Thursday, May 8, 2008

Final word

Well, now I must say goodbye. It has been a great experience sharing my creation process with you and I hope you found stuff that was useful. The making of a film is a long and complicated process, especially when you are responsible for every single frame that appears on-screen. After having tackled something this big, the sense of accomplishment and joy at being done is something unique, I hope you can one day experience it.


A few words on rendering and comp

Well everybody, my film is done, and as such I will talk a little about the rendering process I had to go through in order to get it done.
Basically as I have said before I used a Mental Ray / sotware renderer pipeline. Most of the clouds and atmospheres were done with Mental Ray while the backgrounds and paint effects were done with Maya software renderer. The workflow with each is pretty similar, and since with fluid effects there really is no reflection / refractions, shadows, etc. I pretty much rendered only one beauty pass for the clouds and that is what i worked with and adjusted in comp. As I mentioned before the paint effects pipeline is also one pass in which you must mix all the paint effects you want together since you wont be able to combine them afterwards so in theory my comp work was pretty simple, having only a couple of layers to work with. However on some occasions such as the space scene with the moving clouds I rendered each cloud element separately so I would be able to combine them and adjust them individually.

Most of the comp work focused on making things look good, stuff like color correction, cool effects and blurring things to make them look more integrated into the scene. This was the case especially with the particles at the beginning and the clouds when you can see the horizon, blurring them towards their horizon line helps establish a sense of depth.
Other than that it was pretty much business as and thankfully my comp work didn't give me much problems.

Although the resolution of the images here is really low I will try to show you what the image looks like before and after i have done compositing work on it.

Here what I have done is mainly color correction, some blur on the clouds and color on the background, so although its a suibtle change it does add up and when you add movement plus a high resolution the difference is clear and its crucial.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Soundmixing and Sound

I had my soundmix today, and as always it was a great experience. I don't know how it works in other school but at USC we get professionals sound engineers to do our sound mixing for us. You sit in front of this big console with the engineer next to you and watch as he works away, directing him on what you need from time to time. The result is beautiful sound for your film, much better than what you started with and all leveled out and ready for big screen projection.. hurray!

For my film soundmixing was pretty simple actually, since I only had one track which is the music my composer did. Speaking of, finding a composer and settling on your music is not an easy task. I had many meetings with my composer and basically had to find a balance between me directing him to get what I wanted while letting him be creative enough so that something good actually comes out (since I have like a quarter of a brain when it comes to sound). In the end though it was a good experience, and if you come across the right guy or gal you'll know right away and you'll have great stuff for your film. Always remember though, personal relations are as important as his work.. so dont get carried away with one or the other.

Animation is done!

Finally, animation is done. What does this mean? That I still have a lot of work to do!
Basically what's happening is that I am done animating properties and cameras, so that my film is 'soundlocked' which means I cannot change any of the timing to it or move scenes around. It does not mean i cant change the camera movements, but I am also done with them, so pretty much all animation is done!

Next is the long and arduous process of rendering and comp work, each presenting its own difficulties and rewards. More on that soon@!

I leave you with a sneak peak of one of the final parts of the movie...

Paint Effects Workflow

Now that you have somewhat an idea of what Paint effects are and what they can do to you, I will proceed to tell you how to work with them, or at least how I have found useful to work with them.

Since we do not have an Alpha channel I plan accordingly and render all of them at once (in the images I have showed you the red nebulae, the stars, the sun and the glow line are each different paint effects strokes).

However, when we absolutely need an alpha for whatever reasons, there are work arounds one can employ which basically create an alpha channel for you in much better state than the one that comes default from Maya. There are several ways to do this, I will now outline a couple that I find to work the best:

keying out the black is an obvious choice, and although at first it sounds hopeful it is not that easy, or rather, the results are not that great, especially with glowing things, which is about all of paint effects.

here is a paint effects image in the raw, as it came of the renderer and with its alpha ignored

Now here is one with a color key applied

although at first it might seem promising, look at a close up of what the key looks like

after some work with the key

and a close up

now this looks much better, until you go back to the original one and realize how much detail you've lost

another method is the shift channels method, where you take another channel of the image, say the red channel or the luminance depending on what would be best for that particular image and make it the alpha. the downside of this method is that you can adjust it very little, but for particular images, say if we had only stars which are mostly luminance with almost no hue in them, it could work very well.

same image with shift channels applied

The only way to control this method is by using individual controls on the levels and adjusting, of all things, the alpha on it, which is basically its luminance.
In my opinion the second method gives somewhat better results although it really depends on the image.

Paint Effects Hurt - an Overview

As I mentioned in the last post, the space environment I'm creating is done with Maya Paint Effects. I will now talk a little but more about this intriguing technology.
Paint Effects is basically a way of painting with 3D. Although I am not familiar enough with its inner workings to describe 'exactly' what it is, I can tell you from its results pretty much how it works and what its advantages / limitations are.

First off, Paint Effects is, at its core, a 2D effect. This brings with it several bits of information worth knowing before using them. Its main advantages: it renders blazing fast, it is easy to tweak, it looks pretty. Its main disadvantages: due to its nature, most times you get no alpha channel (as when you use 'strokes'), making them a pain to work with in comp and to layer over each other.

On a more technical side, Paint Effects is a Post Process, which means it doesn't get calculated at render time together with all the other geometry in your scene, but rather after everything else is done, Maya goes in, looks at what paint effects are in the scene, and in effect paints them onto your render as if a blotch of paint suddenly fell on your beautiful painting, and it is equally irremovable. That is also why only Maya software render can render paint effects (other 3rd party renderers like mental ray or RenderMan wont do it).

So basically if you want to have Paint Effects in your 3D scene, you better render them all at once and you better get the exact look you want right off the bat, because there is very little you will be able to do with them after they have been rendered. (if anyone knows otherwise, please show me the error of my ways).

Sample images:

Now I will show you a paint effects image

and its alpha channel, which is apretty much unusable (only fully white areas are fully opaque).

So that if I would like to put something BEHIND the paint effects layer, it would loose all the detail and pretty much look like this:

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Here I am going to show you some stills of the final scene in my film which takes places in space. The environment was done mostly with Paint Effects, which although it is easy to use provides a host of new problems one must contend with like the absence of a an alpha channel.
That being said, it does render really fast and its quite easy to tweak once you understand the underlying architecture. Its nature though makes it pretty much a use-what-you-get type of thing, with very little tweaking possible in comp.

The idea here was to create a sort of a fantastic environment in space in which clouds could exist, the band of glow across the horizon was done to provide some balance and weight to the image, otherwise i felt the viewer could get disoriented really fast. I will post more on the look of the sun and the clouds later.

As you can probably see, there are still some issues I need to work out in terms of the glow and also the general look of the image, which hasn't been color corrected or worked at much.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


This is the temp track I have so far. It was done by a Graduate student in the school of music at USC. It has elements which I like but still need to go through some revision. Mainly in the areas of pacing and instruments used.

note: due to the weird way in which blogger works, I have had to convert the audio file into a video for it to upload correctly, so don't worry if nothing appears on the video screen when you click play, its not supposed to show anything, but you should hear something..

The coming of the storm

Now comes the part of the film where things will take a turn toward the surreal. After setting things up with a more or less normal intro and 1st scene, we will soon get into the meat of the film and start exploring really different directions.

Here I present what comes right after what you just saw; the camera comes up and voila! a new cloudscape appears. Things seem normal at first but as you soon shall see, they are anything but.
This is not the final version by any means, and in fact I am working on a new one as we speak, but its enough to give you an idea about whats going on.

In addition there are some specific things which are still unresolved. Namely background and music. As far as music there is already a temp track which I will post soon and more stuff is in the works. As far as background for this scene.. its a more difficult question, but I will do a couple of tests and post whatever looks promising.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Scene test

Hey guys, this is an excerpt from the first scene you're all familiar with by now, but with new camera moves. Please let me know what you think, especially in terms of the camera, and try to ignore the other glitches like the sun and earth that still need work.
As always, brutal honesty is encouraged, expected and well received.

seeing as the rez here sucks, ill try posting a full rez version somewhere else later.