Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Final Shot Breakdown

As you can see with this breakdown, I divided the rendered out beauty passes into separate depth layers so that I can then apply the zooming parallax effect. The environment was textured using some of Nagel's custom dry media brushes that I downloaded online. For the cracking effect seen on the rock supporting the coccoon, I created a quick custom brush by drawing a rough cracking pattern in Photoshop, and used the scatter effect to apple quick wild cracks to the rocky textures. I also reintroduced some of the scales brushes used previously on other insect-like assets on the eggs. Note also that I included a simple blend shape to show the egg pulsing as if being stretched from the inside. What is about to burst from the egg is left to the viewer's imagination.

Comping in my actor's head required some consideration in regards to lighting. I began with the original footage, keyed out the green screen and masked around the neck. There is a general edge light being created by the light source coming from beyond the cave-like entrance, so I wanted my actors head to darken toward the centre. For this I added a darkened layer and added feathered subtract masks to re-reveal the lighter layer bellow around the edge facial features. I colour corrected both these layers to fit the surrounding purplish environment. At this stage the head was beginning to tie in nicely, but there was still one problem. For some reason my glow map had gone slightly wild during rendering. At various points it would flicker and change its intensity. I thought I could actually utilise this flickering effect by synchronising the electrical buzzing sounds with the glow peaks in post production. To accurately tie in my actor however, I need the him to be affected by this flickering. I duplicated the head layer once again and colourised it purple. I then masked out only my actors neck and subtle features like the tip of the nose, to show the glow's affect. I then animated the opacity in synch with the flickering. I feel that ultimately this unintentional flaw with my glow map in the end helped bring my actor into the scene more successfully. It allowed me to show the environment having an effect on my actor. Note also that for the amended composition, I brightened up the actor's face to draw more focus on him.

One problem I did encounter however, was with importing my green screen footage directly from my rough cut. I did this as I already had the accurate length of the shot and wanted to render it into an image sequence to be used in After Effects. Unfortunately, I left the fading applied in Final Cut, meaning that my sequence was exported as a Tiff with acting alphas. When imported into my After Effects composition, the head faded in and out of the environment. I wasn't able to accurately fade out the composition in synch with the rough cut footage, so I had to cut it short to avoid showing the head disappearing before the rest of the environment. The only problem here was that the shot cut out before my egg had revealed its blend shape. To combat this, I pulled the layer the eggs to the very front, on top of the black solid fade layer. This now means that the egg stays in the shot after the rest of the scene has faded to darkness. This also acts as a final surprise for the viewer, with their full attention being suddenly drawn to this hatching egg.

I also acted on the advise to use the puppet tool. The immediate problem I faced was with the head and cocoon being on separate layers. I could only apply the puppet tool to one separate layer at a time, meaning the cocoon was animating but not the head. I tried utilising After Effects hierarchy options but this only applied to parented layers when translations were involved such as scaling or rotation. I was then reminded of bringing in nested compositions. After copying all of the layers over to a separate composition, I brought the nested composition back into the final shot. I had to copy the animation keys form one of the layers on to the puppet joint so that it scaled with the geometry, as the rig was at first leaving behind slices of the cocoon layer as it swayed. Even with the final result you can still see some edges breaking away, but I didn't have much time to really experiment with this internal animation tool.

Finally, I added adjustment layers to finalise the composition. I added a subtle complimentary green pass, causing the cool green to sit back in the scene and make the purples pop, adding further depth. I also added a film grain to bring in some noise and imperfection, disguising the clean Maya renders, and also tweaked the levels with another adjustment layer. Here is the finished result:

I feel that in the final composition the face becomes the focal point with the upped lightness and saturation on the main colour layer, much more than in the final critique edit. This focus on the actor is emphasised even further with the swaying of the cocoon.

Relating to my shot breakdowns, I found this stunning video showing the compositing that went into the 2012 Norwegian 'Kon-Tiki':

My breakdowns, were produced very quickly within the time frame of each shot by revealing the layers gradually through the whole animation. I like this rendered out single frame approach, as it gives you more time to really absorb the elements within each pass, and also the labelling helps understand each layer's purpose, which is people like myself who are still learning about the VFX process. Also I like how these breakdowns reveal the mesh of each CG model within each shot. This gives us a good look at the fantastic edge flow and sheer number of polygons used for these high quality renders. With more time, Perhaps I could have rendered out still frames of each layer within my After Effects composition, and produced more in depth breakdowns like this one.

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