The Road Goes Ever On …

The last weeks saw me busy on various production aspects for Ara’s Tale.

I finished ( meaning make it production ready ) 6 more shots and in doing so, I had two aspects which I had to tackle, with one being quite a time consuming beast.

One of the shots is a closeup of the cage, where it is put down on the ground. Naturally the ground is seen in full detail here. Well, it should be seen in full detail here. I use a 4K map for the upper part of the ledge, which fits for all shots, but this one ( and another one at the very end ). The resolution just isn’t high enough.

What I did, is to create a minimal ledge with a new UV layout and a new 4K map were enough detail is there to get a satisfying shot in FullHD. This involved some rebaking and another tour through Mari.

This is the shot which needs this level of detail ( which is a bad example here as it is small and quite compressed, but you get the idea … )

I will do a separate post on the workflow I used and will try to do my first screencast for this, so stay tuned 🙂

The other aspect was another one altogether .

I already had to do some minor moving mist in the previous shots. Those were done using blenders smoke simulation. It showed then, that some more work was needed to get it right and it already hinted at the problems to get the smoke simulation do, what the director wants and not just some lucky simulation results.

The shot which I finished now is the first one where you see the first time what’s actually down below, and that is clouds/mist, slowly moving, similar to what you see when standing on a mountain above the cloud layer.

Each and every attempt to get this done with blenders smoke simulation failed. At first not miserably but fail it did. My guess is, that the smoke simulation is not very good for slow moving, very slowly dissolving mist. Also the way the simulation produces new smoke constantly destroyed any feeling of reality.

I always got the puffs of smoke from new particles which could be seen very well and did not help to convey the type of mist I envisioned. There were parts of the simulation which worked quite well, but they only lasted too short to be used in the shots.

I then settled on a compromise and took the best simulation so far and tried to use it in an actual shot. This was were the attribute ‘miserably’ joined the fail.

The dimension of my environment is quite huge. And I very fast learned that the smoke simulation does not like these huge dimensions. Viewport visualisation gets weird, and the various parameters behave differently. There was no way to adapt the simulation parameters to the scale I use in my short. And a quick calculation and extrapolation showed that the cache size would explode almost into the TB domain and render times would go through the roof as well.

The other approach was to scale down the environment and do the shots involving mist separately and composite the mist back in into the final shot. It somehow worked ( from a technical standpoint) but failed again when seen in the shot. It was not plausible. It was not very well controllable either and for the detail I needed, cache sizes and render times were again in unacceptable regions.

With this I put the smoke simulation at rest ( for the clouds ) and partially for the flowing mist wisps too. I am of course no expert in this area and might have missed some important points, but for now that is how it is.

But I got my clouds in the end. Twofold.

For my slowly moving clouds at the bottom of the canyon I use several photos of real heavy clouds. Those are projected on planes which move very slowly. In the compositor I overlay those layers with itself and Sobel filtered copies of it, with the filter parameter animated over time to simulate the rolling nature of clouds.

With this I get quite usable raw footage to b used as animated texture. I also use derivatives of these clouds to create an animated displacement texture to displace a highly subdivided plane to add some volume to the otherwise flat clouds. This in combination with carefully chosen material settings and lighting is what I use now for the clouds in the shots.

For the flowing mist I use partly pieces of smoke simulation and real footage. With my new Canon 60D I took countless shots of fringe areas of clouds against blue sky. You get extremely interesting movements there. The blue sky is a perfect background for converting these shots into animated alpha masks and those can then be used in various ways further on.

Now that was too much text without any images so here we go: Some frames directly taken from the latest shots I did:

 

And finally a new update on the time accounting:

 Time    Task
----------------------------------------------
   5:34    01-Script
  43:54    02-Storyboard
  73:54    03-Concept Art
  14:48    04-Animatics
 140:54    05-Modeling
  76:37    06-Rigging
 179:17    07-Animation
 179:15    08-Texturing
 132:14    09-Simulation
  20:32    10-Project Management
 122:54    11-Research
   6:29    Editing
 168:21    Lighting/Compositing
----------------------------------------------
1164:43 Total

Author: loramel

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3 thoughts on “The Road Goes Ever On …”

  1. I follow your blog, and check it from time to time, I just have to say thank you for sharing all your logs and learning experience with the world, is not only inspiring but useful and motivational, wish you the best .
    Again, your perseverance and continuous effort that can be noted in all your posts is very inspiring!
    I don’t have much useful to say about this particular post, I really want to see the film now!
    cheers

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words.

      It’s such comments, that help to gap the occasionally occurring valleys of demotivation or frustration 🙂

      I really want to see the film now!
      Well, I fear you will have to wait a bit longer. The plan is still to have a release this year, but it will be more at the end of 2011.

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