Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Owl: New image of an older scene.

You may remember I posted a couple animation tests from this scene a while back. I wasn't totally convinced by what I initially had so instead of leaving as it was, I've gone back with the intent of making it more effective. Mostly the major changes are to the animation, but there's also some minor adjustments to the lighting and depth of field. The background itself image has very flat lighting and I felt the more stylized lighting was working against the shot in this situation. With this in mind, I flattened the lighting in Maya but even looking at it now after uploading,  I still think there's room for further adjustment so consider this a W.I.P. Here's an image:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Owl: Animation. More.

A classic bout of pre-winter lurgy has curtailed my productivity a little but I'll keep on fighting the good fight. Here's another snippet of animation. This shot I'd argue is pushing the limitations of the believable illusion slightly to breaking point, but I'm interested in what the audience reaction to it is. Bearing in mind that in the final animation the clip itself will be broken up into single second shots with fairly dramatic spacing between.

There's unlikely to be anymore updates until next week as this week I'm mostly dedicating my time to finishing off the shots which I left unfinished due to various reasons. In this case, silence is good!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Owl: Some more animation

I've shared still images of these two scenes before, but I thought I'd also share a little bit of animation to give a flavour for how they move. Although me being the exemplary showman I am, I'll keep back the more dramatic bits of animation for a little while longer.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Owl: Animation still image

Progress continues. Here's another shot.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Owl: A couple more rendered sequences

Ah, the fruits of labour! While you're animating it really is hard to get a gauge for what the final render is truly going to look like, so I'm always rendering out the final sequences with a bit of nervousness and excitement.

Now that I'm seeing more of the animation reach finality, I'm reminded a lot of old museum dioramas with painted backdrops. Both of these renders only represent their initial shot in the animation. As the background image is static, my philosophy when animating is to make sure every object, no matter how small, has a movement. It produces a strangely rhythmic and slightly hypnotic effect at times.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Owl: In-progress animation shot.

Provided I don't have a dramatic technology malfunction, the hardest part to make of Owl is going to be finished in a couple weeks. One of the biggest challenges is finding interesting ways to animate models which I didn't build with the intention of animation. It's certainly stretching my unnatural animation brain a little bit. To combat this, I've always tried to keep within the theme of metamorphosis or life cycles. Sometimes I achieve this through editing, sometimes it's purely animation, most of the time it's a combination of both. The image below is from a sequence inspired somewhat by the way sea creatures deposit their eggs. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Owl: Comparing Vignettes and Parallaxing

There's a degree of artificiality in my animation which I think audiences will find either: quite interesting or absolutely terrible. Since using photographs I've always had the idea that you would be 'looking through' something to view the action, which has its roots in seedy Victorian Peep shows and moving picture machines. This has pretty much driven the entire visual concept of the animation. I guess it's going to be the thing which defines it the most. I'm not sure it's a reference many will get but consider my animation an updated Victorian erotic peep show, without the vintage erotica! 

A vintage Peep Show box, essentially what I've been making in Maya.
With that in mind, here's two videos for comparison on a particularly tricky scene.  The way I've set up each shot is that the photograph acts a background on a 2D place within a 3D space with XYZ coordinates. 3D objects sit in front of the image. When you move the camera, depending on how far the image is from the object you get a certain degree of parallaxing. The problem comes from the fact that because the photo is completely flat the parrallaxing stops at the photo, rather continuing infinitely like it should in real life. When the camera moves a lot it looks a little bit hokey. The first video is the camera  moving a considerable amount, and the second demonstrates the camera moving much more subtlely. The second one works better, but only marginally. It certain instances it's going to be easier and more effective to keep the camera almost completely stationary.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Owl: A bit more animation.

I thought I'd upload another little snippet of animation, This one demonstrates one of the multi-layered sequences where as the last upload was just a single image with the vignette.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Owl: Animation Sneak Peak

As promised, a little sneak peak of the animation!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Owl: Final Comped Render (Still Image)

Tweaking and optimising the rendering has been a very time consuming process. I think it's important that the image itself holds up to scrutiny which means finding ways to incorporate the bells and whistles needed to make a convincing CG shot.  I do have a good recipe now, so my workflow is going to speed up dramatically.  While I'm not ready to show off animation just yet (because I'd rather it viewed within a final render, rather than disparate rendered elements) I am ready to demonstrate what a final render will look like. This is 95% close to the final image as it's going to get, so if you don't like it, you better stop reading this blog and start paying attention to some other animation! :)

The final composite is made up of a number of render layers, spread over a two different scenes. The scene in focus is a flat 2D plane with an animated sequence applied on top. The out of focus shot is another separate render. It's unconventional but it gets the job done. 

Generally, I keep specular and reflections within the same beauty pass, mostly because I've spent the time tweaking them within Maya that I never really have to adjust them anyway, and also because keeping track of reflections with lots of objects and layers in a scene can be tricky sometimes. In this case, I prefer ease of rendering. I do have a layer for shadow, as it's easier to mess around with the opacity and softness in post-prodcution. Otherwise, the beauty pass is very simple but with a few added effects. The only thing missing from this shot is Ambient Occlusion, which will be present in other scenes.

Motion Blur: With Mental Ray's Rasterizer, motion blur is a piece of cake to add. It's brilliant, with some limitations depending on the scene of course. You do have to sacrifice some image quality and I've found the edges aren't the cleanest (anti-aliasing) compared to scanline rendering, but it's the quickest and easiest way of adding motion blur. You can get the quality to a very high standard, but then you lose the benefits of the quick render. This is one of the things I've gone back and added to all the animated scenes which didn't have it in the first place. 

Depth of Field: DOF has been massive pain and has caused a few days worth of headaches. The problem is it's fundamental to the way I initially visualised the animation, so I can't sacrifice it. True DOF is easy to implement but very difficult to render out in a reasonable time. For a small time operation like myself, it's practically impossible to produce a 5 minute animation with high-quality DOF. 

Camera DOF AND 3D motion blur in an animation? You might as well aspire to build a giant render server on the Moon. Not that it being on the Moon would help, but that's certainly is how far out of reach it feels to be able even think about rendering an animation with both. Z-Depth isn't really a viable alternative in this instance either. The only way I've found of doing both (and someone please correct me if there is another way)  is to render every object requiring blurring onto a separate layer and apply lens blur in post-production, compensating the blur manually based on the objects position the scene. It's cumbersome and hard to keep track of, but it works and achieves roughly the same effect. I'm operating under the suggestion that my final 'camera' inside the vignette is set to infinity focus so I can get away with not blurring objects in the distance. 

Not a lot of posts recently, but I hope this post sheds some light on what I've been doing. I should be able to get a sneak peak of the animation uploaded soon.

EDIT - Some other stuff that will added: a film grain layer and a subtle telecine wobble applied to  the final comped animation.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Owl: Animation Philosophy

Each model will get roughly 10 seconds of screen time. Speaking loosely, I would describe the philosophy and theme of the animation (as in the actual movement of the models) as 'metamorphosis'. That is to say, I want the models to come alive, rather than move in some an arbitrary way. This isn't going to be easy to achieve, but I hope my experience in making mushrooms come alive will prove quite useful!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Owl: Test Renders Continued

Last batch of renders for a little while as I'm working on other parts of the animation. Again, not final. Lots to change and tweak but essentially what I've shown is the bulk of the imagery from the animation.