it is the original plate. First off, I adjust the black, white and gamma levels to bring the image to life, the original plate is very desaturated. The next step was keying out the green of the leaves, grass and reflections and turning them into an autumnal orange, this took a few layers to capture all of the green effectively. After this I keyed out the lightest points using a luminance key. This way I was able to boost the highlights making is look sunnier. The final step was apply the overall grade; this is was then gave me the monochromatic look I was after. The final Grade is the image on the right.

We chose to go with this grade because it reflected the time of year we were shooting in, early autumn. This time of year is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful seasons, there is so much depth of colour in all the orange and brown hues. It also compliments the soft, pale yellow paper, of the crane. Having these soft, almost desaturated colours, really invokes the emotion of peace and tranquility which we were trying to achieve in this shot.

From my research I have found that each colour represents a different emotion. According to the article I found on the creativebloq, they say that; oranges give the feeling of excitement, without the severity that red gives, and yellows represents happiness and friendliness. They also state that, brown gives ‘an outdoorsy’ feel and can be used to represent reliability and sturdiness. This is also represented in the firmness of the trees in the scene. They also talk about the vibrancy of a colour being vital the the emotion it gives. Bright colours are represented as energetic, while darker shades are scene as more relaxing and immersive. Which is precisely the mood we are aiming for.




Here is the 360° panorama image I have created for the IBL in our scene. It was quite a challenge to put together, for a few reasons. First, we were unable to take our images in the exact location of our origami crane, because we weren’t allowed to shoot on a tripod, let alone try and put one in the water. Secondly, we had to take the images on the little, concrete bridge the crossed the pond. This gave us a large grey area along the bottom of the image, which would have been undesirable for the IBL. This took a little bit of matte painting, taking aspects of various photo and fine use of the clone too, to remove the bridge and give the illusion that it’s shot on top of the water. Lastly, due to most of the environment being organic material like trees, bushes and flowers, which can move around in the wind and tend to be quite complex, it can be hard to line them up perfectly on their seams. I used the program PTGui, a piece of image stitching software. This software speeds up the stitching process drastically, allowing me to make easy adjustments to the positioning of each HDR image. I was then able to touch it up in Photoshop.

Here are the 4 HDRI images I created by converting 3 bracketed images on adobe bridge, using the merge to HDR tool. You can see here how much of the bottom of the image I had to replace, all of the bridge and the foam. The Sky was also too dark so I had replaced it with some bluer patches.

Because the IBL was in a different place to where the CG was going to be placed we were unable to use it to drive the reflections on our water. This was a bit of a shame since our reflections are true to our environment. We ended up having to use the back plate as our reflections, although it looks good, it wasn’t perfect, but there was no other choice.