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View Full Version : FXWARS Challenge:36 -Seven Towers - JamesNZ


JamesNZ
09-26-2012, 07:44 AM
For this challenge I think I'll go either for the tower of Anemoi, which is in a canyon, or the tower of Phaunos, which is in a temperate forest.
I'm leaning towards Phaunos since there's miles of bush/forest nearby which will give me a good reference. I could also create a high-res pano of the forest and use that as a background to composite the tower into.

Got me some thinkin' to do :D

JamesNZ
09-30-2012, 03:09 AM
I've decided to go for the tower of Anemoi, which is in a canyon.

So this is my plan so far:
1. Get a high-res background of a canyon
2. Texture/light/render a canyon model (likely tower 4) in Blender, using Cycles.
3. Composite the model into the BG with Nuke, I'll also add some camera movement.

I found a suitable 2K photo, so I've done some touch ups to make it ready for compositing.

Next up, pre-vis! :D

EDIT: A (very) WIP texture rendering:

http://i45.tinypic.com/2yl0d90.png

The stones are far too low-res :( You can also see a tiling pattern.

JamesNZ
10-05-2012, 01:51 AM
I decided to go with Tower 3, the composition is better than with tower 4 relative to the background I'm going to use. So I've been setting up materials and fixing up the geometry for a couple of days, it's a lot harder than I thought ;)

Here's a quick render showing where I am as far as materials go:
http://i47.tinypic.com/5xua2x.png

Obviously I won't be using those colors :p The colors just show which parts of the tower will be using the same materials based on geometric similarities, e.g, the blue areas will be using the same materials because they have similar geometry. Now to start the actual texturing :D

pingking
10-05-2012, 09:15 AM
because of your backplate it looks like a miniture. maybe 1-1.5m tall. this comes from the stones on the ground, you know how big these stones are in real life and then you brain does the work on the size of the tower

manja
10-05-2012, 11:20 AM
actually, there's no rule about the size the tower mus be. i agree with you but that also could be fun to create a tiny tower!

JamesNZ
10-06-2012, 02:24 AM
Actually that's the HDRI I'm using for lighting, the actual backplate is quite different ;)

This week I'll be working on texturing/UV unwrapping the tower. Fun. :D

JamesNZ
10-08-2012, 04:02 AM
Ok, making (very) slow progress on the texturing. The model is going high-poly pretty quickly, even with most of the details coming from displacement. Here's a 70-ish% done render of the spikes: http://i49.tinypic.com/15r1uzm.png

Biggest thing that stands out to me is the lack of a decent spec map. Need to get me some painting experience :D

C&C very welcome :)

EDIT: And I think I'll call it done about here:
http://i47.tinypic.com/2192xdj.png

WyattHarris
10-08-2012, 06:11 PM
Hmm, what are you calling done, the texturing?

JamesNZ
10-09-2012, 04:09 AM
Hmm, what are you calling done, the texturing?

For the spikes, yes. Please be harsh, I'm not very good at texturing :blush:

nickmarshallvfx
10-10-2012, 11:44 PM
I think it would be worth revisiting your textures. It looks like your displacement is kicking out some pretty crazy spikes, and the surface itself is kind of hard to figure out the material. What are you using as reference for these? I think for a huge structure you should have a much smoother finish to the stone. Remember, this has been built by someone and the structure would have to have been carefully constructed probably by mining for good quality stone. Almost any example you can find of large stone structures have been quite carefully shaped and carved, just take a look at the Egyptian obelisks or something like Puma Punku. These were constructed thousands of years ago but still they had the ability to carefully shape their materials even using primitive tools.
Its hard to find a ref for anything like what you are building but take a look at this image:

http://www.travel-images.com/pht/jordan209.jpg

You can see the precision in the building and also get an idea of how it was constructed as you can see the bricks. You can still go for a single huge stone but take weathering into account. There is no way that a structure this large could stay this sharp if it was exposed to the elements. Take a look at how smooth the stones are at stone henge. Also try and work with your material to add a bit of variety to the finish. Some areas might be a little more rough, some a little smoother and more glossy, but try and stop it being just a single course texture.

Sorry for the long reply, and i hope it didnt come across too critical!
Good luck!

N

manja
10-11-2012, 12:28 AM
well there's actually one case where this one could work. if the tower is like 10 000 years old, it would have been attacked by the weather and we probably couldn't see any distinct piece of stones.
or if the tower has been carved in one huge rock.

JamesNZ
10-11-2012, 01:56 AM
I think it would be worth revisiting your textures. It looks like your displacement is kicking out some pretty crazy spikes, and the surface itself is kind of hard to figure out the material. What are you using as reference for these? I think for a huge structure you should have a much smoother finish to the stone. Remember, this has been built by someone and the structure would have to have been carefully constructed probably by mining for good quality stone. Almost any example you can find of large stone structures have been quite carefully shaped and carved, just take a look at the Egyptian obelisks or something like Puma Punku. These were constructed thousands of years ago but still they had the ability to carefully shape their materials even using primitive tools.
Its hard to find a ref for anything like what you are building but take a look at this image:

http://www.travel-images.com/pht/jordan209.jpg

You can see the precision in the building and also get an idea of how it was constructed as you can see the bricks. You can still go for a single huge stone but take weathering into account. There is no way that a structure this large could stay this sharp if it was exposed to the elements. Take a look at how smooth the stones are at stone henge. Also try and work with your material to add a bit of variety to the finish. Some areas might be a little more rough, some a little smoother and more glossy, but try and stop it being just a single course texture.

Sorry for the long reply, and i hope it didnt come across too critical!
Good luck!

N

Great advice! Thanks Nick :) I definitely agree with you about the textures, I'll try painting some maps for them this afternoon. Problem is that I'll have to do it in the gimp, since the polycount of the models makes interactive painting in Blender ridiculous :hmm: Though I could do it with procedural textures...

I think the spikes are coming from my bump mapping actually, not the displacement. Below is a screenshot showing the displaced model: http://i45.tinypic.com/28740ua.png

This is one of my references: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=132&t=891272&highlight=tower%5C. I'm aiming for that kind of overgrown, abandoned, mossy, look; but without the bricks, so the different parts of the tower appear to be carved from big slabs of rock then assembled together.

@manja, yeah that's pretty much the look I'm going for.
Here's another quick test render: http://i47.tinypic.com/16k2ybn.png

It's looking quite ugly :( Definitely going to have to redo the UV's.

Thanks for the comments guys, they're really helpful :D

WyattHarris
10-11-2012, 06:14 PM
This looks like a better direction. Previously I was trying to place what it reminded me of and all I could think of was the worn down metal of sunken ships.

On top of your small details (pit marks etc.) I'd model in some big items. Large cracks or missing pieces of stone.

nickmarshallvfx
10-12-2012, 12:51 AM
I agree, this does look like a better result. I also agree about getting some nice cracks etc into the stone to add interest and make them unique. I still think something so large that has been carved out would have a smoother finish, but if this isn't what you are going for then i guess thats your call. Id love to see a smoother finish and some details carved in like design or construction marks or maybe some runes or hyrogliphs or something?
Either way, your results are impoving with each render so keep it up, look forward to seeing where you take it.

N

JamesNZ
10-12-2012, 02:11 AM
On top of your small details (pit marks etc.) I'd model in some big items. Large cracks or missing pieces of stone.

Great idea, I'll check it out :)

Id love to see a smoother finish and some details carved in like design or construction marks or maybe some runes or hyrogliphs or something?

Hmmmm, now that's an interesting direction....

JamesNZ
10-16-2012, 07:03 AM
Another quick update:
http://i48.tinypic.com/bhynn4.png

Very WIP, there's a lot of seams to paint out :wip:
UV unwrapping times are getting longer as the polycount goes up ;)
C&C very welcome!

JamesNZ
10-22-2012, 08:47 AM
My computer stopped working a few days ago so I wasn't able to do much recently, got it fixed today though so back to work :D

Here's a quickie render, please excuse my awful lighting: http://i48.tinypic.com/vrzt6u.png

Not very happy with it. Texture mapping seems wrong especially.

C&C?

JamesNZ
10-25-2012, 08:25 AM
Started on the materials for another bit today: http://i48.tinypic.com/veulix.png

The rock texture looks a bit small so I'll probably scale that up a bit. And use some kind of map for the moss layer, right now it's just mixing the stone and moss shaders together.

C&C very welcome :D

JamesNZ
10-26-2012, 05:44 AM
Progress so far:
http://i47.tinypic.com/16c8c5x.png

Couple of issues came out in this render:
1. Will definitely have to redo the material for the spikes
2. Bump mapping should be increased for some objects.

My current detailing workflow is to use displacement for the big details and bump mapping for the smaller stuff (cracks, dips etc). I'll look into adding another layer of displacement, problem is that it may not come out very well unless I increase the polycount; and my machine is straining as it is :wip:

The materials seem to be just whiting out under bright light, so that's either something wrong with my spec maps (likely) or because I'm clamping the renders to prevent noise...

Back to work :arteest:

JamesNZ
10-29-2012, 08:32 AM
Another update:
http://i46.tinypic.com/9313.png

I've changed most of the materials to bring out the glossy shader a bit more. Still got some work to do on the spikes material, I might change the textures. It's looking a weird purple/gold color at the top :argh:

C&C welcome :D

JamesNZ
10-31-2012, 05:48 AM
Here's a more complete render:
http://i45.tinypic.com/xdfkt0.png

The blue bits have a WIP displacement modifier. Some parts look like they need a bit more moss so I'll check that out. Modelling needs some work as well, what's an ancient tower doing with perfectly lined up edges :rolleyes: Overall I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out.

Any C&C?

RobertoOrtiz
11-01-2012, 02:55 AM
Heads up

FXWars 7 Towers: One Month to GO. (http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=139&t=1078005)
I am looking forward seeing more of your entry.

-R

JamesNZ
11-03-2012, 04:27 AM
Heads up

FXWars 7 Towers: One Month to GO. (http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=139&t=1078005)
I am looking forward seeing more of your entry.

-R

No pressure, right? :eek:

LOL! Anyway, here's a WIP for another portion:
http://i48.tinypic.com/2mfdlyv.png

Not happy with it. The yellow area is supposed to be mossy but the details in the image don't seem to be coming out. Will have to fiddle with that a bit, might change the texture. Bump map also seems stretched for some reason :shrug:

Polycount is now about 3.5 million, it takes a solid gig of RAM just to open the file. Which is a bit worrying considering I've only got 3GB :banghead:

I'm aiming to finish texturing in the next day or so, that will give me about a month to focus on compositing.

Some feedback would be really appreciated :)

JamesNZ
11-05-2012, 09:01 AM
Nearly done with the texturing :twisted: Quick render below:
http://i46.tinypic.com/2laxac2.png

The material shown is just the first shader layer for the base rock. Next I'll add another layer for the moss, then combine them with a custom map. My GIMP skills have been markedly improved through this month, which is really helping!

I had to reduce the detail level for one of the objects. The file was simply unusable on my laptop with 3.5 million polys, now it's down to 2.5 million.

Cycles recently got support for OSL, kinda wishing I knew C++ so I could code some custom shaders ;)

C&C welcome :wip:

JamesNZ
11-06-2012, 05:40 AM
http://i45.tinypic.com/2d2fuy1.png

Just a couple more tweaks and I can start on the compositing! Sooooo excited! I've been looking forward to this bit :bounce:

Ideas for integration:

1. Composite tower over the BG (shown below)
2. Extend the canyon edge with 3D geometry, then place the tower on said geometry (make it look a bit more exciting)

I pulled together a quick n' dirty comp with an old render to figure out the framing:
http://i48.tinypic.com/vra3br.png

That's the backplate I'll be using. I've extended the sky by quite a lot to allow for the tower to appear (still a few issues there though). Will be experimenting with the camera movement....

Feedback would be greatly appreciated :)

JamesNZ
11-08-2012, 08:40 AM
Okaaaaay. Last couple of days have pretty much been headache after headache :banghead: Gives me a new respect for the people who establish large software pipelines :bowdown:

Anyway! Made a lot of progress, I've set up the basic Nuke script to build on. Now I'm trying to match the camera angles (trickier than expected!) and lighting.

Progress:
http://i48.tinypic.com/zwj60p.png

Lookin' very very bad :D Tomorrow I'll look into extending the rock face.

C&C welcome :arteest:

JamesNZ
11-12-2012, 01:39 AM
Been doing a lot of tests over the last few days, and I've decided how I'm going to do the compositing.

My script is using Nuke's 3D system, with 3 cards:
1. Background sky replacement
2. Alpha mapped mid-ground canyon picture
3. Alpha mapped tower render

For integrating the tower with the canyon I'll position the tower so it look as if it's built into the cliff in the foreground:
http://i50.tinypic.com/1sfl8i.png

There's some vegetation in the way so this afternoon I'll repaint that area in the GIMP, adjust the lighting/color correction (still not quite right), and render another image with some proxy geometry to get the shadows between the tower an the cliff.
And I might model some more detail around the base just for kicks :p

Missing the lovely relight node, it keeps crashing Nuke :sad:

C&C welcome! :wip:

JamesNZ
11-15-2012, 08:01 AM
Getting there. Very, very slowly. Progress so far :
http://i48.tinypic.com/2yyyufl.png


Got a loooong way to go :(
C&C welcome! :wip:

JamesNZ
11-19-2012, 03:32 AM
Phew! Only 11 days to go :argh: Progress update:
http://i45.tinypic.com/iz5gye.png

Lighting still needs some tweaking. But the shadows... :banghead: ATM I get wacky results if I just multiply it over the footage so I've done some roto to get rid of the bits I don't want, obviously it's working very well.

I'm using the AO pass for the shadows, so either I make a shader that will get the AO to only react with the tower, or I'll have to put the all the faces of the proxy cliff on different renderlayers :surprised:

Will also have to remodel the proxy cliff, it's not very accurate ATM.

C&C welcome :wip:

EDIT: The base of the tower is looking like it's a miniature, does anyone know why? Doesn't look very nice....

manja
11-20-2012, 08:49 PM
i've got a question since the begining: what are the colored squares on the pictures?

JamesNZ
11-21-2012, 07:55 AM
i've got a question since the begining: what are the colored squares on the pictures?

That's Nuke's PLE watermark :argh:

Progress update:
http://i48.tinypic.com/s1jpfr.png

Lighting still needs some tweaks. But those shadows just ruin it! That and the seam between the tower and the cliff, I've got to find some way to blend the two.

Maybe with the rotopaint node, but perhaps I could model/render an intermediate object to cover the seams?
Either way I've got to finish it quick :eek:

C&C welcome :arteest:

manja
11-21-2012, 08:28 AM
ok, never used nuke.

first of for the cliff, you should check the hue of the rock under the tower. it doesn't match the cliff. you should add some orange stains.
you could also put a mask all around the rock to erase the edge and the shadow around it.
and the lower side of the rock is to dark if you compare it with the rest of the cliff.
finaly, add a bit of blue in the shadows to match the atmosphere. the higher, the bluer i shall say. (very light though!)

pingking
11-21-2012, 10:15 AM
i've got a question since the begining: what are the colored squares on the pictures?
he is using the PLE version of nuke for compositing, and the colored squares are the watermark in it

manja
11-21-2012, 10:26 AM
:)
looks like someone did see there was a 3rd page! ;)

JamesNZ
11-24-2012, 02:40 AM
ok, never used nuke.

first of for the cliff, you should check the hue of the rock under the tower. it doesn't match the cliff. you should add some orange stains.
you could also put a mask all around the rock to erase the edge and the shadow around it.
and the lower side of the rock is to dark if you compare it with the rest of the cliff.
finally, add a bit of blue in the shadows to match the atmosphere. the higher, the bluer i shall say. (very light though!)

Thanks very much for feedback! It's really useful :) I'll modify the base texture today and re-render it. I put in another lightwrap node to match the blues. Here's a test render showing my progress so far:
tdFsEb9pvV4

I was tearing my hair out yesterday as I animated the camera, suddenly realising that all the shadows were not moving with the camera :banghead: So I put the shadows on cards in a separate 3D scene, then multiplied them over the tower render.

Issues:
1. Seam between the tower and the cliff is still perfectly obvious, will try edge erosion + color correction as manja suggested.
2. Camera anim SUCKS! Thankfully Nuke's animation system is beautifully simple for an idiot like me :p
3. I hate that perspective shifty look but haven't the foggiest idea how to fix it. I played with the focal length yesterday but that didn't seem to make much of a difference. Any ideas??
4. I appear to have accidentally animated my roto for the foliage to the right of the tower :rolleyes:
5. Around 0:03 the lightwrap around the top of the tower goes a bit wild. Will check that.

C&C appreciated :D

P.S: sorry for the terrible video quality!

manja
11-24-2012, 11:31 AM
that's not bad.
actually, i don't understand why you render the background. you don't need the shadows on the cliff.

i was talking of something like that:
http://i.imgur.com/UCzf8.jpg

JamesNZ
11-26-2012, 03:53 AM
that's not bad.
actually, i don't understand why you render the background. you don't need the shadows on the cliff.

i was talking of something like that:
http://i.imgur.com/UCzf8.jpg

Mmmmm I'm not really going for that kind of shot, I want it to show that this tower is unnatural and not so connected to the landscape, if that makes sense. Good concept though, thanks for sharing it :)

Progress update:
szOT5yh4I2A

Changelog since last video:
Corrected the roto for the foliage to the left of the tower
Fixed an animation issue with the roto for the shadows
Re-rendered the tower image with a modified texture for the base
Improved camera animation
Fixed animation issues with the lightwrap.

Still got a way to go though. Near the middle of the shot there are some visible flashes around the base of the tower which is caused by the lightwrap going wild, bit suprised I didn't notice that before rendering :argh:

Still not happy with the camera animation so I'll correct that today.
I'm also going to experiment with color correction/grading, I love doing that :twisted:

On the bright side, the lens distortion caused by Nuke's 3D camera seems to be unnoticeable when shown in the video so I won't worry about that anymore.


C&C welcome! :D

manja
11-26-2012, 08:31 AM
ah, i'm puzzled. do you want the big rock to be still part of the cliff or is it a flying tower? (which could be very cool too.)
anyway, the shadow on the cliff is wrong. looks like the light comes from the lower right when it actually comes from the higher left side of the screen on the cliff.
good improvement though.

JamesNZ
11-28-2012, 03:50 AM
ah, i'm puzzled. do you want the big rock to be still part of the cliff or is it a flying tower? (which could be very cool too.)
anyway, the shadow on the cliff is wrong. looks like the light comes from the lower right when it actually comes from the higher left side of the screen on the cliff.
good improvement though.

LOL, a flying tower would be quite interesting ;) I do want the base to be part of the cliff, but I want it to look like it's been carved out of the cliff instead of naturally occurring.

Good call on the shadows, I tried switching to an actual shadow pass instead of AO and I think it looks better:
bnZxHKxt5iA

Changelog since last video:
Replaced AO with shadow pass
Corrected roto for shadows
Added vector blur

For the shadow pass I'm using a separate render with the number of GI bounces turned down to 4, previously it was at 8. Though I'm not getting very good shadowing around the bottom of the base so I think I'll play around with the lighting and turn the GI bounces down even more to get sharper shadows.

I've also got an idea for the shot to give it more 'story' ;)

Thanks very much for the feedback! :D
C&C welcome!

JamesNZ
11-30-2012, 03:24 AM
Progress update (this time in 720p):
JCAOLdVojmM

I finally got the shadows figured out, for some reason all the shadows were in the diffuse direct pass instead of the shadow pass :rolleyes: Still got some work to do but it's a lot better!

Now using Nuke 7, which has got that lovely relight node :applause: Going to play around with that today and see what results I can get.
I also need to finalize the camera animation.

C&C welcome :)

manja
11-30-2012, 12:23 PM
the shadows are still wrong man, they should be like this.

http://i.imgur.com/uG1FK.jpg

the shadows don't have the right color. i just added some blue over it on the upper right picture.
also, the shadows should be harder on the edges, reffer to the shadows already existing on the picture to tune it correctly.
if you correct that shadow problem, then i wont have anything more to say! ;)

you're almost there.
cheers

JamesNZ
12-03-2012, 08:16 AM
Getting close now, it's just those darned shadows! Thanks so much manja for those tips, can't believe I missed the shadow colors :banghead:
Progress update:
yXu2FpQH4Es

Changelog:
Modified tower lighting using relight node
Tweaked the shadow roto (still sucks)
Changed to sampled motion blur instead of vector blur (which was causing weird artifacts)

On one of the frames near the beginning there's a large flash where one of the lightwrap nodes goes crazy, it's only for one frame though so I might either paint it or animate the lightwrap. Shouldn't be too hard ;)

Still completely unsatisfied with the shadows though. The problem with Cycles (my render engine) is that it's a little difficult to get hard shadows since the GI messes with that. Will experiment with the number of GI bounces, and if that doesn't work I'll try and get a shadow pass out of Blender Internal. It's awfully slow with lots of geometry but should be worth it to get a good shadow :twisted:

C&C welcome!

manja
12-03-2012, 12:45 PM
have you considered painting a fake shadow on a mesh? no light, just compositing.

JamesNZ
12-05-2012, 08:40 AM
have you considered painting a fake shadow on a mesh? no light, just compositing.

You mean like taking the tower image, converting it to grayscale, warping it, and then multiplying it over the footage as a shadow? I might try that...

Progress update:
http://i50.tinypic.com/260smed.png

No time for a video today, I've been really busy lately so haven't been able to put more than a few hours into this. This picture is using a shadow pass from BI (biased ray tracer), it's giving me some nice sharp shadows so I might use this. This was just a quick test comp, I still need to grade it obviously.

However, since the shadow's quite long it extends below the images bounding box, so will have to re-render the pass with new dimensions :surprised

Will also look into using the tower image itself as a shadow (as discussed above).

C&C appreciated :)

JamesNZ
12-10-2012, 07:43 AM
Progress update:
TvKTtHt6GrE

I just noticed one glaring issue after watching this, I forgot to add grain to the shadow pass :banghead: Big 'Duh' moment :rolleyes:

Shadows aren't looking too absolutely horrific, but still need more work. Also there are some weird edges around the base, probably need to premultiply it or something.

C&C welcome :D

JamesNZ
12-15-2012, 07:50 AM
Ok! I've finished!!! Not 100% happy with it, but I honestly can't think of any other ways to improve it so I'm finished :) Final shot:
Qz-iuMQkUEQ

The vimeo upload is converting ATM so will post the link to that in the final entry thread.

Thanks everyone for your feedback, it really helped :D

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