View Full Version : Lighting/Rendering/Compositing Demo Reel

05 May 2010, 09:58 PM
Hello everyone,

I just finished up my latest demo reel from all my work this past semester/year and I was wondering if I could get some critiques about it.

Namely I'm looking for critiques about the individual pieces themselves but anything is more than welcome, the harsher the better, including how the demo reel is put together as far as breakdowns etc.

Link to the video

Any help is greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much
Zach Haugen

05 May 2010, 12:14 AM
It's not bad, I'd say it's a pretty average student reel, and by that I mean it's a reel that demonstrates the standard I'd expect from many students, so I don't mean that in a bad way. Having said that, it's a typical student reel in one particularly bad way - in an effort to increase the length, you've made the classic student mistake of putting a bunch of work in there that really doesn't look very good at all. Shots 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 should be cut entirely.

The first shots with the robot is not too bad in terms of lighting and rendering. They could be a lot better though - for example, the robot seems to lack proper specular/reflectivity maps, resulting in very flat, unrealistic highlights in your shaders, and the animation is actually, sorry to say it, quite bad. In fact, in the first shot in particular, the jerky animation and the extremely unrealistic destruction of the door actually ruin the shot. The robot also looks a bit out of place because the model itself is not particularly great, and looks strange composited into real footage. If you're going to demonstrate VFX comps into footage, then make your actual CG stuff realistic. The same goes for the table and TV, which look very flat and totally unrealistic. The lighting, however, is not too badly done, in fact it's a decent start. But work on improving your models - if you feel you're not up to it, rope in one of your buddies to help out with that so you can focus on the lighting and rendering.

The lighting in the second robot is incorrect. He walks past an extremely bright light on the left side of the frame that barely affects him. This needs to be addressed. I'd recommend shooting a matte object, preferably a gray one in your environment as a reference for how the light should interact with your CG objects.

The lizard shot isn't too bad but again, as with the robot, they're lacking reflectivity/specularity details which makes them look fake. Also, as they scamper along and into shadow, the CG lighting doesn't seem to mimic this. But it's hard to tell without being able to scrub through the video. I also feel the lizards are a tad too bright and saturated in the wide shot.

The Wall-E type shot at the end is quite nice but watch out for getting too dark. Try to avoid having areas that become almost flat black - always ensure you can see some details. The amount of lighting in that scene would, in reality, provide sufficient light to prevent any totally dark patches. Also, from a more creative perspective, you have a lot of flat surfaces that are not particularly interesting to look at. While you're obviously demonstrating lighting and compositing with this reel, having more interesting details in your models and surfaces would help. Those flat, unbevelled edges along the floor in front of the Wall-E guy are distracting in their flatness, and the cable running along the floor could benefit from some ridges or other details along its length. This would provide more interesting shapes in your specular highlights. The same goes for any long straight surface - use displacement mapping or even change the model to be slightly even and have little nicks here and there to break up the straight lines and create more interesting detail which shows off your lighting and improves the image as a whole. It would also help if that scene was animated with flashing lights and some movement of the characters, as it feels strange to end

05 May 2010, 12:43 AM
Thank you very much for the in-depth reply.

I'm curious about the specularity/reflectivity detail issue you mentioned with the robot shots. Texturing and shading are something that I really want to work on. Is there an example that you know of that has what you are mentioning, or better yet a tutorial about it?

Again thanks for the indepth reply.

05 May 2010, 01:31 AM
I thought the SciFi Lighting challenge still was one of your strongest pieces, it probably shouldn't be relegated to the end of the reel. Nothing really wrong with showing stills at any stage of your reel. Anyone else feel free to chip in here, I don't mind seeing challenge stuff in a reel but I think some employers do... on second thoughts maybe it's blatant tutorial stuff they have a problem with, like that Fiat.

Just noticed you numbered each piece, I like that idea.

1: First off, the door looks very CG, the texture looks too plain and the 'No Smoking' sign is way too bright. Consider using photographic textures for the door, you should be able to get a lot closer.

What first caught my eye about the TV was that it looks too rounded. Maybe you used reference but it looks wrong. Maybe there's a texturing issue again, it looks very plain.

If you're going to break down the door, do it well or not at all. At the moment it is not done well. Have you ever seen a movie where a door gets busted in by the cops, the door doesn't explode into a million pieces and disappear. The wood would probably fracture around where the lock is and swing open. There would be probably by a dent and splinters of wood around where it got kicked too (did the robot kick it?).

When the table with the TV on it gets lifted up, they look way too light. Furthermore, there should be cords getting yanked and stretched coming from the TV too. There should be stuff in the cabinet. Again, if you're not really going to concentrate on doing these bits well, don't include them in your reel.

2: This is a bit better as it appears to be more about the compositing and lighting of your robot than effects and dynamics. However, it's difficult to assess these skills with a breakdown slap bang in the middle of the good bit. You don't really need to include that camera shaky bit at the end of the shot, you could remove that and put the breakdown there.

The robot itself may be sci-fi but the materials should look realistic. For instance, the metal looks a bit dull to be realistic. Again, reference is your friend.

3: Lizard skin texture looks plain and dull. It should be shinier then that. Hard to tell with that texture but maybe the green is a bit too saturated.

4: Once again, it's a bad idea to do a breakdown half way through the shot. Did one of the lizards run straight under a tyre that's sitting on the ground? Are the shadows in the real world having any affect on the lizards? because it doesn't look like it.

5: You have a really cool Sin City looking wall and really cool Sin City looking rain and yet the guy doesn't look Sin City at all. There needs to be a lot more bright white. This could be achieved with more / brighter rim lighting, probably don't need much fill. Also, the movie picked out key parts of the costume in white. This guy has a huge mask, maybe it should have some white bits or be completely white. You could rotoscope this or, if you were to shoot it again, I think the Sin City guys made good use of UV lights and paint to make some items look bright without lighting the whole character.

6, 7, 8: I would not include these in your reel, sorry.

So there you go, I hope you get some value out of that. If you're going to make a new piece in the future, concentrate on your strengths, don't include anything that you're not going to polish 100% and avoid doing something cliche (robots, space ships, demons, etc.).

edit: Didn't notice Leigh's post so there's some doubling up.

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