Here we have a video where I try to explain the creative process behind one of my pictures. This is also my first try in creating a video like this. So it’s a little rough around the edges. If you make it through the entire thing and don’t get bored by my rather boring voice… bravo! I sincerly salute you. :D But seriously, I hope you will find the material interesting and manage to pick up something that will eventually help you with your own projects.
For a more detailed insight into the process behind the image, I created a short video, that should be able to visualize the stages it went through. I tried to save all the testrenders but I admit that some slipped through and did not make it into the video. There still was enough material that shows how it went down and the video should be able to show the process in a good and almost complete way. The models used in the scene are bought via DAZ3d and modified through Cinema4D or directly in Vue. There you can also see that I tend to pack my scenes full of stuff that often times isn’t even visible in the final picture. Hope you enjoy the ride and maybe learn something. I surely did when creating this picture. =) Come A Little Closer & Info Here.
We previously discovered this world with ‘The Undiscovered Country‘. Laetitia Caelia, what means something like ‘joyful heaven’, demanded to be explored a little deeper though.
By exploration I mean the creative process. Originally this was an attempt at participating at this years E-On Software Environment Competition 2011. So I seriously invested a ton of time into creating a scene that looks like something. All Vue… no post work allowed. I had a really hard time being restricted to Vue alone. The resulting scene was ‘something’. But ultimately nothing with a chance to win. However… I learned a few more things when doing this scene. Especially technical aspects of Vue.
No matter how the results of the contest were, I created the pic with the plan to do my usual Photoshop stuff on it anyway. Now I know the winners were much better than my attempt. However… can’t throw all the work and render time away, right? And there was some render time. Phew. At the hottest time of the year. They should seriously consider holding that contest in the winter months. Seriously. I mean my machine was stable all the time! (Which is a true wonder!) But the temperatures it created in my room here were beyond… there’s no word for it. Evil it was. The final render took probably 40hrs.
For the weird rock formations I used Zbrush. These were fun to create. Less fun was it to import them into Vue. Very heavy models. And yeah, absolutely… I’m no modeling expert and don’t know anything about efficient modeling. These models put my machine on the edge but it worked out. Good enough for me. Like I previously said the rendering phase was a pain. In Photoshop then I had quite some fun adding additional textures. The scene already had a great depth and Photoshop helped me to push that even more. The lighting received a nice push as well. Overpainting helped me fixing and extending certain elements.
I had a real hard time finding the right color grading for it. I, in fact, have tons of test versions lying around here. Even with this final one I’m not 100% happy. At some point you have to mentally stop thinking about it though. Or you’re going George Lucas about it… never stopping to change stuff. (Stop to ruin your movies George!)
Again I imagine this picture is showing a world/planet that was just discovered and is now being explored. It must be a great feeling sitting in one of these jets there… just having fun with the environment. Diving through the canyons and enjoying the views no one has ever seen before.
A camera mapping try on this was not planned but done anyway. Quite some time that went into this too. But I refreshed my knowledge about the techniques and again learned a few new things there.
Here we have a picture i created last year for an experimental shortfilm by Chris Bouchard. He’s the guy who made that fairly successful ‘Hunt for Gollum’ LotR fanfilm that created quite a buzz and generated millions of hits. However… what he needed were a few backgrounds and i tried myself on some. We also used my ‘Epica‘ painting, with quite some extensions, as the general background. This picture here was not used like intended but still found it’s way into the film. I really like this one a lot and it’s my favourite of the ones i created. Maybe because it reminds me of that famous Blade Runner scene at the end of the movie.
Phoenix Rising is without doubt the largest personal project i ever did so far. The project involved in depth work with Vue 8, Photoshop, After Effects and minor sound editing. The techniques i used were basically digital matte painting oriented and involved camera mapping, editing, motion tracking and of course 2d and 3d work.
In the beginning i was thinking about how i could top the success and personal achievements i got out of ‘Gates To Elysium’. That was late May 2009. That picture was able to gain itself a CGChoice Award on CGTalk and that means a lot to me especially motivation wise. But the question still was how i could top that. And by that i don’t mean prizes or awards. Would i be able to create a similar good or even better piece of work? Something that would satisfy me on all levels…?
November 2009 i started to play with an idea without actually thinking about making this my benchmark for 2010. I fiddled around with Vue since i knew it would play a significant part in the upcoming project. I tossed around some objects and soon packed the scene full to the brim with stuff. Since i still am not the brightest light in 3d modeling i worked much like in the last years project and used parts of the DAZ 3D Cityblocks to arrange me the scene. Again i took lots of the models apart and reorganized them to make the buildings look the way i wanted. Knowing that quite some Photoshop work would be laid on top of it all. Vue already started to act up because of the load. So i decided to leave that behind and concentrated on the atmosphere aspect of the scene. I already had a really beautiful cloud setup and lighting. I knew i had to do something with it. Soon after that i felt a deep pain in my brain when i saw the needed render times for that atmosphere. I started a test render for those clouds and the atmosphere and it took ages. I did the render just to see how it would look in the end. I were like 60-70hrs when it was done. And the clouds still looked nice on 5000px wide.
February 2010 i picked up the project and really started to work on it. Building up the city elements and experimenting with the tons of ideas i got when i worked on it. Finding the right position for the camera wasn’t an easy task here. I already was playing with the idea of making a camera mapping animation out of the project. Friends are calling me ‘sick’ and ‘lunatic’ now. But that’s the price you pay. If i would have known how much work i had to invest… i guess i would have stopped right away. But i didn’t know and when i was already working on it… i wanted it to be done right.
Early March was the time i started to render the final parts for the Photoshop work. Starting with the atmosphere and the background city. The atmosphere and background elements were rendered on a slightly higher quality than the foreground elements since the lighting and clouds needed to look good. Without too much noise and everything. It was a painstakingly 90hrs render. It took me 5 days to render it. Thank god for the resume ability of Vue. But it was worth the wait! When it was done i had really good multipass material to work with. All the other foreground elements were rendered in roughly 30hrs. Light and atmosphere did not require super high settings so i turned those down a but. All of these renders were done with multipass options. The ultimate freedom for the Photoshop work.
With the main renders done i started to stitch everything together in Photoshop. That was the easiest part. I already had several hours into the Photoshop work when i accidentally overwrote the Photoshop file with all the layers. §”4%&=? awesome! In the end i would say that it was good. I had the chance to redo some of the work steps and saw that i also had an alternative way to do certain operations. That lead to a better picture quality in certain areas of the sky. Nonetheless i wasn’t happy when i found out that my PSD was ruined. That was the first time something like that ever happened to me. Normally I’m very careful with my PSD files.
With the Photoshop work going on i discovered possibilities in the picture that i had to take. So i dug out Vue again to add even more details. Again multipass was helpful to easily place the new elements in the picture. The ultimate freedom! The Photoshop work was a lot of fun and seeing worlds building up in front of your eyes is always very satisfying. I was thinking about the fact that i really would love to see this in moving pictures.
I also thought that i must be crazy. All the ideas i had in mind for an animation. All the time i would need to realize these ideas! Yes, crazy! However! Late march i started to play with Vue and made first experiments with a possible camera mapping animation for the picture. The picture was pretty much done, except for some stylistic things and very small details.
Now camera mapping is not a thing i would say I’m an expert in. I’m not exactly firm in 3d modeling and kept the ingredients from the original Vue scene pretty much untouched in Photoshop. That means i did not add extra elements to the buildings etc – i only added things within the actual building shapes. Always keeping in mind that i ‘could’ be doing an animation of this. To have worked that way really helped me with the camera mapping. Nonetheless i had to take the painting apart again. Foreground, background, middle pieces etc etc etc – so that you would be able to see what actually is behind the big towers. All these textures demanded extra attention and a lot of extra work. That done i could concentrate on the ships!
In April then i was in the middle of the animation work. Man how much time went into the rendering of all the different passes. Not to mention the test renders! Not to mention the disk space needed! I rendered everything in uncompressed AVI format. 5.6gb for 40 seconds of film in 1920×1038. And i had to split the renders in the middle because when i rendered it in on task it produced a weird error and played the movie not like it was supposed to. So a lot of stitching of movie files going on. Not to mention that After Effects can be a true pain to work with. Tons of crashes! But somehow i got through.
Early May i was pretty much done with the animation itself and saw how i could get it polished perfectly in After Effects. I wanted to add a bit of dirt to the lens and found some helpful tutorials on YouTube. The internet generally is amazing for tutorials… even for video stuff.
With the animation done i got back to the painting and refined a few more things on it. That makes it look a tiny bit different than the animation. Nonetheless i’m very happy with both results and never thought i would be able to pull all that off.
While ‘Phoenix Rising’ is the actual project name i found it interesting to give the city a name too. ‘Hadley’s Hope’ is of course the name of the camp on planet LV426 in James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’. I liked the idea of taking that camp and its story out of the ‘Aliens’ context and wondered how that colony would/could look after 1000 years.
Oh a lot of text and it could be so much more! Hope you enjoy the picture, the animation and the whole world you can discover! It was quite a journey to explore and create it! Ultimately it does satisfy m on all level. It’s again a personal achievement i never thought i would be able to pull off. That’s a good thing.
Special Thanks: http://www.greendjohn.net for his awesome music! His piece ‘Windcatcher’ was perfect for my project and conveys exactly the atmosphere i wanted.
Hope you guys enjoy this shorty. For me this is a special animation since so much time went into it. It was the most complex endeavour i ever did and it was worth it!
5000px wide – Photoshop – Vue – After Effects – Infinite Number of Hours
It’s been quite a while since my last try in animating a painting of mine. While the older tries were quite respectable i really wanted to push it this time. I read, heard and saw a lot about camera mapping and its theory. Now Vue has the ability to do camera mapping (also called camera projection) too. This allows you to lay a painting on a geometry and allows you to create limited camera moves with nice perspective shifts. Depending on how much work you spend on it. I surely spend a lot for this one.
I worked on this project for almost 2 months. Not on and off though. Partly because the rendering out the different elements took ages. Especially the volumetric things like fog and clouds. And these were rendered on very low quality settings. Since motion blur is smoothing out certain things it was not too important to render the volumetrics in unnecessary details. While the rendering of the projected painting took 6hrs for 511 in 1080p frames, the fog pass took about 12-15hrs for 511 frames. And i didn’t render it once. I had a lot of testrenders for each of the passes. Now i can roughly estimate how much CPU power a big VFX studio must have.
I chose my Red Dawn painting because in the painting i didn’t change much of the actual Vue render. So the geometry in the Vue file still fitted the painting nicely. I removed the forground element though since it wasn’t a good addition to the camera move i had in mind. I already had an animation project in mind when i did the painting. Now i had the right ambition and time.
A lot of postwork got also done in After Effects. Especially the stitching of the different elements. The blending of the render passes. Vue is able to render out the animations in uncompressed avi format. That means for 511 frames in 1080p it resulted in a 3gb file. Unfortunately the files were corrupted and not to open by any player. I reopened these files in VirtualDub, which was able to read the files, and saved them through VDub as avi again. That made the files recognizable for all players and After Effects. I don’t know what was going on but as soon as the animation video file reached 1gb, it made them uneadable. Maybe some avi internal limitation thingie from ancient times. I have no idea.
Ultimately i must admit that i’m not 100% happy with the end result. But that’s because of technical and time issues. You could work forever on stuff like that. Nonetheless it is a nice step forward in comparison to my earlier tries.
Hope you guys enjoy this shorty. For me it’s always a special thing to see an animation of one of my paintings. It’s like bringing these static pintings to live. That’s a cool thing!
This is my benchmark painting for 2009. Much like my pervious big ones like ‘Artificial‘ or ‘Epica‘ this painting marks something special for me personally and in a technical way. I also used it to check out how much my, currently, new machine can take. I used Vue to render the basic 3d plate. I also rendered each part on a standalone pass. So the ground complex was done within a single Vue file, as well as the ring part. The small ships and the clouds were also rendered with single takes. That gives you the most freedom in the postwork. The hero render with the ground stuctures, landscape took about 28hrs to finish. A first try to render it failed after 8hrs with a corrupt Vue file when I tried to resume the render later. That was fun. All the other elements got rendered in a much shorter time. I also used quite some quality settings for the hero render.
I used Dystopia City Blocks to create the structures and techy elements. Before I could use them I had to split the original files apart with c4d to pick me the most interesting models off the pack. Required quite some time. In Vue then I used the models to create the structures. It’s much like the modellers who worked on the first starwars movies who did use old battleship modelkits to create their spaceships. I’m doing the same with these 3d models of the buildings. Take something that’s already there to create something new. Did that with my ‘Epica’ painting too but I was not as deep into 3d as I am now. Not saying that I’m a 3d specialist… by – no – means! =)
Inspiration could be, once again, Mass Effect. I think the lighting, colors and style goes the same direction the game does. It’s also my wish to have a chance to see such things with my own eyes. That would be quite a sight I guess. Of course the usual suspects like the Coruscant cityplanet from starwars and other sci-fi movies and books.
Here we basically have a try of myself creating a fractal animation with apophysis. I used after effects to tweak the animation as well as adding a few fx to it. So i used this shorty to play around a bit in after effects. Learning something more about the effects it has to offer. It’s not the result i was looking for but i’ll get there sooner or later. I find this fractal animation stuff very interesting somehow.
CDS12032009 – Creation Process – High Quality – Here we go with a cityscape kind of thing. We use perspective lines that help us to keep everythng straight and somewhat realistic looking. At least in perspective. The painting, of course, is very loose. I also tried to get in some colors. I kinda like the result of this one! Hope you too. =)
Depending on how the juices flow it’s 30/60mins time in these designs.
CDS26022009 – Creation Process – High Quality – And another one! This time a ship design again. I tried to do a something more exotic look here and i think i nailed it pretty good. I’d say it’s some sort of organic technology we see here. That’s at least what the insectoid look makes you think.
Hope you like! =) Next vid will be an environment again! Something futuristic! Stay tuned…
Depending on how the juices flow it’s 30/60mins time in these designs.