Finally after two months (spare time) of hard work, headaches, passion, patience, blending, much blending!!.. Here’s “Before It’s Too Late”. I hope you enjoy it and it makes something positive on everybody. I know it’s short, but definitely longer than the previous one, and I plan to keep increasing progressively the difficulty on my animations, and maybe one day I can make something long along with a good direction.
Some guys already commented about the smoke, yes, it’s a bit off and I could work more on it, bake times are so time consuming and smoke in Blender is not so straightforward… I don’t know how I didn’t realize … Unfortunately it would take too long to render again.
This was a great opportunity for me to test some of the textures and materials from Friendly Shade (http://friendlyshade.com/), an online library of textures and materials for CG artists I am working on.
Friendly Shade Texture/Materials Website : https://www.friendlyshade.com/ (50% off coupon for all purchases to early subscribers)
Friendly Shade Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/friendlyshade/
Friendly Shade Twitter : https://twitter.com/friendly_shade/
Read the whole article : http://sebastianzapata.com/portfolio/before-its-too-late/
… Or keep scrolling until your fingers are burned!
This simply deserves a title here just because I learned a lot. Remember this: Think of your scene exactly as it would be a film work! You will need to cheat the lighting, you can’t depend only on an HDRi sky if you want to achieve a movie look, give it a mood, play with colors, etc. You have to think you have a real world, with a real camera and real studio lights (even if it’s outdoors!) movie productions in reality use big lights, modifiers, etc in order to accentuate, improve or change the look of the scene, they don’t depend only on the sun and sky, actually they cheat pretty much all the time… This will give you more control, it can even reduce render times, that’s a fact. For example: I wanted to add dust particles in my scene and make them crearly visible in the screen (A way I thought I could evoke loneliness) but you know they are not visible if there’s not a very bright light source enlightening them, ideally you want two things… Sharp sun and volumetrics… the HDRi didn’t work, I had to change all the settings I already had in my sky to end up having nothing… the sun lamp was not a solution, it changed all the lighting in the background and it was a total mess since it enlightens all equaly, and having a volumetric shader in the whole world just increased my render times and noise (also was causing troubles with the smoke in the buildings, maybe a bug… I’m not sure). The solution: I used two spot lamps, one to simulate the sun (same direction as the HDRi sun) and another one for filling the other side of my piece of scene and give it a little bit of color, then I added a not too big cube (just enough so I filled the whole frame) with volumetrics and I put a plane inside emitting dust, the result… STUNNING, I kept the rest of the scene how I wanted and my focused elements just with the desired look.
Yes, it was a pain in the butt, in fact I had 8GB of RAM and my scene was requiring 16GB so that’s I had to buy 4x8GB sticks and then the pain was gone. But, you know cheap gpus don’t have all that amount of memory, mine have 4GB so obviously I had to render with cpu.
Render times… hmm the close-up frames were taking about half an hour to render, and each shot was roughly 6 seconds (24fps/200-400 samples/Full HD) which means 3-4 days to render each one (yes, very frustrating)… But coincidentally I was participating in the Weekly CG Challenge at that moment and I won the first place so I choose one month subscription with Render St as one of the prizes… Well, it was a bit late, I had already rendered about 3 shots (2 weeks and a half of pain).
THE SMOKE, the smoke, the smoke. This was another chapter, you know smoke takes ages to render in Blender and the cache was so big (about 120GB) so apparently there was not a way to render it in a render farm and Render St was just starting to implement baking smoke in their servers, so I was f***ed. Then one they magically I got the great idea of rendering only the smoke locally and the rest of the scene in the render farm, so I split the scene into two files: One without the smoke and another one with Holdout shaders on the buildings (alpha masked) so I could put the smoke on top of the buildings smoothly… This ruined my compositing workflow in Blender so I had to render all in EXR, then mix both layers, add shadows, etc… and finally composite in Blender the glare and… yeah, only the glare haha!.. I’m not a huge fan of all the Blender nodes in the compositor… For example the chromatic aberration has some issues at the sides of the frame, the vignette can be created easier in other softs (which I will talk about later), etc. In the other hand I DO LOVE the color management in Blender, for example I highly used the Film View, Gamma, Look and curves which improved the look of the film a lot!
After Effects, I know, it’s not a free software but I love it for post-processing the stills and animations. I used a huge set of effects here along with plugins like Trapcode Particular and Magic Bullet. Here’s a list of some of the effects I used:
- Denoiser II : Yes, to get rid of all that awful noise in renders. Some renders had 200 others 400 samples because of the Render St 15 minutes limit per frame.
- Sharp : I like to sharp the renders sometimes because Blender kind of smooth them a bit.
- Magic Bullet Looks (Plug-in) : Anamorphic Flare, Chromatic Aberration, Vignette (multiplied), Colorista 3-way (which is kind of color grading)
- Magic Bullet MisFire (Plug-in) : MisFire Vignette (Burn) and MisFire Grain (sometimes only the noise effect from After Effects which gives a different effect than this one).
Music, CGi and Storytelling
This was a huge experience for me, I have a long time producing music, even longer than producing CGi but this was my first time combining my musical side along with my CGi skills.
I have to say the music I made inspired me to make these emotional shots but also the shots were the encouraging imagery for me to create the music, this clearly shows I don’t have any order for things here and I like how I worked in the music, then in the storyboard, then back again to music, so this is why they both ended up being so coordinated.
I split the song and film into 3 parts:
The “Intro”: which is the part where I only introduce the scene with close-ups. You are trying to understand what’s going on, where you are but you can’t because you are only seeing small segments of the scene, the song is very pasive at that moment, everything is introductory.
The “Middle” Part: You’ll start to see how devastated the place is with more general shots and you’ll get a better idea of how bad it is. Notice how dramatic the song becomes.
Finally the abandoned teddy with the weapon which is kind of “Outro”: The toy, which ever was holded by an innocent human but taken by another evil and power-hungry human, who destroyed an entire world including itself only to end up finding nothing. The song is passive again after all that chaos, showing you how opposite the teddy and the weapon are but how close they can be, only sadness here… And then chaos again.