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View Full Version : FXWARS! TESLA - Trey Harrell (Tribute)


tharrell
03-04-2009, 01:49 AM
So, I think that I'm going to use this as an excuse to re-study a classic film that's among my favorites: Metropolis by Fritz Lang (1927). Many of the effects sequences in the film use adaptations of Tesla devices -- in fact, we've got Tesla coils, logic gates, automatons, vacuum tubes, reciprocating motors, airships and all sorts of other stuff going on in various shots. Some of them depicted realistically, some of which depicted in a mad scientist sci fi light.

The film itself is the origin of much of our modern filmic language when we're dealing with science fiction or dystopian ideas. 3 guesses where the design for C-3P0 was most stongly influenced ;)

Because I'm almost definitely going to be working in black & white, I think I'm going to have enough time to try my hand at intercutting 2-3 effects sequences like a trailer, among which could be:

1. an establishing shot of the city/new tower of babel (airships, electrical trains -- admittedly a bit of a stretch for this challenge, but hugely iconic for the film itself and it just looks like fun if time allows)

2. a sequence with a worker in the city operating the babel elevator computer (in the film, humans are a physical bridge in the city/machine logic gates -- the theme that the workers are enslaved to the machinery, but inseparable is dominant in the film. This is a strict reversal of how logic gates -- ie circuits -- generally work. Here, the computer is telling the operator what to do in a quite literal sense.)

3. the transferral of Maria's visage and psyche to the robot (called alternately Hel, or False Maria).

#3 and #2 have the strongest Tesla connections, with #3 definitely the strongest connection of the bunch. I'm going to prioritize these 3, 2, 1 according to how quickly the work goes.

The thinking is that the usual stuff I spend tons of time on (shader/look dev, music, color) will take a backseat to the sequences and effects themselves because I plan on mimicking the film's look which should free up time for more sequences.

Everything will be CG -- some combination of 3D/Compositing/Matte work. I won't be using any live footage for this.

As the film itself has been in the public domain for ages, I'm not going to worry if I match sequences too closely or lift music from the score. In other cases, I'd art direct something of my own "in the style of", but the aesthetic is so iconic in this that I'd like to try my hand at nailing it -- quoting directly from the film itself makes sense here, I think.

Reference shots of the stuff I'm thinking about annotated below:

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref1.jpg

The city of Metropolis hero shot -- airships, electrical trains and archetypal art deco coolness all around.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref2.jpg

A logic gate (circuit) operating a human, instead of vice versa.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref3.jpg

Maria on Dr. Rotwang's table. We've got coils, transformers and capacitors aplenty here.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref4.jpg

Hel being transformed into a false Maria. Lots of energy discharge, and note the pentagram which could either symbolize a golem, or satanic influence (probably the latter -- the film makes a strong old testament parallel with the story of Babel, as well as character names). Interestingly, the scientist (Rotwang) fuses many fringe alchemical ideas with his electrical devices (which can be seen in later shots).

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref5.jpg

Longer shot of Rotwang, Maria and False Maria, as well as an enormous Tesla coil on the ceiling (framed too perfectly in the pentagram to be a coincidence) which is a catalyst for...

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref6.jpg

Transformation! (or violation of Maria's virginal form and psyche, if you want to really dissect it)

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref7.jpg

Gadgets in Rotwang's lab and on the table closeup. Vacuum tubes, lights and transformers.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref8.jpg

More gadgets, this time with what look like stills, some capacitors and more vacuum tubes.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/reference/met-ref9.jpg

More tubes, this time carrying what looks to be plasma of some sort.

tharrell
03-04-2009, 07:49 AM
So, I sat down and made some notes on the film while I was gathering reference.

Then I figured what with this being all about the Tesla gadgets, I thought it best to start early development work on how I'm going to achieve the various necessary machinery/electrical FX for the shots I'm thinking about.

So... let's start at the lightning!

First off, I don't want to rely on off-the-shelf plug-in effects for anything, and if I use them, they'll be there to augment my hero effects. There's a ton of plugs that do lightning, and do it well (thinking of After Effects/Tinderbox off the top of my head), but I want to be able to move the camera in 3D space without manually tracking stuff, so at the very least I'll need 3D trackers to guide my 2D effects in post if I decide to go the 2D route. If I decide to go the 3D route, I'll need trackers to direct the electricity.

It's looking like a 3D FX rig with locator points that can bake and export to a compositing package is the obvious starting point for either scenario.

I've put together two really fast concepts about how to create and be able to direct lightning arcs in 3D space, and get locators in 3D space into whatever compositing package I end up using (haven't decided on Shake/After Effects/Motion yet... might be some combination of all of 'em for precomps because I'm going for efficiency).

Nothing special on these, just R&D playblasts at the moment as proof of concept before I start working on more complex rigs.

The first is using pimped out Maya hair dynamics based off of circular arc control curves (noise expression drivers in addition to physics drivers). I've got everything clustered to control locators and the sphere stand-in for my Tesla coil. I'm testing to see what kind of motion I get out of the system, and how flexible the approach is for art direction and animation purposes.

Lightning Test 1 (http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/lightning-test1.mov)

The second is using a (very quickly) hacked version of a Maya script which uses the same approach as the maya electric arc generator, except it does curve (instead of nurbs) output, and an arbitrary number of control points.

Lightning Test 2 (http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/lightning-test2.mov)

Both approaches are pretty directable for my hero forks, but I'm leaning toward the hair system approach as it gives a little more organic/interesting movement to my eye, although the hair system test looks less like lightning than the stock script... I'm certain I'll get better results in the long run.

I think my next test, I'll drive my arcs with overlapping hair curves. One for low frequency (overall "big curve" curvature) and one for high frequency ("short jaggies"), then blend between them for the final output. I'll probably rig clusters parented to locators on my low frequency curve for direction/animation.

From there, I'll probably rig up some sort of noise function on my end locators and add some ghosted geometry, then plug collision into my ground plane so I can get some particles spawning randomly when the lightning really connects with a surface. After comparing older rotoed lightning and newer stuff like The Prestige, I found that the ground contact bloom really sells the effect and anchors it to a physical reality you just didn't see with handpainted roto work.... and that's something that'd be sorely missing in a 2D post-only approach unless I manually added all those ground hits. Eww.

Once I'm comfy with an approach for the electricity, I'll make a stock electric arc rig that I can reference in my layout scenes, then lock down other simpler effects like plasma, steam, vacuum tubes, and the transformation effect.

--T

tharrell
03-05-2009, 06:14 AM
Ok, I settled on a hybrid 2D/3D approach to my lightning and just ran a quick render to make sure it's the direction I want to go.

It's dynamic hair curves in Maya which are lit up like neon tubes casting GI lighting all over the scene (with a time-based noise mapped to their incandescence), then given particle flow over their length to give a jagged look. Then the curves are augmented with After Effects post lightning to get the small forks going, and I'm adding a few extra particle spark effects here and there.

Pretty happy with the approach and overall look now, and I think it's time to move on to the vacuum tubes.

Animation Test:

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/lightning-test3.mov

Still:

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/lightning-test3.jpg

ulb
03-05-2009, 09:40 AM
Very nice!

I am also testing an hybrid 2d/3d approach but it doesn't look as good yet.

Maybe a bit too bright, but the concept works well.

TerryTrefry
03-05-2009, 11:37 AM
This is looking very good Trey.
I like your idea of working in black and white.

tharrell
03-05-2009, 03:21 PM
Thanks for the replies guys!

Ulb: yeah, it's a bit on the bright and over-the-top side right now. I'll be toning that down a touch in my final rig, although I'm likely to keep it slightly sci-fi looking on purpose. The effect will certainly be more pronounced than in the scene I'm quoting, though.

On this one, I doubled up on the bloom during the render and black/white diffusion in post to match the look of the film stock. I might have gone a little overboard on the diffusion, but there's no point tuning it further until I've got some stuff in the scenes with contrast.

Something interesting... the film in its present form has been assembled from surviving footage from all over the world: negatives, release prints etc, although almost all of the shots have heavy vignetting and diffusion (likely from the erosion of the film stock). It's a really unique look.

An interesting note is that in the captures from the film, there's no true white (or black) in anything... the dynamic range is super compressed with the midtones really cranked (and the top and bottom are extremely diffuse & scattered).

--T

PeterR
03-06-2009, 06:57 AM
Good job man,
I don't know maya so i wonder how are you using these hair curves:)
can't wait to see it finished:)
cheers

tharrell
03-06-2009, 08:09 AM
In Maya, you can convert any kind of curve into a "hair" curve... which just means that it's a curve that's affected by physics and fields. You can do ropes, tails, cables, antennas, and all kinds of cool stuff with the hair system, and it's *very* fast to work with.

I set each strand to lock their start and end points to my locators, and rig clusters to groups of curve points so I can animate the silhouettes on top of heavy dynamic turbulence. In that last test, I used more noise functions to animate the clusters for me, and then I blend between the physics output and my guide curves with animation.

After that, I extrude a tube along each curve and make it heavily incandescent, and I flow a ton of particles over the curves with lots of noise, clumpiness and varying size to make the curves nice & jagged at a higher frequency than the curve's overall turbulence. This is rendered on a layer by itself for heavy post doctoring.

I also emit a bunch of spherical area lights from the curve, set to live for 2 frames. The area lights have their intensity set to a noise function like:

areaLightShape1.intensity= 1 * noise(time * 4) * 12 + 10

which gives me lots of long-range flickering on the ground, which I don't get too convincingly from incandescense alone on the curves, and keeps me from having to manually animate everything flickering (it'd be a TON of keyframing to do it by hand). That same type of function is used all over the place to animate practically everything procedurally at this point (including my rigged locators), and the animation can be baked out if I need to do something like export my locators to after effects for tracking.

This is rendered on the background plate with all of my scene geometry, along with the reflections of the extruded incandescent tubes (in a reflection pass).

In compositing, I then use all my locators from Maya as a guide to place secondary lightning effects (the little forks, etc) on top of the big hero arcs that are already rendered out.

For me, it was important to have something physically casting light and at least heroi arcs reflecting in my 3D scene, or I might have just done it all in post.

Once I'm close to done with the actual shots, I'll post up some captures of my rigs and compositing breakdowns.

--T

tharrell
03-09-2009, 06:46 PM
So, I took most of the weekend off, but I did manage to focus my scope to something that's more manageable in the timeframe. I think I'll just be doing the lab sequence, and a pretty heavily condensed version of it (the sequence in the original is almost 8 minutes long!).

I'll be working with four intercut angles:

1. A master shot of the table and robot in the chair.

2. A closeup of maria on the table

3. A tracking from medium to extreme closeup of the robot during transformation. I'll likely be heavily reworking the transformation effects from the original. Maybe animated displacements? Dunno yet.

4. The scientist at his controls, tight medium with shallow DOF.

I keep having to remind myself this isn't a modeling challenge :) I could spend a month making and shading all of the odds and ends in the lab, but I think if I just limit the scientist to behind his table I won't have to worry about cloth sims or spending too terrible much time rigging him. I can also cheat an awful lot of detail in texture seeing as how I'm working in black & white at a medium shot.

I'm skipping a reverse angle of the scientist from the robot's POV over the table. Lang crossed the line of action an awful lot in this sequence which is really jarring now that we know better than to do that sort of thing. I could use Maria's face as a "handoff" transition between the reverse angles, but I'm just wasting render time if I do that.

I think that I'll finally be ponying up for CrazyBump (auto normal/spec/diffuse/occlusion map generation from photo textures). Been looking for an excuse to snag it, and I'm certain it'll be a massive timesaver for this:

http://www.crazybump.com/

--T

Neight
03-09-2009, 07:31 PM
Hey man, that's looking pretty sweet, great last test animation you got. Calculating the relections for the lighitng will be tricky on all the reflective materials...not sure the best way to tackle that either, I might cheat on my scene and cover most of the windos, haha.

Anwyay, good luck, keep the upadtes coming.

tharrell
03-11-2009, 11:17 PM
Here's a still test frame I did on a very quickly modified Zbrush base mesh (poly smooth added in Maya... you can see facets in her lips currently).

There's no bump, displacement, or anything other than diffuse and (very very rough) specular maps on her face at the moment influencing SSS. The hair is a 2D billboard cheat, which I'll likely be able to get away with because the camera parallax isn't going to change.

Basically, I'm seeing how little I can get away with blendshape, rigging, texture and detail-wise on my characters.... because of the style and selective cuts / camera angles, I don't think she needs anything much more than more eye makeup and a proper displacement map for her head and neck.

I'm rendering out a mix test right now with three very rough blendshapes (eyes x-wide, closed, hero sneer) to see if I can avoid spending the time setting up a proper Osipa-style facial rig with hundreds of lovingly crafted muscle contractions I'll never use. The basemesh I used for this really isn't set up for decent animation, so I'm going to avoid a full facial rig if I can. Efficiency is the goal here, and I think she's pretty close to good enough now.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/mariatest1-frame.jpg

More once the sequence finishes rendering,

--T

tharrell
03-12-2009, 03:51 PM
Here's a first stab at shaders and expressions on the Maria model.

I think she's pretty close to working already, eye and lip weirdness notwithstanding... but I'll be painting a proper displacement map and doing a little more eye makeup for the final. Might also wrap deform the eyebrows on top of the mesh because they're too soft for my tastes.

Eyes open, eyes closed and a slow sneer are all I need her to do :-)

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/mariatest1.mov

Now onto the robot and scientist...

--T

Kingcreation
03-12-2009, 07:14 PM
Its animated, but i have to let the computer sit over night or something to show people. i used particles so its really frustrating. but really gives the effect i was trying to achieve. I tryed using splines and noise but it was to hard to get the erratically look of lightning.

http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/949/nikolateslaking.jpg

tharrell
03-13-2009, 11:44 PM
Ok, did my final sculpting, rigging & texturing on the Maria character and I'm going to call her done for now. I could keep tweaking her for another couple weeks, but I think she's pretty good now... besides, I've got a lot more modeling to do!

A few expression stills, and a raw render before major post effects and hair below (just diffuse bloom). I think she turned out pretty well, and is a pretty good likeness of the actress given the timeframe.

--T

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/mariatest2-a.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/mariatest2-b.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/mariatest2-c.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/mariatest2-d.jpg

tharrell
03-17-2009, 09:09 AM
Well, I spent the entire day tuning to get my renders down under 10 mins a frame on my quadcore... juggling filter size/bsp/sampling/final gather etc etc etc. As any mental ray user knows, half the time you spend more time getting a flicker-free look that'll render in your lifetime if you decide to do almost everything in-camera (which I did due to refraction and bokeh depth of field on everything in the shot).

Anyhow, I finally dialed in the first two shots and fired them off to render for a couple days (doing beauty/occlusion passes plus an RGB split alpha pass because I'm not separating layers).

So... now that every machine in the house is tied up for a while, it's time to play with some looks! :bounce:

I know originally I'd planned on working in black & white and try to emulate the film's look exactly... but I've been working in color up until post and I've come up with some pretty nice looks... so, survey time.

What do you guys think? Which look is your favorite?

--T

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/tablelook-1.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/tablelook-2.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/tablelook-3.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/tablelook-4.jpg

Fex
03-17-2009, 09:33 AM
wow this is really awesome...you matched the fritz lang look very close!

PeterR
03-17-2009, 09:51 AM
Great work , I like 2 and 4 look the most:)

Gotmilk
03-17-2009, 11:09 AM
Look no.4 is my choice :)

tharrell
03-17-2009, 01:52 PM
Thanks for the feedback guys! Still having a hard time deciding, so keep the suggestions coming! :thumbsup:

Here's a second-ish of each of them in motion back-to-back... had to make sure that the final gather flicker and bokeh grain didn't waste render time, and that the added stock grain matched the treatments.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/tablelooks.mov

Worth noting that my bottled plasma widget is (you guessed it) Maya hair curves with turbulence driving extruded tubes that have a fast perlin noise driving opacity and incandescence, then passed to shader glow.

Because the shader glow is a post effect in Maya, I'll be rendering a light flicker pass after the main plates are done. I'm a little worried that her neck and camera-side of her head are looking flat, so I might throw in a touch-up shadow pass at the same time.

And... now time for me to wait a day or two for these two cuts to finish rendering.

Edit:

I figured I should probably mention something about Mental Ray bokeh and render times.

The bokeh lens shader gives really awesome depth of field and lens defocus bloom dot effects, but it's incredibly expensive to sample high enough to remove all of the graininess.

In fact, anything above 4 samples in my scene shot my render times through the roof, so I decided to uh... fix it in post and stop wasting my time trying to tune it out with 10 minute test renders (10 minutes if I was lucky, that is).

Anyhow, in after effects, I use:

Effect->Noise & Grain->Remove Grain (tweaked to taste per shot)

Effect->Noise & Grain-> Gaussian Blur (to make the remaining bokeh grain soften and expand a little look like film grain, by about .2 pixels)

Effect->Noise & Grain ->Add Grain (setting dependent on stock look, but I never go much higher than 30-40%)

You've got to be very careful that when you add grain in post that it doesn't call attention to itself. The default settings in after effects are WAY over the top.

Hope this helps someone deal with bokeh or even final gather noise. Quite often it's way faster and easier to just deal with picky, time consuming issues like that in compositing.

mightcouldb1
03-17-2009, 03:29 PM
I'd like to see a mix between the second and third images. I like the skin on the second image but I like the environment better on the third! Awesome stuff!

Rickmeister
03-17-2009, 06:58 PM
Looks awesome!

I would go for the Modern cold one.

WGerick
03-17-2009, 08:05 PM
I would go for the Modern cold one.

Same here! Looks really fantastic! Keep up the good work!

tharrell
03-18-2009, 12:07 AM
Thanks everyone!

I think I'll probably do both the black & white plus one of the color variations (either cold modern or cold cross, or spit the difference between them based on feedback and my own taste).

Mostly, I'm keeping the black & white around because it was my original concept, and I'd forgotten how incredibly useful it can be for look development/lighting/shading to really fine tune your contrast before worrying about color (well, that and a deadline and a little friendly competition to make you push yourself! :wip: )

I'm leaning toward the one labeled cold cross process, maybe toned down a bit toward "cold"... mostly because it's very very different in execution than the original and I really like the feel of how stylized it is. The executions are pretty easy... they're nothing much more than exposure/levels/curves adjustments and varying diffusion/blooms on the highlights and shadows, plus different film stock grain.

Linear workflow rendered to 32-bit EXR allows me to not only crush/burn shadows and highlights (plus other tonemapping) in the ballpark of where I want to be in the render view, but also allows me to abuse the hell out of the curves, levels and exposure without chunking out the image in post.

I'm almost positive I'm going to render a touchup pass now to restore some of the depth on her skull where the midtones got flattened, and I also think I need to add a little more specular rimlight on the right edge of the tube because it's not reading too well, but other than that I've got to say I'm super happy with how well it's turning out given the tight deadline and rendering constraints.

--T

tharrell
03-19-2009, 03:12 AM
Ok, so my first two shots are now composited and done.

I took everyone's feedback on the color choice and went and refined the look a little more... it's based off the cold cross process, but I pushed it a lot harder. I didn't show any restraint at all on the saturation :p Added occlusion, additional shading to her head so it's not as flat, and some extra specular on the glass to get the edge to pop, and I'm going to call it done.

Had to use optical flow retiming to fix some awkward animation that I rushed through at the end because of the need to get this thing rendered. Not ideal, but it works in a pinch.

So, here's where the look ended up for the color version... The black & white final look will be refined once everything's cut together.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/tablefinal.jpg

tharrell
03-21-2009, 07:06 PM
So, I've got the robot as done as she's going to get, modeling-wise now.

I started off trying to do her as old-school NURBS patches, because it made the most sense due to her contours and sharp creases.

Then I remembered why nobody in their right mind tries to do characters as nurbs anymore, I came to my senses and I did the head/torso in zbrush and limbs/greebly stuff as polys with smoothing in no time flat.

I'm surprised how well the zbrush detail holds up for hard surface stuff (at least at the level of detail I need for this piece...). The body isn't going to be close enough to camera to really sweat minor details and contours. Occlusion and my metal shader will disguise quite a bit of the rough edges. It's *very* difficult to get flat surfaces on a plane in ZBrush. If I had more time, I'd probably do this whole thing with proper poly topology with sub-d creases, but the deadline is looming.

Head & torso were quite literally sculpted from 16 poly faces that were pulled into a rough silhouette, then divided until I reached the memory wall. I knew she didn't need to animate or anything, so I didn't worry about topology whatsoever, I just needed to get the sculpt to read properly from the front, with the silhouette and face being the most important. No detail whatsoever on the back or areas you can't see. It was modeled purely for the front camera angle.

I deleted the low sub-d levels so I was only subdividing 4 times at render, and also so I could model to a fair representation of the silhouette.... so sorry that the mesh is mud, but there's nothing worth studying there anyhow :)

Moving on to layout for the master shot now,

--T

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/hel4.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/hel5.jpg
http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/hel6.jpg

tharrell
03-23-2009, 07:14 AM
Got all of the non-animated plates locked for this one. Still have some color/exposure work to do and the effects passes need to render, but it's a huge milestone completed... no more hardcore modeling or lighting besides the scientist, but that should go reasonably quickly.

Very glad I've been rendering RGB passes... I'd have gone insane trying to color/exposure balance everything in the scene on separate plates.

These are a little hot, sharp and dark still, but they're in the ballpark of what I'm going for.

--T

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/widecomp-1.jpg

tharrell
03-24-2009, 09:43 AM
I think I realized this evening that I'm going to have to give myself waaay more time on projects, or upgrade the old 2 gig Athlon X2s I've got sitting here... because they just can't handle displacement/mia_material_x/bokeh/final gather in the same shot unless I take the time to plan everything out in dozens of layers.

mia_material reflections and bokeh are incredibly expensive to render.

Anyhow, I've got a wallclock on this raw plate here that says 17 minutes a frame, with a frozen final gather that took over an hour. And only one machine here that's capable of rendering the stuff. :banghead:

Ah well. I'm going to cheat my held frames and I'm using camera moves very very sparingly.

Here's the raw plate of the robot medium to medium closeup dolly shot, before any color work, occlusion or polishy stuff, and it's turning out really well I think. Not sure it's worth close to 20 minutes a frame on a quadcore (and an hour a sequence to bake a single FG map), but tuning the reflection quality etc any lower or interpolating the reflections just makes it look like mud.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/hel-mcu.jpg

WGerick
03-24-2009, 06:03 PM
Hi Trey,

looks great! I think you really captured the feeling of the original scene.

I'm no mental ray guy, since I'm using V-Ray, but these render times must be killing your workflow... I would love to see some moving footage because of the grain and the reflections. Maybe the grain allows for lower anti aliasing settings, or lower sampling on the reflections?!?!

Anyway, really nice work!

Neight
03-24-2009, 09:04 PM
Dude this is looking INSANE! Great work so far, hope you are able to get it rendered in time, best of luck!

tharrell
03-25-2009, 01:56 AM
Thanks for the encouragement, guys!

I blew a whole day tuning renders for the tradeoff in reflection quality/grain vs render time and any lower than I've got isn't acceptable quality-wise on the reflections, so I just bit the bullet and fired off a batch render. I've got 3 more shots to get in the can, so I'm just going to do another RGB pass so I can adjust each piece separately in comp.

To be honest, it's mostly the bokeh depth of field that's slowing this shot down (well, half that and half mia_material reflections), and I suspect that Maya/Mental Ray aren't actually paying any attention whatsoever to my reflection recursion limits.

Long story short, all the new toys (mia_materials, lens shaders) look really really nice, but they're kinda buggy, performance hogs and absolutely horribly integrated into Maya's UI, which makes tuning all the more difficult.

How many places am I supposed to tune reflection recursion on a single shader? Object level? Shader level? Render globals level? Is it actually paying attention to any of em? heh. :hmm:

tharrell
03-25-2009, 08:05 AM
By popular request, here's a few seconds of each of the shots I've got in the comp/post stage now.

Only the girl closeup is really final, the other two are still in "rough but almost acceptable" form until I manage to get the rest of the shots in the can.

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/comp-examples.mov

Worth mentioning that I'm going after the original intent of all of the effects like the rings... they're not meant to look realistic, just vaguely organic and stylized (and they're way not done yet).

Haven't decided if I'm going to do an animated displacement morph for the transformation, or just do some alpha/crossfade trickery that's more like the original yet. Time will tell, I guess.

--T

TerryTrefry
03-25-2009, 01:39 PM
This is looking terrific. Seems you are staying true to your goal.
I had to open the file with VLC player as Quicktime wouldn't.

tharrell
03-25-2009, 06:19 PM
Thanks for the heads-up. I reposted the video.

Probably happened because I used ffmpegX to make an h.264 because Quicktime Player/After Effects blow out the gamma. Must have missed a switch.

--T

tharrell
03-28-2009, 07:52 AM
Ok, I'm about 3 days behind where I wanted to be at this point, with one last sequence to animate & render :argh:

The good news is if I can't complete that part on-time I should be able to recut everything without it. Won't flow so well though. Curse paying gigs!

Anyhow, here's the final transformation sequence, with a reasonable level of polish. The actual morph clip still needs color and more paintfix work (no time to rerender), but it's close to where I want it to be.

It was pulled off with animated displacements, lots of paintfix/roto and some excessive use of traveling matte sleight of hand. I decided that there wasn't enough time left to pull off growing long hair on her convincingly, so I've left it all under the helmet. Paying attention to the bot's topology would have saved me a TON of time having to meshwarp some of the face into smooth transitions, but it wasn't really an option given how fast/how much stuff I'm trying to pull off here.

Again, I'm going for a stylized, early-scifi aesthetic for all of this. Trying to match the intent and direction of the original effects pretty closely, but still allowing myself room to do things like the morph effect. A cross-dissolve like the original would have been much quicker. :p

Longish clip here (with a little of the score I'll be using):

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/endprev.mov

A few caps:

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/endprev1.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/endprev2.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/wip/endprev3.jpg

tharrell
03-29-2009, 06:30 AM
So, I spent half the day trying to coax my file server back to life after a blackout / power surge took out the power supply and the videocard (yay PCI-E power!).

Spent a little time this evening trying to find a fast & easy way to get the doctor character rigged, shaded, rendered and animated in two days and I think that it just ain't happening if I'm going to get any sleep or get any screaming clients off my back :shrug:

The rigging and clothing are my big time sink on this. I'm pretty decent and modeling, shading, lighting and comping, but a character TD I'm not. I can muddle through, but not nearly fast enough after losing so much time lately, and I doubt I'd have time to polish it up on par with everything else that's done anyhow. Besides, who the heck wants to paint joint weights while they're tired and irritated?

Gonna recut what I've got already together, give it another round of polish and call it done.

On the up-side, I think that my rendering bottlenecks and dying file server might just convince the wife of my *urgent need* for a new core i7 box or two. :D

--T

tharrell
03-31-2009, 05:51 AM
Well, I've recut the piece to compensate for the additional cutaways I didn't have time to fully develop. These could still use a little more polish, but I'm out of time!

Thanks to everybody who commented, and good luck to everyone who makes the finish line (and to those who haven't yet)!

Here's the final full rez movie (Quicktime H.264, 720x540, 24fps):

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/teslafinals/TREYHARRELL_FXWARS_TESLAV1(720x540).mov

Here's the YouTube link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaExIf1ZOKk

I'll post the B&W alternate here once I get some time to massage it some more. That was the original concept, but looking at them both, I think there's more of myself in how the color version played out.

--T

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/teslafinals/colorposter1.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/teslafinals/colorposter2.jpg

http://www.treyharrell.com/fxwars/teslafinals/colorposter3.jpg

TerryTrefry
03-31-2009, 02:19 PM
Great job Trey!

tharrell
04-01-2009, 12:36 AM
Thanks man. I'd have probably killed myself to get that last sequence done by Friday if I knew we were getting an extension, so I'm happy to have it in the can now after a couple cuts and I can focus on some client gigs that have been languishing. :wip:

Glad an extension was posted, though. I really want to see more people's stuff finaled.

The biggest lesson to take away from these challenges is when to let go of stuff that's good enough to meet the deadline! (That's also hardest part to come to terms with, and I'd have kept polishing till the very end of the very last extension if I let myself)

--T

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