Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Major Project: 'Pufferfish' - Initial Camera, Motion Blur, and DOF Tests

I've started to work on the basics of my pufferfish object/materials. This sphere I actually modeled rather than use a displacement map to create the spines because I wasn't quite sure how I would achieve downward facing spines using a displacement map. The textures/shaders on the sphere now are just temporary, I know they do not look the most amazing and the height texture messed with the spines a little bit. I'm currently using Mudbox to create some better normal, height, and diffuse maps for this object. For now, I wanted to test out some camera animation since I haven't worked too much with close-ups of the molecule. I think this particular shot will be better as a close-up shot rather than a distance shot since 'when I see myself I see a pufferfish' is the first line of my poem. I think it would be better to not reveal the full object in the first shot of the film.

Pufferfish - Lens Blur Test #1

Pufferfish - Lens Blur Test #2

Pufferfish - Lens Blur Test #3
I also decided to test out a z-depth pass in Arnold. I created a custom AOV since there didn't seem to be any depth of field or z-depth pass in the presets. It appeared to work fine in the render view (adjusting the exposure allowed me to see the image better) but the resulting render came out quite differently despite trying out different file types (EXR, 32-bit Tiff). I struggled to get the map to look like the way it did in the render view (I'll include a screenshot of it in Maya and in AE)...in fact it was very different so I suspect making a silly mistake somewhere. I'll continue to research how to do this so I can hopefully do it correctly.

Until then, I do quite like how the depth pass makes the animation look even if it is incorrect. I tried my best work with what I had by adjusting the levels and adding some Gaussian blur to the depth passes. I then linked the depth map up to the Camera Lens Blur effect, experimenting with the Blur Focal Distance. After that I adjusted the colour/contrast of the beauty pass and added a slight motion blur effect, a vignette and film grain. I really enjoy tweaking these effects because I think even subtle changes can really improve how a scene looks (in most cases at least).

Monday, 22 January 2018

Major Project: Gem Animation Test #3, Motion Blur & Color Correction Tests

Last week I set up another test animation for my gem. I decided to apply the actual gem/crystal texture since I had to leave it rendering over the weekend anyway. It takes a while to render but I like being able to see what the actual shader is doing when possible. This time I made sure the animation curve for the scale on the sphere was the same as the height map. I also animated the orb so it moved around the scene a little bit, but sharply moved towards the camera as the gem became more hostile and spiky.

In After Effects I experimented a bit more with motion blur since there was more movement in this test than the previous one. I have one version without motion blur, one with a shutter angle of 180, one with 220, then one I animated so it was 180 but changes to 250 when the orb jumps towards the camera. I quite like how just 180 looks, but I suppose it depends what look I'm aiming for and what the animation is like in a particular scene.

No Motion Blur
Shutter Angle 180
Shutter Angle 220
Shutter Angle Animated 180/250

I also played around a bit more with some color correction, since I felt the raw render looked a little dull. I added the normal vignetting and film grain but I also adjusted the footage using the Levels (Individual Controls) effect. I also experimented with changing the color/tint of the scene using the Color Balance effect. I like the results that I got, but I find that Color Finesse allows me better control over color correction overall.

Original/Tint #1/Tint #2 
Tint #1 (Green)
Tint #2 (Blue)

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Major Project: Maya Camera Distortion Tests & Focal Length Animation Tests

I wanted to play around with some of settings on the camera within Maya 2018/Arnold because I think that adding some distortion this way could be interesting. I initially played around with the different camera types such as perspective (default), fisheye, spherical, and cylindrical. I also played around with some other settings such as the FOV, focal length, aspect ratio, and lens squeeze ratio.

Default Perspective Camera
Perspective Cam - Aspect Ratio 10
Perspective Cam - Aspect Ratio 4.65
Perspective Cam - Aspect Ratio 10, Squeeze 3
Perspective Cam - Focal Length 2.5
Fisheye Cam - Not Cropped
Fisheye Cam - Cropped
Fisheye Cam - FOV 120
Fisheye Cam - FOV 150
Cylindrical Cam
Spherical Cam
Orthographic Cam

I then made two animation tests using the focal length. One animation I animated the focal length from 35 to 2.5 while the other animation test the focal length is at 2.5 but I moved the sphere and camera around. I found these tests quite interesting and I wonder what else I could do to the camera to give some other interesting results.

Major Project: Gem Spike Animation Test #2 & Motion Blur Tests

After my previous test I wanted to try animating the scale of the sphere as well so it doesn't appear to shrink as the spikes grow. Unfortunately, I forgot to adjust the animation curves so the scale animation was linear (since the height attribute animation was linear) so there's a bit of a stutter. Other than that I think it's come out alright, I think the object's volume stays more consistent (excluding the error in the scale animation), but I may experiment with it shrinking or growing rapidly as well because that may make the object seem more volatile. For this test I also turned off the transparency so it didn't take as long to render out since I knew what the actual texture looked like on the object.

No Motion Blur

Shutter Angle 180

Shutter Angle 220

I also experimented with adding some motion blur in After Effects. I've done this in the past and I much prefer adding motion blur in post rather than in Maya because I have the freedom to adjust it or remove it if I want to. There wasn't much to see in this example since there isn't tons of fast movement, but I tried the default motion blur which has a shutter angle of 180 as well as increasing the shutter angle to 220 (as well as the shutter samples and vector detail). I'll begin adding and testing motion blur with my experiments from now on, especially if it has more movement.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Major Project: Gem Spike Animation Test #1

To make my crystal/gem molecule represent the idea of Anorexia better, it was suggested to me to look at ways to 'weaponize' it or to make it suddenly become dangerous and hostile. To do this, I experimented with animating the height so the displacement would become more extreme - causing the highest points of the map to become spikes. Unfortunately, I cannot preview the results unless I fully render it which took a while due to the reflections and refractions. It still came out quite grainy because I didn't want it to take forever but I'm going to need to keep this in mind when it comes to rendering because certain materials will need more time than others. I like how the texture looks even more so than before because I can actually see how the light appears within the gem (this has the same setting as Gem 018 only with slightly different colours).

Because of how displacement works, it appears like the object is smaller when it becomes spiny so I may do another test where I play with the scale of the object as well so it stays the same size or even gets larger as it becomes more aggressive. I may use a simple material for that test though so it doesn't take too long to render. I looked into previewing displacement in the viewport but it does not appear to be incredibly accurate. I followed this article to try and improve it, but even then it doesn't seem that the preview updates when you change the height values. I'll look more into this, but I hope that this preview well help me a little bit.