View Full Version : FXWars! Winter Kingdom, Stefan Morrell, FREEFORM ENTRY

12 December 2008, 03:00 PM
this looks like a fun theme,something to keep me busy over xmas break.

so the plan is a camera move up & around the massive base of a castle,pass some fluttering flags to reveal the castle in all it's glory

I started yesterday by modeling some rough stone steps & stones placing them in an interesting composition,today I've been working on some lighting ideas & getting the atmosphere working(using finalrender volume light),I'm working toward a final visual look before starting any camera work,
the snow system is a basic 3dmax blizzard,rendered with motion blur & depth of field,using final render & max2k9.
the shader on the rocks needs some loving but I'm thinking with some motion blur on the camera that might not be an next up is finishing the rest of the castle base an adding more steps.
for the castle reveal I'll do some kind of invisible wipe & use a different scene,probably using camera projection.
hoping to add some fluttering flags along the paths,maybe some lit candles with embers burning off in the wind...

easy to talk about:arteest:


12 December 2008, 03:28 PM
That's it, I'm quitting this challenge. :D

12 December 2008, 03:48 PM
chicken :)..I'm seriously looking forward to seeing what you come up with Jussing,I really enjoyed watching the progress of that shot in your avatar..hoping to see another one from you.

12 December 2008, 04:06 PM
Lol, thanks.

Say, how did you go about modelling those mountains?
And what about the pile of stones - did you place them manually, or drop a bunch of them with Reactor?
And the snow on top of everything - is it "just" a falloff mask, seperating a rock and a snow material?

Of course, you don't have to give away all the trade secrets. ;)

- jonas

12 December 2008, 04:31 PM
the shader is a variation on one Der Papa posted a few years ago,it uses a mix map instead of a blend map so the bump mapping is taken into account.

I've got a variation of the same shader on the rocks,mountain range,stone wall & stairs.
the stones are simple low poly spheres,bevelled the verts & used some noise & turbo smooth,the snow is some displacement & pushing & puling of verts,
I modeled one small flight of steps with randomly placed stones either side,the rest is instanced

12 December 2008, 09:57 PM
I guess it is all over now, that looks amazing.

12 December 2008, 06:32 PM
That looks so cool. When I first looked at the image I thought you were posting a movie reference. Then I realized it was your entry.

Very nice start.

12 December 2008, 11:42 PM
I really like the idea :thumbsup:

12 December 2008, 01:23 PM
Wow, incredible mate!! Looking forward to seeing where this goes!!

12 December 2008, 05:30 PM
thanks guys

here's my first big update:
I've been working on cloth sims for some flags & rope using Reactor,I'm not that familiar with cloth so this is hit & miss :\.I'll refine the flagpole with more details later
here's where that's at.. ( (9mb Quicktime)

And here I'm testing the speed of the blizzard,I want very heavy driving snow in the scene,this is made using the 3dsmax blizzard system & some motion blur,rendered with finalrender,I'll probably do this snow as a seperate pass for the final render as it realy adds to the rendertime. ( (7mb Quicktime)

And also made a start on some architecture the camera will pass over.
I'm not happy with this so needs to be bigger with better details,this is looking quite formal & I want something more menacing & epic looking.The landscape details need fixing too,uv's are scaled wrong & snow is looking a bit..crap
not too sure about the dragon(something I modeled years ago & never used for anything)...

I'm modeling the stones of the walls on this section as the camera will get very close to I like the way the snow shader puts a layer of powder at the top of every stone.

& a GI render of the wall..

& here's more testing on the mountain environment,this peak will have a tower on it with a bridge extending off toward the main castle..I like the atmosphere & colors but the rock texture needs some work..

I'll be looking to finalise my camera move tomorrow so I know exactly where to place everything..I've got it done as a storyboard but it's a such a messy scribble I wont bother posting :)


12 December 2008, 05:51 PM
Beautiful work Stefan. I can't wait for this finished product on this one :thumbsup:

12 December 2008, 03:36 PM
thanks JB

here's some previz..I'm thinking about losing the arched opening in yesterdays post.maybe adding some architecture to the left side of frame at the end ( (3mb Quicktime)

12 December 2008, 04:21 PM
That looks truely amazing Stefan

12 December 2008, 04:43 PM
I guess I can scratch The Dark Knight from my list of music to choose from... :p

Looks great, Stefan. -I'm missing some drama in the last part, where the castle is revealed and we've passed the rocks (because there's no foreground to make parallax, the camera move becomes less interesting, I think). But maybe that'll work out with the rendering and the snow.

- Jonas

12 December 2008, 06:08 PM
I really like how you got the snow into the tiny pits on the stones. Excellent work with the shaders.

12 December 2008, 11:59 AM
hey realy amazing wow wow wow wow wow wow well done... that's a good sourc of inspiration thnks

12 December 2008, 09:09 PM
waw great work over all keep going....cheers

12 December 2008, 12:45 AM
Looking good! :)

12 December 2008, 07:32 PM
I love the pre-viz keep going.

01 January 2009, 03:50 AM
update:here's my new 'final' previz,I've started rendering this now,averaging 2 minutes per frame on the first fly through.
I have another version where the camera continues panning up past this castle,up through a layer of clouds to reveal a sea of castles 'floating' on the clouds for as far as the eye can looked pretty cool but I wanted to ease back & make something I know I can finish in time

& here's one of the frames from the first part

01 January 2009, 01:47 PM
Hey Stefan, I love the new camera move - much more foreground to give parallax.

Plus, that new shot in the beginning is breathtaking, and the frame looks good.

- Jonas

01 January 2009, 01:51 PM
But you still owe me an exlpanation of how you model those mountains! :) Is it a height map? Or just procedural noise? I've worked a lot with noise modifiers, but I've never been able to get a good mountain shape.

01 January 2009, 02:55 PM
thanks Jonas..good to hear you liked the first part..I wanted to add a seperate opening but wasnt too sure how it looked.
for the landscape I started with a displace modifier on an edit poly(with turbo smooth & some light noise on top of that),create a material based on the smoke function,once applied to the mesh I then go in look for interesting parts of the landscape,for these shots I'm looking for those spikey ,jagged looking I detached the good bits,delete the rest(in this case 80% of the rest of the displaced plane)..then with the new mesh,which represents no more than a couple of peaks & now quite low poly.. I rotate these to get a cool looking precipice type shape..add a touch of vertical scaling to exaggerate it then go into soft selection mode & push & pull to get a good shape,I also use some paint deformation.
finish with a reset x-form as all that non uniform scaling screws with the snow shader.
finaly I do a new uv map based on the camera view.
I've done this with the whole scene,always working from that initial piece of 'mountain' & instancing it,just rescaling,rotating..adding a few noise modifiers
I realy think the cool factor comes from that snow shader.

adding a couple wires...

01 January 2009, 03:32 PM
Hi Stefan Morrell, :)
That's a great work! :) I like it very much! :)

01 January 2009, 04:01 PM
Is your monitor really that wide? That must be nice.

How many triangles are in your scene? and how long are your render times?

01 January 2009, 09:43 PM
Thats awesome,
gimme more!

01 January 2009, 10:15 PM
I love it :D

01 January 2009, 06:04 PM
I am looking at your snow test again and noticed that some of the particles aren't aligned to the direction of travel. There are a couple that pass close by the camera that are pointing the wrong direction. You might want to fix that. Also in the upper right corner it appears like that snow is coming from a sphere emitter. I can kind of see a curve to the path of the particles. Maybe its the POV of the camera?

I have a question about your snow test.

In the center of the image there is a spherical area of background noise. It gives the snow layer a nice feel. How did you create this? Is it done in post?

01 January 2009, 05:37 AM
that snow test is using a static camera,so the direction is based on the wind blowing the snow ,it's a fairly blustery/chaotic wind which probably explains the odd bits flying in different directions..still working on a better snow system too so it certainly needs some work,

the 'spherical area of background noise' is two things,first is a basic noise post effect and then a post effect I picked up at maxplugins recently called MDFilter,it allows for some color correction,vignetting etc "full control over the individual RGB channels using bezier curves".

& re the monitor width,that's a cropped screenshot from a dual monitor setup,I work with all the max tools,modifier lists etc on another screen,
there's a polygon count(in quads) at the top left of each wireframe screenshot.

only 110 hours to go on the render of the main shot,all the mo' blur is slowing it down,without that it's only around 15 hours..then I'll do the camera projection & final comp,

does anyone know,is it possible to use a velocity channel on a camera?

01 January 2009, 10:43 AM
does anyone know,is it possible to use a velocity channel on a camera?...not sure what you mean with "on a camera", there...

You can use a velocity channel on a plate rendered without motion blur, if your compositing package allows it.

Is that what you mean? :)

- Jonas

01 January 2009, 11:49 AM
that's exactly what I mean,I looked into using velocity passes recently but didnt have much luck,I was using atereffects cs4 & a trial of a motion blur plugin (I think the demo has since timed out)

01 January 2009, 12:05 PM
Well, I think you were on the right track, After Effects can't use it natively, put with a plugin it'll work. I don't have much experience in it though, I never bought that plugin, but I remember playing with the trial a while back.

But since CS2 or 3, After Effects have this pretty neat motion estimation thingy, that will allow you to create motion blur based only on the rendered frames. It's really meant for slowing down footage, and interpolating the extra frames, but that interpolation can also be used for motion blur. Try to look into that. I don't remember exactly where it is, but it's up there with the other Time thingies, I think.

- Jonas

01 January 2009, 12:14 PM
thanks, I'll look into that,I only recently upgraded from version 5 to cs4 of after effects,I wasnt aware of the option you mentioned.
I think motion blur is an absolute requirement in shots like these,it adds so much to the credibility of the shot

01 January 2009, 12:27 PM
Absolutely, you can't rush by those cliffs without motion blur!

What kind of motion blur are you using? Image motion blur is almost free in render time, and is essentially an in-render velocity channel-based blur, just as you would do it in compositing with the velocity channel. Is has artifacts and downsides, but I think it'll do just fine for a landscape fly-over.

What renderer are you using?

- Jonas

01 January 2009, 02:00 PM
I use finalrender...same as you I believe? :)

I've been using object blur on the camera,I understand motion blur in finalrender is pretty slow to begin with so doing it as a render effect sounds like the better option

01 January 2009, 02:05 PM
He, yes, I use final Render, too.

How come you're getting those high render times? What's your render time per frame, and at what resolution? I rendered out a test landscape with the snow shader you gave me, in full HD, and while it was pretty slow, it was managable, a couple of minutes per frame.

Oh, and getting Image motion blur to work in finalRender is a bit tricky... you have to activate it a number of places. I don't recall the excact procedure, but it's something like activating finalRender's image blur on each object, plus adding motion blur as a render effect... I think...

- Jonas

01 January 2009, 02:31 PM
the high render time is mainly coming from the motion blur,without it my frames are around 3 minutes,which is acceptable,but with it I'm getting over 10 minutes,and that's with the blizzard system off too..turn that on & I'd be up around 20 minutes.
I have about 900 frames to render @ 1024,rendering with physical sky & a direct light adding volumetrics for the atmosphere.rendering on a quad core too.

your not wrong about it being tricky to set up..I've checked and unchecked boxes all over the place & still havent got it working :\
...I'll have to break out the manual for this one

01 January 2009, 02:55 PM
You have to get "RealSmart Motion Blur" for AfterEffects. I think its $90. Will save you 110 hours. :)

I've used it on a number of projects and it has always worked perfectly. The kind of camera motion your doing is exactly what this plugin can blur effectively.

It doesn't need any camera channels. It looks at the motion of pixels and figures it out on its own. I have no idea how it does it but it always amazes me that it works :)

01 January 2009, 03:14 PM
I think if I can get the image blur Jonas suggests working then I won't need RSMB,render effects generaly only add a few seconds per frame.

01 January 2009, 03:34 PM
It doesn't need any camera channels. It looks at the motion of pixels and figures it out on its own. I have no idea how it does it but it always amazes me that it works :)True, but After Effects can do that too, now. :) Maybe not as good, I don't know, but still pretty good.

Stefan, I'm sure those render times can be improved. I'd split the rendering in beautypass (GI + lighting), volumetrics, particles, zdepth. Plus, I'd do a camera move prepass on the GI. How does that compare to what you're doing?

- JOnas

01 January 2009, 04:36 PM
True, but After Effects can do that too, now. :) Maybe not as good, I don't know, but still pretty good.

Could you explain how to do it with AF. I was using CS2 for a couple of years until upgrading last month to CS4. I haven't had time to review any of the new features, but I like the look of the new UI. :)

01 January 2009, 04:45 PM
I was just looking at this :
"To achieve a result similar to the result of ReelSmart Motion Blur, apply the Timewarp effect, set Speed to 100, enable motion blur within the effect, and use the manual shutter control features to adjust the motion blur"

from here

01 January 2009, 04:57 PM
Yup, that's it, Stefan. And as the name TimeWarp implies, it's really meant for warping the time to slower speeds, and interpolating the extra frames. But that interpolation can just as well be used for motion blur at speed 100%. (it's pretty slow for an AE effect, but tons faster than "real" 3D motion blur)

Good luck,
- Jonas

01 January 2009, 05:57 PM
Oh wow guys thanks for the tip. I didn't know you could do it that way.

01 January 2009, 02:50 PM
CgTalk:FXWars! Winter Kingdoms - You have ONE WEEK to GO! (Jan 26th) (

Just a heads up!


02 February 2009, 09:07 AM
I don't know what to say all this looks fantastic. The motion blur and grain really add a lot to those images.

02 February 2009, 01:44 AM
Beautiful image Stefan!

02 February 2009, 12:04 AM
Amazing !!, just i think that you never get a nice shot of the castle, you know, it is the main player on this challenge and you never get the eye to it. Anyways the shot is awesome and the vfx are excellent, you got my vote man !!! nice work !!

02 February 2009, 03:38 AM
thanks Tavos!
I was quite keen on keeping the castle reveal as brief as possible..I feel the less you see of it then the more impact it has,there's a few errors I'd like to fix but at the end of the day I'm just very pleased to actualy finish the challenge.


02 February 2009, 03:58 PM
Final entry:

NAME: Stefan Morrell
DESCRIPTION:Freeform fantasy style castle,Software used 3dsmax,Photoshop,After effects

02 February 2009, 06:25 PM
That looks fantastic, Stefan. Good job.

02 February 2009, 07:06 PM
Envy-inducingly breathtaking, Stefan!!!

02 February 2009, 04:19 PM
Awesome!!! Can I ask you how did you do the fog? Thanks a lot!

02 February 2009, 04:41 PM
That turned out very well. Looks amazing and has a film feel to it. Great job. You got my vote!

02 February 2009, 07:16 PM
very nice work there Stefan.

I didn't know about the AFX trick either so :beer:

02 February 2009, 11:54 PM
Damnit man! I thought you were just good at texturing and lighting ;)

02 February 2009, 10:47 PM
Great work, and thanks for the motionblur tip for After Effects, that is invaluable.

02 February 2009, 05:17 AM
Great work!

02 February 2009, 09:22 AM
Congrats mate! Well deserved! :D

02 February 2009, 09:39 AM
I second that, it's amazing, Stefan!

- Jonas

02 February 2009, 11:41 AM
Congratulations Stefan. Great work!

02 February 2009, 12:18 AM
Gees Stefan,that's one fine job man, I really enjoyed watching it, spot on, nice camera moves, wonderful piles of snow, great blizzard, intriguing audio :)

07 July 2009, 08:36 AM
Jaw dropping and mind boggling amazing work, my friend. :) Well deserved!

Cheers! — Möe

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