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
Online – Vimeo (HD)
Online – Youtube (HD)
That said… i hope you guys enjoy the Wallpaper Pack. 1680×1050 & 1920×1200 version of the scene. Have fun with it!
- WALLPAPER PACK
Thanks for your attention.