FXWars! "Dracula's Castle"!: Trey Harrell, EXTERIOR

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  10 October 2005
FXWars! "Dracula's Castle"!: Trey Harrell, EXTERIOR

Welp, I'm in.

I'm going for an exterior, then if time allows, I'll continue the establishing shot inward for a hybrid.

Best of luck to all. This should be fun! (CRAZY deadline...)

  10 October 2005
Shot sequence outline

I'm intending to deliver a composited establishing sequence, possibly as far as revealing an interior reverse shot of the Count watching his prey approach from a parapet. I'm going for a heavy feeling of impending doom and an extremely dark mood.

I expect my color palette to be extremely muted blue/gray, with symbolic touches of reds.

The comp will be created using Maya, Photoshop and After Effects. I think I'm going to go for a 16:9 presentation, rendered for DVD anamorphic widescreen, then downsampled to 640x360 for upload.

I'm not one for storyboards much over geometric shapes: my hand drawing skills are pretty weak, so here's my written shot sequence per instruction:


I. XCU - SPIDER WEB / heavy depth of field

Spider slowly approaches a trapped, struggling insect caught in her web. She toys with her dinner a little and prepares to sink her fangs in...

II. DOLLY OUT / just as the spider finishes the kill

The web is within the branches of a dead tree on a desolate landscape. The camera pans across the landscape at night, with a storm approaching, revealing DRACULA'S CASTLE. Rack focus on the grotesque fortress upon a mountaintop. It resembles an expressionist painting and is about two miles in the distance. A poor excuse for a road winds up the mountain.

III. CRANE UP / slowly

A rickety carriage is revealed, moving toward the castle. We can make out two silhouettes. One is a old, stooped DRIVER. The other is a GENTLEMAN in a victorian era hat who is being jostled about more than he likes. We see (perhaps) bats flutter by in the distance, then a wolf howls. The victorian GENTLEMAN starts and looks about trying to place the sound. He's not at ease.

Time to get started on some modelling!
  10 October 2005
Spider test renders

I spent last night and this evening boxmodeling and quick texturing my hero spider.

I didn't spend too much time finessing her shaders (besides the speculars), as she'll be visible mostly in silhouette. I wanted her to be extremely angular, slightly stylized, and furry enough for bits of hair and texture to read okay at video resolution.

The first image is a shader and lighting test (straight Maya 7/Mental Ray render), the second is a different angle quick composited on temped in web and blurred palette background images for reference.

I think she's looking ok for this early in the game, so I'm going to move on to the landscape next as it'll be the most render-intensive portion of this project and I'd like to get the background plate out of the way early.

Last edited by tharrell : 11 November 2005 at 02:42 PM.
  10 October 2005
Nice! You're working fast!

(you're stressing me! )

- Jonas
  10 October 2005

I'm stressing you??? I've seen your stuff. I'll be lucky if I finish on time. Thanks for the kind words, though ;-)


I roughed in my base terrain and camera move last night and I should have them encoded for preview this evening. Then the fun begins: grass, rocks, trees, camera dressing, etc.

I'll be rendering my fog pass and terrain plates early so I can concentrate the last two weeks on the castle itself, my sky and the carriage without having to borrow all my friends machines to make a render deadline.

  10 October 2005

Really nice spider! Looks very photorealistic.
How did you do the spiderweb... it seems so real too...

Great work. Keep it up!
  10 October 2005
The web is just a temporary image mask stolen from images.google.com

I'll be creating a web in Maya, using that as the basis though... I want dew drops on it, and I want the web to react to the spider walking on it and fly twitching. Hopefully time will allow!

  10 October 2005
foreground blocking & camera

Here's my first stab at blocking my difficult camera move (the dolly+crane sequence) and unrefined foreground plate for my environment.

The landscape and plants are really rough right now, but I felt I should get the camera move out of the way for this shot before I worry about refining anything. I can dress the set for the camera that way instead of making an entire world!


Next up is rough blocking of my carriage's motion and the castle mountain.

Last edited by tharrell : 11 November 2005 at 02:43 PM.
  10 October 2005
Thumbs up

It is looking good so far!

There is mutch to do if you want realistic gras and trees on
your Landscape... By the way... your trees are looking pretty good!
Its always very difficult if you have to build half an World to
make the shot work.

I am looking forward seeing more of your work!
  10 October 2005
Yes, tharrell ur entry is really looking good! I especially like the spider...it's so realistic! Keep it up!

  10 October 2005
He, thanks to you to, Tharrell.

I'll be unsubscribing now, I don't want to catch un-intentional inspiration and steal your ideas! See you on the other side,
- Jonas
  10 October 2005
Thanks for all the comments guys!

It's been an insane week at work, so I'm running a little behind on updates. I've spent the last week rotoscoping gate dust out of a ton of commercial footage and I've been too fried to do much of anything for the challenge.

I should have a more refined foreground plate rendered out in the next day or so, provided I can get maya's batch render and my Shave grass to cooperate. They're bombing at the end of frame 1 currently and it's driving me crazy.

I need to get started on the castle mountain and background plate ASAP though, if I'm going to make deadline.

  10 October 2005
Foreground final blocking

Big update this time. I've modeled a small carriage, rigged up a stock horse and polished my camera move quite a bit. There's wind, blowing grass, blowing trees.

There's a ton more 'stuff' on the landscape since my last post, and I should have a couple test renders of the foreground plate for this shot in the morning.

Haven't decided if I'm going to use lowpoly CG characters in the carriage, or if I'll matchmove greenscreen footage of some friends dressed up. Probably take the same amount of time either way, although a matchmove might add a little realism to the plate.

Nuff rambling... here's the update:


Hoping to add the characters & a couple of bats tomorrow then get that puppy rendering!


Last edited by tharrell : 11 November 2005 at 02:44 PM.
  10 October 2005
Wow Trey! That looks really véry awesome! You'll make something very interesting out of this, I'm sure! With some nice compositing and so, you'll get a really great mood!

Have fun & Find (tons of ) luck! I'll be watching you!
multidisciplinary creator of films and spaces
• design • image • film • music •
  10 October 2005
Hot shit Tharrel! Love the image composition with the dead tree to the right, and the dolly left with the trees in the foreground.

The grass wind animation looks a bit jaggy though, but maybe that's still WIP?

- Jonas
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