Friday, 29 January 2010

Matte Painting

I'm very exited about our new project. It's post production and visual effects. My favourite part of animation. We have to produce a short clip (30- 60 seconds) which combines real life footage with either 3d or 2d elements. I teamed up with Oddne as we both kind of know that we want to go into the visual effects route anyway. We came up with some crazy ideas and quite honestly I think we went a bit to far. But we decided to stick with at least a few shots from our original idea. The first idea is that me Oddne fight with sticks in front of a green screen. The background then turns simply white and all the background elements appear one after another.
I like the idea cause now I can have a go at matte painting a technique I always wanted try. So I took out some DVDs from the uni library about matte painting. The Gnomon Workshop series with Dylan Cole is absolutely brilliant and the best part is that matte painting actually isn't that much of an art as that. Because you work in double the size of the output footage you can be quite rough with the drawing but still get a good and realistic looking effect. Cole is probably one of the best matte painters around at the moment and his stuff is really impressive. Check out his site
So inspired and exited I started with designing this week. I had some good designs but one of the most important things is that you compose the shot right so I had to think about where the actors will be and what will be around them.

Cole created a shot like that(obviously much better) on the cityscape matte painting DVD and as good as it looks(for a start) I completely forgot that the actors have to be in shot and since we can't do any expensive crane camera shots this scene is basically impossible.

So I changed the vanishing point to a level on which we could actually film the actors. I thought of a misty dawn of the day scenario, but I didn't just want to put them in front of a lot of tall buildings...

so I tried some objects and buildings but I liked the I idea of having a bit of a rough side of the city by adding a grungy looking bridge.

I found this picture on the Internet and thought of it as my bridge for my foreground.

Here it is after Photoshop. I removed all the graffiti from the walls which seemed stupid cause I wanted the rough look. Plus I didn't like the grass on the floor of the original plate so I went straight back to the original.

I left the graffiti (even added 2 more), removed the original floor and made the bridge a bit longer. I thought I got it but after I finished the buildings in the back I realised that the colours of the buildings didn't match with the ones from the foreground. I tried to fix it but I desaturated the foreground completely and I couldn't get the colour back on. So I started again.

This time I decided on a Colour palette straight away. I'm going for a desaturated cold night shot.

After I quickly drew some shapes for the cityscape I could already see that it works much better this time.

A few hours later I got an almost finished matte painting. I used some pictures of debris from to differentiate the two looks of the city. The rough side here the shiny nice one in the back. The cracks in the wall and in the ground are entirely created in Photoshop and so is the wire fence.

I couldn't stand the hole in the shot between the bridge column and the scene frame on the right hand side. It takes the eyes away from the middle (where the actors will be). I just cropped the frame. Even though it's not in the right ratio anymore it'll still be all right since I work in double the size.

The next step would be the replacement of the buildings with buildings from real life footage. Although I will definitely do that I'm not sure whether it is actually necessary. I quite like my buildings and I think since they are far in the background, nobody would notice that those aren't real buildings.

I had a lot of fun doing that and I will try some more. The next thing is to include some 3d camera projection to animate a camera move within the painting to create a real life 3d environment. But that is not going to happen for this picture.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Only 3 days

It was a bit of a shock to here that the term starts with a crazy 3 day project. I think Andy called it in his email an 'intense' writing collaboration project and intense it was. Since I was put in charge of the post production I didn't really had much to do for the first 1 and a half days. The little ideas I had during the brainstorming process weren't really that good and so the rest of the group respectfully ignored them. I'm just not a creative person. The rest of the team and especially Dan and Sarah the two writer on the other hand came up with a lot of ideas. I think I can speak for all the animators in my group when I say that we were really lucky that those two have been assign to us. They were fun to work with, very talented and genuinely interested in animation.
The second day started almost as 'boring' as the first one. About mid day I started helping out with texturing and colouring some of the scanned- in backgrounds. After the 2nd day presentation of script, storyboard and all the designs we got a bit of a 'beatdown' from the writing lectures because the ending didn't quite make sense to them. After that we decided to change the ending and therefore the writing guys had to come up with a new script. Luckily we could still use most of the backgrounds so most of our group stayed on till very late (11pm for me) to get everything ready for animating. I created some smoke texts in Maya with Maya Fluids that night, but unfortunately we couldn't use them because of the lack of time in the editing process (it took Premier ages to load the files). I got one here just to show off!

The last day was then MY day. To make the hand drawn designs "animatable" we scanned them in and spliced them up in Photoshop. I only animated the tear rolling down Gretels cheek and left the rest to the others.
I tried to get all the scenes and sounds together as soon as possible. It turned quite hectic and confusing (mainly because of the amount of memory sticks flying around), but I think we managed to keep it together quite well. Once I had some scenes together I started editing. Half way through Premier decided to crash on me. That alone was not happy news for me, but it came even worse when I found out that the auto save didn't work. As I then tried to start a new project Premier told me that I can't save data to this computer for an unknown reason. I was visibly in a very bad mood. After we copied all the files I collected from one computer to another I could start again but with no time left. I still managed to put all the clips together with fade ins and outs and relatively matching to the music, but I wished I would have had more time. A lot of the stills could have been a bit shorter and some the fades needed more work done, but all in all I'm quite happy with the end result. I think it was quite an experience. As I said already I wished I would have had more time for the editing, but I guess it was the aim of this task to get us working under pressure. I think my team did really well, as everybody puts a lot of effort into this project (apart from one guy).
And here it is!