Special Effects

After compiling all the rendered scenes in one composition, I applied different effects in specific scenes such as rain, particles, and color correcting effects.

At first, I was going to approach the particle effects options in 3dsMax to create the most realistic rain. But then I thought, because my animation is stylized, I’m pretty sure I can pull off an overlayed video layer above my rendered scenes.

Here is the free rain stock footage I used from Daniel Norris (Youtube):

And here’s the rain effect comparison:

Rain Effect Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Rain Effect Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

On the left is the original render, and on the right is the overlayed video layer. I applied the Silhouette Luma modifier in After Effects so the black color would be absent above the render. I also scaled and rotated the rain to give off the effect of wind as well. This effect was applied to a few more scenes in the animation.

While watching the compiled animation, I noticed that a lot of my shots seemed very stagnant, especially in my environment shots. After watching a few movies, I noticed the effect of particles in various shots. I tested this out and I was amazed much of a difference there is.

Vegasaur.com provides free plugins and stock footage for everyone. I ran into their free particles stock footage and it was perfect for what I was going for. Here’s their sample of their particle effects:

And here’s the particle overlay comparison:

Particle Effect Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Particle Effect Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Although the particles are some-what visible, this was the visual I was going for. I don’t want to overpower various shots with particles, or get particle-happy if you will. But you’ll be able to see the particles in action when the animation is 100% complete!

Last but not least, I really like adding some sort of color correction or some sort of filter on top of my animations for the little cherry on top.

I came across a free After Effects Filter Presets Pack called Skylights. I found this a little while back and haven’t had a reason to use them until now. You can find the preset pack available for download here.

After changing up a few values in the presets and few other edits, here’s the comparison of the overall look of the “A Day with George” animation:

Color Correction Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Color Correction Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Because my animation features a really happy-go-lucky dog in this really colorful, saturated environment, I felt something bright and spring-like would fit the overall feel of “A Day with George.”

After applying the filter preset to the animation, I felt that my animation was ready to go. I rendered it and quickly sent it to Fabian Fabro, my music composer. He is currently working on the music score, and I can’t wait to hear it. I’ll update my blog once it’s ready to go!

In the mean time, I will be working on the Title Sequence and Credits. Rough drafts and sketches will be uploaded for you view pleasure soon!

Thank you for reading!

Animations (Part 3)

After getting some feedback on my rendered scenes from my advisor, Todd Fechter, and a few of my peers, I spent the last few weeks re-animating and re-rendering. A few of them were re-rendered from minor glitches to full on re-animating.

I don’t want showcase any of animated the scenes just yet (sorry!), I’ll showcase my workflow in After Effects* (compiling, editing, etc).

*The latest version of After Effects was not loading for some reason. So I resorted to a previous version of After Effects. This wasn’t a problem at all, everything worked just fine.

First things first. NAME EVERY SINGLE FILE IN YOUR PRODUCTION. I honestly learned this simple fact the hard way back in my undergrad. So, all my rendered files are in their separate folders and are named by corresponding scenes. This way, I will not get mixed up with any of my scenes or even accidentally write over them.

After Effects Workflow Sample (1/3), rrgonzalez.com
After Effects Workflow Sample (1/3), rrgonzalez.com

From here, I imported all of my rendered scenes into a composition (MASTER_TEST) to figure out timing. I strictly referenced my timing from the animated rough draft (here). Although a lot of the timing was changed in during this editing process. This gave me the ideas of what needed to be re-rendered.

After Effects Workflow Sample (2/3), rrgonzalez.com
After Effects Workflow Sample (2/3), rrgonzalez.com

Next, I imported each scene into their own composition, just in case I had to edit any of the scenes separately. It may have been an extra step for some people, but I feel like I would have more control for special effects. With all of the scene compositions, I imported all of those into another composition (MASTER_COMPILE). Because I had the timing from the MASTER_TEST composition, it was easy to reflect that onto the MASTER_COMPILE composition.

After Effects Workflow Sample (3/3), rrgonzalez.com
After Effects Workflow Sample (3/3), rrgonzalez.com

In the last step of my process, I take the MASTER_COMPILE composition and import into a new composition (MASTER) so I can place last minute effects upon the whole video. As you can see in the picture above, I have various effects and a modified jpeg above the MASTER composition.

I will be going more in depth with the effects I used in this animation in the next blog post, so please look forward to that!

Until next time!

 

Animations (Part 2)

I’ve been doing some rough animations, rough renders, and final renders to get a better idea on how our main protagonist, George, and the secondary characters should move. And I can’t forget the movements of the environment (interior and exterior).

I also referenced my rough animation file for timing purposes. Because the rough animation was literally single rendered shots elongated to X amount of frames, I counted how long each frame was to adjust the frames in 3dsMax. A very timely task, but definitely helped me stay consistent.

I’ll go through the first couple of scenes and share the various trials I went through to achieve the overall look of the animation and where I want it be.

Scene 01:

Scene 01 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Scene 01 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

This scene was pretty simple. It’s a basic camera panning across the sky box/dome. I kept in mind that the main title sequence will be placed on top of this as a background, so I’ll probably add a blur effect when the title comes in.

Scene 02:

Scene 02 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Scene 02 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Basic panning downwards to view the house. I didn’t quite notice until I rendered out the final animation, but 3dsMax slightly glitched and rendered the grass without the UVW map I applied to it. (And I also forgot to apply the moving plant animations…) So re-rendering is required!

Scene 03:

Scene 03 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Scene 03 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

In the previous meeting with my advisor, Todd Fechter, I originally had the camera panning across the three windows to view the interior of the house. But in the rough animation, there was so much panning that did make sense, so I adjusted it to where we would pan upwards to see George laying on the couch. Which works a lot better because we are focusing more the protagonist than the house, because you know… the house is just there.

Scene 04-01:

scene_04-01
Scene 04-01 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Originally had the camera slightly off center of George when we pan towards him. But by good suggestion from my advisor, I centered the target of the camera and had it pan around George. This was a great improvement because we are officially introducing our protagonist without having to play with too many camera tricks. Simple is usually better in this case!

Scene 04-02:

Scene 04-02 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Scene 04-02 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Here is the second shot of Scene 04. George perks up, looks over, and jumps off the couch. I liked how this short animation came out because in the previous shot, he’s very stagnant because he’s just waking up. But when he awakes, he’s his bouncy self, how I wanted to portray him.

Scene 05-01:

scene_05-01
Scene 05-01 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

This scene was a bit tricky. I had to have George jump/hop onto the edge of window sill, and because his rig isn’t the best, I had to really play with the controls to make it work. It could use a bit more adjusting, but I’ll make it work. I also slightly adjusted the camera, just from framing purposes. (And I remembered to animate the plants!)

Scene 05-02:

scene_05-02
Scene 05-02 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Here is the second shot of Scene 05. Because of the previous shot of his back, I wanted to view him from the window to show his face and how excited he is to be awake, to be part of the world, and how simple life can be. (Something I personally tend to forget.) I love animating his face, so this scene was fun to do.

Scene 06:

scene_06
Scene 06 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

In this shot, we focus on the exterior of the house where we see the neighbor and his dog taking a normal walk down the sidewalk. It was a little weird animating the neighbor and the dog due to the fact that the sidewalk in not even/flat. But I liked how this shot came out. The shot still seems a little stagnant, even with the subtle plant animations, so I’m probably going to add a few particles flying in the air to give it more of an environment that is believable.

Scene 07:

scene_07
Scene 07 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

We go back to the same camera from Scene 05 and have George jump off the window sill. While I was rendering the final animation, 3dsMax glitched again and rendered without one of my lights from the living room, that’s why it seems so dark. So I have to re-render this scene as well.

Scene 08:

scene_08
Scene 08 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Cut to a shot of a few items hanging, and we see George jump across the screen grabbing onto the leash. The motion blur I applied to render really helped because while I was doing the test renders, it just didn’t look right with out it. I have to adjust the piece of cloth those, it seems a bit too heavy when it moves.

Scene 09:

scene_09
Scene 09 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Here was have George landing with the leash in his mouth. I feel that this scene needs a lot of adjustment because of the leash. The leash is rigged on a spline, so I animated the spline vertices for movement, but it still looks a bit messy. But George came out pretty well. I had to adjust a bit of his movement because he was bouncing like he had too much sugar in his bowl of food this morning. The owners footing was a bit awkward at first, but I’ll more than likely adjust that as well.

Scene 10:

scene_10
Scene 10 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

The door opens to have George look outside and his mouth drops in disbelief. He was a bit too bouncy in this shot as well, so I referenced the timing in the previous scene to match the frames. Not too much trouble with this shot though, it’s actually one of my favorites.

Scene 11:

scene_11
Scene 11 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

In the rough animation, there was some mad turbulence when the canoe was floating above the water. This was due to the values in the Flex Modifier on the geometric plane. I adjusted them, and now the canoe floats normally. I animated the Canoe Man paddling and the neighbor’s dog, I was wondering if it was going to break or crash 3dsMax because of the huge amount of memory it was taking (water takes up a huge amount of memory), but luckily my computer could handle it. Rain effects and additional water effects will be added in After Effects.

Scene 12:

Scene 12 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Scene 12 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Cut back to the camera from Scene 10, and we see George’s reaction to the fact that he can’t walk outside even though it was literally shining brightly outside two seconds ago. The door slowly closes on him, and he slowly accepts that his walk will have to be delayed. I had to play with the camera here due to placement of the characters, but it came out well!

Scene 13:

scene_13
Scene 13 Cut, rrgonzalez.com

Scene 13 was actually omitted from the animation. I felt that this shot wasn’t really necessary and it kind of broke the flow that I originally wanted. So onto the next scene!

Scene 14:

Scene 14 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com
Scene 14 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

With another good suggestions from my advisor, I changed the camera angle for this shot. I tried to place the camera from Scene 04-01, but with the placement where George was on the couch, it didn’t quite fit. So I played a bit and found a medium shot of George’s back, and the view of the rain outside really showed in the simplest way why he was upset. I also had the camera pan upwards so we could see him walking sadly toward the couch.

Scene 15:

scene_15
Scene 15 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

A regular pan around the house. I plan to add the rain effects and additional water effects in After Effects. (AND I FORGOT TO APPLY THE PLANT ANIMATIONS IN THIS SCENE TOO.)

Scene 16:

scene_16
Scene 16 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Here we have a Close/Medium Shot of George walking; he looks really happy as he finally get his walk outside. I tried to play a lot with his bounciness when he walks and I like how he came out. I have to check the lights in this scene as well, I think 3dsMax likes to glitch while rendering at times.

Scene 17:

scene_17
Scene 17 Render Comparison, rrgonzalez.com

Final Scene! With another good camera adjustment suggestion from my advisor, I move the camera bit so when the quick zoom from the previous scene happens, the viewer doesn’t feel uncomfortable because the camera moved downwards. So this works out very well!

Apologies for not updating as much, but the final stretch is in full effect! I will be updating on the various trial and errors such as re-renders, editing, and effects.

Until next time!

 

Animations (Part 1)

In the recent weeks, I’ve been focusing on George’s movements and spending a lot of time with the curve editor in 3dsMax.

Although I can’t show anything of George at the moment because he’s still a work progress, I can show you the different subtle animations I will be applying, more specifically in the plants around the house.

Because I have two different types of wind (subtle breeze & strong wind), I isolated the plants into their own files so I could animate them freely and import them back into the appropriate scenes.

The plants were all animated with various Stretch and Twist modifiers on the X, Y, Z axis.

You can check out some of the plant animations below:

Plant Animation Gif (1), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (1), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (2), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (2), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (3), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (3), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (4), rrgonzalez.com
Plant Animation Gif (4), rrgonzalez.com
plant_05
Plant Animation Gif (5), rrgonzalez.com

On a side note, I am working with the mental ray renderer in 3dsMax. I wrote wrote down the settings and last minute adjustments for future reference:

  • BEFORE RENDERING!
    • Set Motion Blur!
    • Set Advanced Lighting Effects
    • Set 1280 x 720 Resolution
    • New Folder + Render Name
    • Mental Ray Values:
      • Image Precision: 1.0
      • Soft Shadows: Default
      • Glossy Reflections: Default
      • Glossy Refractions: Default
      • Final Gather: Medium
      • Trace Bounce Limits:
      • Reflections: 4
      • Refractions: 6
      • FG Bounces: 0

A few of these values were slightly adjusted for render time. For example, a few scenes do not have any geometry that have glossy reflections or refractions, so I turn them off.

In the next update, I’ll be going through each scene and sharing each experience with animating, editing, trial, and errors. Keep in mind that a few renders will not be complete, but I’ll be willing to share what I have.

 

The 3D Animated Rough Draft

It’s been awhile since my last update on A Day with George.

I built all the 3D assets I needed to complete, and began placing cameras. I didn’t quite get around to designing the title’s animated logo or the promotional poster design, but I did complete the 3D animated rough draft!

In the 3D animated rough draft, I animated specific keyframes for each scene, rendered in 3dsMax, and adjusted frame timing with Adobe After Effects. A few tweaks are needed, but that’s all in due time. I plan to render the final animation at 30fps at 720p, but for now a low resolution render at 30fps at 640p will do.

And here it is (no sound):

I didn’t run into many technological problems in the past month that caused me to pull my hair out in frustration. I just found the timed animation adjustments a bit time consuming in itself. A few times 3dsMax crashed itself due to some weird material rendering and glitching modifiers.

A Day with George Rough Animation (1/3)
A Day with George Rough Animation (1/3)

I’ve mentioned how important it was to keep my animated storyboard as a reference, but to be honest, I changed about 30%-40% of the camera shots, and added a bit more subtle animation. Because originally, when I followed the storyboard, my shots were too long, they weren’t visually pleasing, and a lack of a better word: boring. So I tried to keep a continuous video beat and changed camera shots when I could.

A Day with George Rough Animation (2/3)
A Day with George Rough Animation (2/3)

Overall, I am pretty satisfied on how the animated rough turned out. After viewing the rendered 3D rough draft, there are a few adjustments that need to be made (i.e. plants moving in the wind, George’s tongue flopping around, the secondary characters on the shaky canoe, etc.). And of course the addition of sound!

A Day with George Rough Animation (3/3)
A Day with George Rough Animation (3/3)

Side note: I am extremely happy how organized I have been in production pipeline since I started this animation, it honestly saved my life a couple times when I needed to find the right .max file to import animations. I would of thrown my computer out of the window if something went terribly wrong.

I don’t plan to lose the momentum of this animation anytime soon, there’s a lot to be done! So until the next update!

Thanks for viewing!

Camera Set Up & Screen Shots (Part 2)

In continuation from a previous blog update, I placed more cameras for various scenes in the environment. Please keep in mind the following screen shots are test renders at a low resolution.

A Day with George Camera_06 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_06 Test, rrgonzalez.com

Here we have the Canoe Man and his dog walking along the sidewalk of George’s home. (I left them in their default poses just for placement purposes.) You can see little George gazing out the window in the distance.

A Day with George Camera_08 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_08 Test, rrgonzalez.com

In this screen shot, we have George in mid-air; jumping for his leash on the hook rack. Because this scene is not animated yet, it seems very posed due to the lack of motion blur. Once I do start key frame animating, motion blur will definitely be a plus!

A Day with George Camera_09 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_09 Test, rrgonzalez.com

After George grabs his leash, he patiently sits in front of his owner so they can go for a walk outside.

A Day with George Camera_10 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_10 Test, rrgonzalez.com

In this screen shot, we see George’s reaction to the sudden change in weather outside. The Owner wasn’t originally in the shot, but due to the placement, I thought it worked well. I can animate her legs as if she’s shocked as well.

A Day with George Camera_11 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_11 Test, rrgonzalez.com

The camera suddenly zooms out to the view of the house surrounded by water. We also have the secondary characters (in default poses for placement once again) on the canoe. Rowing down the “road.” (I will be adding rain when keyframe animating begins for this scene.)

A Day with George Camera_16 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_16 Test, rrgonzalez.com

George happily walks outside! But..

A Day with George Camera_17 Test, rrgonzalez.com
A Day with George Camera_17 Test, rrgonzalez.com

…he’s actually on a treadmill.

These are the main cameras that I needed to place. The other cameras tests (i.e. 12-15) are the same camera placements but with different animations. There are a few things I have to do, such as the animation logo design, promotional poster design, and render, and of course the test animations. So please expect those elements in later updates!

Thanks for viewing!

Water Textures & Rigs

The first time I worked with water in 3D was with 3dsMax with the Glu3D plug-in a few years back. The particle system not only crashed my computer multiple times, but also really stressed me out. Like rigging, particle systems is not one of my strong points. So to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to working with water.

This past year, I worked with water and particles in Houdini. The user interface was a bit more user friendly than the water systems I previously used. You can check out my low resolution water test in Houdini below:

But luckily, in the “A Day with George” animated short, there are no intense splashing like in the Houdini Water Test. So I only really needed to focus on the steady waves, reflectivity, and light in the environment. I ended up adjusting a default mental ray material in 3dsMax to create the body of water around the elevated land.

Water Test Render, rrgonzalez.com
Water Test Render, rrgonzalez.com

I was having a bit of trouble getting the water to appear darker as the water got deeper. I played with different adjustments, and couldn’t achieve what I visually wanted. Then I came up with a simple solution: I copied and pasted different planes with a darker blue and higher opacity beneath the original water plane. Like so:

Water Texture Layers, rrgonzalez.com
Water Texture Layers, rrgonzalez.com

Therefore, my water looked much more believable! You can check out the layer comparisons here.

Rendered Water, rrgonzalez.com
Rendered Water, rrgonzalez.com

So the water looks pretty good, but I have a canoe on top of the water. I would like some sort of water movement when the canoe is floating and moving. Luckily I found this really helpful website that shows you how to rig and apply a Flex Modifier on a plane with a plug-in to generate water-like ripples.

The website provides a step by step tutorial to create buoyancy with a reactor in 3dsMax. I had to set up the 3D space myself since their link to download the .max file wasn’t working, but I didn’t run into any problems.

Water Ripple Test, rrgonzalez.com
Water Ripple Test, rrgonzalez.com

Shawn Lewis from Script Spot, released a MaxScript called Follow Surface which allows objects float on the water with very little work. I ran this script and was surprised how well it worked. It did slow my computer down while I was trying to see the outcome in my viewport, but once I started working with the cache, everything went pretty smooth. Here’s the water rig test:

Follow Surface Script Test, rrgonzalez.com
Follow Surface Script Test, rrgonzalez.com

Although the teapot seems a bit sporadic on top of the water, a few values in the flex modifier just need to be slightly adjusted in the actual environment.

Canoe w/ Follow Surface Script, rrgonzalez.com
Canoe w/ Follow Surface Script, rrgonzalez.com

In the screenshot above, you can see a slight flex when the canoe touches the water. I feel this still needs to be adjusted, but I’m really glad everything went a lot smoother than anticipated. I was worried I would be spending hours upon hours trying to get water to behave the way I want it to.

Rendered Canoe on Water, rrgonzalez.com
Rendered Canoe on Water, rrgonzalez.com

I will be updating my blog with more camera set ups and test renders like in my previous update.

Please look forward to them!