Saturday, 28 July 2012

Low Resolution Leica Reel 01

So as much as I have two weeks and only two shots left (one which is being kindly rotoscoped for me and another which Dylan is having to help me render as its proving to be an issue - 5 hours a frame is not good) and there is two weeks to go I have a lot of work ahead of me. I'm still battling through the production bible and stills (hopefully done by Monday/Tuesday) and on top of that I have to turn all the shots into a cohesive film. I really enjoy the editing process but this is going to be tricky. As step one I've compiled a basic leica without any edits of how the shots stand. Its rather static, disparate and jarring. I've made a list of what I would like to change which will be next weeks task and its going to be a tough one.  Good news is that I should be able to add sound!

Fire and Brimstone

I've been in a world of pain trying to create this shot [and not just because I've trapped a nerve in my shoulder]. Initially I was having issues with the shader rebuild in NUKE, I was getting the level of detail I wanted but adjusting the colours I required was proving to be really unbalanced due to the transparency of the glass material. I decided then to export the shader rebuild as a tiff sequence and adjust in after effects simply because I have a better working knowledge of the program. Very quickly I was able to get the colour results I wanted and took it back into NUKE for compositing.

Initial shader rebuild (image toned down as specular and reflectivity were more bleached in the original):

Initial after Effects Colour Correction, I really wanted it to have a warmer, modern, soft pink lighting to it: 

The next step was to add the fireworks. Initially I tried to mask out the glass using rotoscoping but it was a slow, unnecessary step and asked Dylan if there was a better way to approach it. There was and I ended up rendering out a new matte pass to use as a multiply mask for the reflections of the fireworks. As this image also contained a straight alpha I was then able to use that to create the mask for the fireworks in the sky. 

Composition with the ridiculous amounts of rotoscoping (green nodes):

The matte pass which I rendered out for use as a mask. It was really simple to set up, just created an extra render layer with a material override using two surface shaders. Its a pretty cool effect in itself and very much in the style of the French animated film renaissance. This way gave me an accurate cut out for the glazing:

Sadly all this jumping between After effects and NUKE had created an issue with the alpha on the fireworks and initially I was having problems with NUKE exporting at 24fps despite setting the project values to 25. To overcome this I created a new scene and pasted the nodes in. After rendering out two sections of the fireworks sequence in After Effects I was able to put them together and after a bit of tweaking using the mix functions on the merge nodes I almost have the shot I want. I think overall its a little bit too reminiscent of "Disney" so I may return to the original shader rebuild but essentially the shot is there and its been fun. The end composition in NUKE seems deceptively simple. I do finally feel like I'm really starting to understand how to use NUKE efficiently and I'm really enjoying it, its like a giant puzzle:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Alpha Skies

I've spent a large portion of this afternoon trying to work out how to use matte images as alpha channels or masks in NUKE. Although I'm not quite there in getting it to do what I want yet but I've also been testing some possibilities for the end credit sequence while titles role and I'm currently thinking of something along these lines: 

Final Countdown

So to keep myself on track I've revised the schedule of DOOM with regards to progress I have made, adjusted work hours and confirmed dates from tutors. With two weeks to go its do-able but will still require a lot of work and more effort than I can conceive. Its very important I leave a lot of time to editing as narrative is a key exploration point in my program of study and at present the shots are rather disparate. I'm also hoping I'll have enough time to add some music or sound to tie it together as I really think it would benefit from it. I've also attached a  sketchily updated production chart indicating where I am. With luck the external firework shot will be done tonight leaving me the weekend to tie up loose ends on the shots, fix progress and organize what I need to print etc. for the show. Although nothing is quite perfect or the way I want it yet its getting there.

Opening Ceremony

This shot took far longer to composite than expected. Despite Link's brilliant efforts with camera tracking I couldn't get a clean enough solve on the original shot I wanted to use. I then tried re-tracking the shot in 2D both After Effects and Nuke. When I applied the tracking data to the renders I still wasn't getting a satisfactory results and after a few hours of trying to manually adjust the renders it was still not working well. I think this was due to the lack of parallax in the original footage but I was still surprised at the lack of a steady result even when using a still frame over a rendered sequence:

After some deliberation I decided to use another version of the opening shot which had a cleaner solve. This involved a lot of re-doing rotoscoping and rendering however the result is much more convincing. There is still a slight wobble when the renders are added to the shot however I am anticipating that when the grain is added and the final edit is put together that this will be less noticeable. So here is the new opening as it stands. Although I am sad to miss the addition of the people it is more fitting to the atmosphere of the piece without them and the colour more in keeping with the subsequent shots:

My only issue now is that it blends in rather too well perhaps with the environment colour-wise, which may make it tricky to spot but is ultimately maybe not a bad thing. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Princes Street

This shot marks the halfway point. Admittedly there are some of the hardest shots left but its starting to get there. While I need to fix the roto around the building top in this version the shot is virtually there. While it doesn't look they way I had anticipated at the outset of the project I'm happy with it given what I know now and the time left. I'm really happy with the way the colour matching between the render and the environment. I had to cheat slightly however, I wanted to add more detail onto the bricks of the station and not having access to the studio meant that I updated an tiff instead of the exr. I think its worked really well and has allowed me to save some time.

Original exr rebuild:

Final Tiff (Note that because I was only using the top of the render I only added detail to the part which was being used) : 

Current composition (the roto on the last bus windows is missing simply because as the shot is currently 25 seconds long I will only be using the first 20: 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Bridge Shot

Going on a mini-adventure to the highlands for 12 hours gave me a lot of time to sit on a train and tweak this shot. It really feels like it is almost there.. Once the composition was fixed I had to re-render different shadow layers, grade the pre-multiplied render, add edge blur to make the roto less jarring, fix the colour deformations which was happening under the bridge, dirtied up the texture to match the soot stained sandstone of the bridge and reposition the render. There is so much more I could and maybe should do to this shot but I am however going to move on from this for now and come back to it at the point of editing as I need to make progress on the others. After nine different NUKE compositions and 20 renders I have been looking at it too close for too long. Coming back to it fresh once some of the other shots have been worked on will help me to see what I need to change. At present I think the building needs to be almost lighter/dustier in places and that the roto on the furthest away person could be smoother. The next shots I'm going to work on are finishing the external night shot and Princes Street with the train and Im determined to get two done by the end of the weekend.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Night Shot Test

Test render export from NUKE with my first attempt at colour correction and shader rebuild for the external firework shot. Its currently rendering out much darker than I was expecting so will definitely modify that as well as possibly re-tweaking the bump maps on the textures and tone them down, can't wait to put the fireworks into this shot, should be fun...

Problem Solving

So after yesterday's progress I encountered some problems later on. I was having transparency issues when it came to plugging the render into the full rotoscoped footage. I suspected that it was something to do with the alpha channel being lost during the shader rebuild process but no matter how I tried to re-plug the alpha back in from the original I continued to get a phantom building semi-opaque result, nasty:

In one respect this worked in my favour as it meant that I finally buckled down and modified the roto. The original roto which Felix had kindly done had been partially taken from a video exported at a strange frame rate (I think it has been imported as 30 fps then exported at 25) it was entirely my fault and I knew that I would have to fix it. Initially i tried to find a cheap fix and re-export the footage at a HD version of the wrong timing but could not get it to match so in the end buckled down and re-modified the roto properly:

With this finally fixed I returned to the comp and tried to work out why I was having transparency issues. Again I was able to get some assistance from Dylan and we were able to work out that the issue with the composition was that on the final merge node the footage was being taken in as A instead of B and the roto on the shader rebuild was distorting the alpha of the render . After a little bit of modification I finally got the correct result and can now work on getting the render to look more like it should, hooray. Now that the composition is working more successfully after I have get the render working I can reuse this composition structure and apply it to Princes Street shot and the opening shot:

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Roto Development

Initially I had hoped to have had this shot finished sooner however I got stuck on the NUKE composition regarding the rotoscoping and discovered that the rendering process once again required more of my attention than expected. Earlier today I had two quick meetings with Dylan who helped me sort out my composition which (for once) turned out to be far more straightforward than I was expecting and I was able to update the composition with a quick png test render while the exr renders. Below is the result of a new NUKE comp, incorporating a basic shader set up (minus the final exrs and shadows) and the roto and colour correction for the final. Good news is that once a basic comp. set up is achieved it can be employed on the other scenes too.

Hopefully now all I need to do now is import the final exr and tweak the overall colour:

Supervisor Form and Schedule Update

Prior to meeting with Jeanette later I've created another tutorial form and updated my schedule. Not very exciting and reminding me that today is a beast. 

Closing Shot_01

So the resolutions a bit nasty and I'm having issues with a phantom crane but first attempt at the closing shot here we go (I kinda like it...shhhh...) :

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


This is a quick shot I threw together and in all honesty probably works better as a still image though I do like the 1930s soft filter feel. The rain will be modified with a glow and the timing of this shot will no doubt be changed. This is not a full shot, more of a filler with the idea that I rather like the textures around the doorway and I needed another quick shot to balance out the static slightly CG-ness of shot 4 and make the overall leica reel feel more balanced as a whole. I won't be coming back to this one until the editing process as its a very low priority though it needs a bit of work but take 01 is below: 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


These are the first few test renders for the night shot with fireworks. The textures need to be tweaked for it and I'll probably add more variation with the colour of light but I'm really happy with the first attempt, especially with the under;light of the arches and the top of the towers. 

Another Test Image

Rooftop shot, this ones always been a bit 'meh' but if nothing else will work as a storyboard panel development.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Opening Roto

Rotoscope for the opening shot. Again will require some tweaking when the building is placed into the shot but hopefully not too much. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Still Image: Princes Street At Dusk

This was a still taken from the old version of shot 08 which I could never get to work properly as a moving image. Again I still think it needs fixing but I've always been really happy at the way that the lights have come out for the background, and it was fun to do. 

Still Image : Alleyway

I've never been happy with this image. I know there is something wrong with the glass but there's something else which doesn't seem right. Thing is it works really well as a thumbnail so fire away with any advice on improvement. 

Still Images

As well as trying to finish the film I am hoping a back up plan to have some still frames depicting what it would be like if Sant'Elia's Waverley existed. This also acts as a back up plan should the film remain incomplete. It also allows me to create some work when I have no access to the studio computer on which I am having to do all my 3D work. It is a lot of extra work but should hopefully be worth it. To start with I have decided to work on shots from the animatic which I have currently had to cut due to time constraints. I do hope to go back and add these films at a later date so these images will also work as reference. The first two I am working on are the Alleyway and Roof shot, renders below, final images to follow within the next few days with luck:

Moving Textures

So I created a new fireworks file using a bit of black magic, some cheating and bizarre post production effects. Its gloriously cheap and nasty but  it is very shiny will do for the purposes of reflections. Initially I was thinking that I could apply it as a movie onto the glass on a separate render layer and comp it however I think I'll simplify the process and just layer it in post using an alpha mask taken from the glass layer. Felix however was kind enough to help me set up this test to show I at least considered it teehee...

Roto Update

Despite issues with maya files I'm almost on track...almost. With regards to the rotoscoping I have been having some issues plugging in the render I had set up into Felix's composition, I think its just me being confused so have asked him to have a quick look at it if possible. The Roto for the princes street shot has begun, it needs tweaking but after simplifying the sequence I'm going to be using I'm happy with where it is so far. Just the birds eye shot which Jenny Gauci has kindly offered to assist me with and the opening shot to finish now (which should be completed by tomorrow) so its been slow but getting there.

Princes Street Progress:

Match Moving Complete

This week started really well and disintegrated into a medley of problems involving corrupted files. One of the things which was lost was the maya camera track for the princes street scene and the tricky birds- eye shot. Brilliantly Link offered to assist and managed to get them done quickly and efficiently which has allowed me to set up some potential renders this weekend to go through the render farm. Link had some issue using both Autodesk Match-mover and pfTrack but eventually found a solution using Boujou and was kind enough to modify the birds-eye sequence to avoid a nasty camera shake at the start. I'm incredibly grateful for his time and effort and do check out his own work (which is just damn incredibly cool) here.

Birds Eye Camera Solve:

Opening Camera Solve:

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Aims + Outcomes

Last rather dull page I'll be uploading. A useful one though which should help me keep on track in the next few weeks, as long as I demonstrate and achieve what I've set out to do then its all good. 

Animatic Type Time Test

Since beginning to edit the footage in nuke I discovered that my initial estimated timing for the film would be extremely off. I spent some time editing the live-action, working out which frames and shots to use and have come up with an animatic-type reel with the final timing for shots to use. The order of the shots will be changed and edited when I have the final film put together as I want to have a better dispersion of long/short shots and have a better progression through the weather and time of day. 

Ka Boom..

Better export settings to give you some idea what I am trying to achieve. I want to use the end shot, place my building in the scene silhouette style and have the film fade out. 

Compositing Starts

So rendered out a single frame yesterday from the bridge shot as a series of tiff's and png render layers. This is so I can start the shader rebuild for the 3D in NUKE. It was relatively unsuccessful, the specular was not rendering out and the shadow pass was non-existent. Tomorrow I will try an open EXR file to get a better quality and will try to render the shadows with Maya Hardware rather than Mental Ray. Thankfully we will be having a tutorial on Thursday but I wanted to get something set up by then to experiment with. Will hopefully get a comp set up by Friday and begin the final rendering from Thursday onwards. 

The original frame (beauty pass containing everything):

My first attempt at rebuilding the shader passes :

A final render as it stands (currently flat as is without specular/shadows):

Finiiiiished A Shot

Much the same as before but with added grain, depth and colour correction of the background. It may have to be extended in length by a few seconds however as it is one of the shorter shots but essentially it is done. Low quality video below, I'll get a higher resolution one up sooner.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

More Theory

Another few pages for the production bible.  When I get onto the practical section I will stop uploading these until the final thing is done however many people have been asking recently what it is I'm doing and why so these pages are a good way of summing it up. 

Birds-Eye View Colour Correction

This shot is going to be a beast. I've cut it down for ease and due to the incredibly wobbly footage (which had to be taken through a grill from the scott monument after I carried far too much equipment up on a windy day). I wanted this one to have a late afternoon, sci-fi, orangey/ sunset feel to it so have attempted to adjust the colours accordingly. Unlike the Bridge shot I didn't add a grade or a colour correction as I was happier with the results without them. I'm hoping to add long shadows to this shot to show the effect on the street and emphasise the building's dramatic profile. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Lighting Experiments and Glass Settings

I've also been experimenting with the lighting on the external shot looking in. I've been finding it tricky to get the right kind of atmosphere with the light as it is continually looking flat. Because there is frosted glass I would like the internal to be simply lit but glow slightly however maybe this is something I can do in post production. I have also been experimenting with different settings and presets for the glass in this shot. So far I'm not 100% happy with it as I would like it to be more grainy and translucent. I think what I may do with this scene is render it out in three layers : one with the internal back wall, one with the glass and one with the foreground. Although this will take longer it will allow me to experiment in 2D with the transparency and light in a more familiar way. 

Imported lighting from external scene:

Added 2 area lights and a spotlight to the internal model:

Adjusted the global illumination settings : 

Added in the glass presets from the external model: 

Began experimenting with the glass translucency and other properties:

External Turnaround

This is a quick camera turnaround of the external model with all the materials and textures applied. Pretty happy with it so far, hope it woks closer up for the actual shot renders which will be started in the next few days. 

Real Fireworks Exported Badly

Footage from Hogmany in Edinburgh 2009 which I am hoping to use for the final shot, really like the idea of using the last section and fading to black, seems like a good end to the film. The only downside is it was taken on a not so great camera so rather grainy and I have spent far too much time already trying to convert it using various free encoding programs... getting there and hopefully with all the black this can be tweaked and re-grained in NUKE. It will be a challenge anyway..

Maya Explosions

I have been having some fun reworking the fireworks for use as reflections on the glass. After several experiments and re-watching the live-action footage I've decided to cut back the number of colours used in the particle simulation and render them out on several layers so that I can colour corrrect, layer and blur the reflections to a ridiculous degree in post. Initially the new fireworks tests were not working (settings on Fireworks sparks spread and max tail size were inappropriately large):

After tweaking the settings I created some tests with three different Firework emitters, each one set to a different number of rockets, starting point, co-ordinates and colours. Although I like the distribution and angle in this front view test I want to use less colours. There is also a strange glitch near the end which I will have to go back and fix. I've added one video from the front and another from the side:


The next step is to test the reflections of the fireworks so I had to create some geometry and instance the particles onto it, otherwise there wouldn't be any reflections and therefore no point in the Maya fireworks at all.

Production Bible

I've been meaning to start this for a while. Although not an essential requirement for the course I think it will help to explain my development in a more tactile way than the blog, will act as a good supplement to my portfolio and will help me to collect my thoughts. It will take a bit of time to complete but is something I can do a bit of each night/ while things are rendering and should be useful/ worth it.