CG Effects for live action Feature Film

It’s been a while since last time I checked this thread, I love those bathtub shoots. Have you considering using Bone studio’s build? Maybe is not available for Mac but if you know how to build blender you could probably apply some of their patches. Branched pathtracing, scrambling distance, dithered sobol and adaptive sampling could lower your render times on cycles.

Thank you bloox64 for all this info. Unfortunately I’m really not tech savvy. I understand most things, which have to do with images and rendering. But everything that works ‘under the hood’ is a miracle to me. :wink:
I will check out the Bone studio build. Is it a fork of Blender?

Same for me, actually you’re lucky, there’s a build for mac based on a 2.81 daily build from back in august. https://blender.community/c/graphicall/dfbbbc/

Wow, absolutely amazing work! I can’t believe you have been doing 3D work for such a short time. Extremely impressive, great results, produced fast. It puts a lot of us other “dabbling with this for years” to shame :slight_smile: I look forward to seeing more.

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Thanks a lot Gustav. That’s very kind and motivating.

I think we all got different qualities.
I totally suck with physics for example. :sweat_smile:

by they way, I’m looking forward to your film!!

Yeah! After being super busy with commercial projects for the last few weeks - I finally found time to work on my feature again.
This time it’s about a tunnel driving scene.
Yep… tunnels seem to be a little fetish of mine. :wink:

I needed a ‘driving through an endless tunnel’ shot for my film.
Unfortunately Bangkok, where we shot the movie, offers lot’s of great locations - but cool tunnels are not amongst them.
So - it’s Blender time!


It’s pretty easy to create a tunnel in Blender - I discovered a really cool technique doing so, though.
And I’d like to write about it here.

As I wanted the tunnel’s walls and ceiling to be covered with tiles, I had to find the best way of doing it.
Only bump maps make the tiles look too flat. Especially reflections would look too boring.
And real (micro-) displacement for all the tiles would be almost impossible for a big location like this. It would create an enormous amount of polygons.
Micro-displacement is kind of absurd for strictly graphical patterns like tiles, anyway.

So I came up with a very simple and easy way to create good looking tiles, without wasting any polygons. This approach is soooo simple, that many people might use it. But since I’ve never seen it in any tutorials, I thought it might be worth mentioning here:

At first I subdivided my walls and the ceiling (with loop cuts!) until I got subdivisions of the size of the tiles, I’m planning to have. I just guessed how big I imagine them to be.
Then I added the tile texture. And in the UV editor I simply match the size of the subdivisions to the size of the tiles on the texture.
Then I selected all the edges, beveled them to get two edges instead of one. (So the two lines of the bevel are at the edges of the dark lines between the tiles on the texture.)

I then selected all the squares (by selecting one and ‘select similar - area’), and extruded them out a little bit. Finally I selected some random squares and rotated them slightly. I did that a few times with different squares and rotations.
(Another options is to select one vertex and pull it upwards with proportional editing enabled and set to random. The influence should cover the whole object/surface. This is a super fast way - BUT afterwards you have to reset all tiles to ‘planar’. Otherwise you get triangular reflections, as the tiles are ‘invisibly broken up’ in tris.)


This way you get very organic, real looking tiles - with the least amount of geometry.
And you have full control of how perfect or how wild and messy your tiles are arranged.
For this scene, I made the tiles quite messy, since the motion-blur will make it less visible.
I also ‘removed’ a tile here and there, to make it look more real. As if they would have been fallen out.

Since this scene will always be in motion, I did not bother with little details. Just modelled the basics.
Also the road texture, which is not very high-res, is no problem. The motion blur will cover a lot.
I also didn’t care to scatter little stones or trash at the edges of the road. (For a still picture it would need it!)


I actually even ‘tiled’ the road texture, to give it more depth. But there I adapted the loop cuts to the texture (and not vice versa as with the other tiles), since the tiles are so big.

A bigger problem I had was the render times. And this needed me to get a bit creative.
As one single frame took almost 3 hours to render, I needed to make the scene loop-able after a rather short time. (That’s why the phone and the vents repeat so often.)
This way I only had to render 50 frames and could loop them endlessly.
It worked perfectly well - apart of the end of the tunnel, which jumped ‘back to start’ after each loop.
So I simply rendered the end part of the tunnel with a tiny render region for 200 frames. That went very quickly, actually. Then I copied it into the looped main render in after effects.

To save geometry I built one tunnel section only (about 25 meters) and used instances to create the rest of the tunnel. To achieve an endless tunnel I placed a mirror on each end of the tunnel. This saves a lot of geometry and works pretty well. Obviously, I see the head lights (which follow my camera) approaching in the mirror at the far end. That’s why I needed the little trick with the render region.

For the final animation I will add depth of field, ‘atmosphere’, subtle lens flares and some color correction in After Effects.

So…next will be creature animations…and cloth physics!
(PHYSICS?!..oh my…!!!) :cold_face:

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Great work as usual.

Thanks for the info, too… really helps in learning different ways to get more into a render with less geometry. :+1:

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Thanks a lot Cire.

I was hoping this tile technique might be useful to others. It seems so simple and obvious, that I’m a bit puzzled, I did not see it mentioned in any tutorials.
I did quite a few scenes with tiles before, and feel a bit embarrassed, I did not come up with this before. Would have been really helpful, then! :sweat_smile:

Just a tiny preview of what I’m working on now…

I have to do several creature animations.
First the creatures are covered with burlap, then the burlap layer rips off more and more.
And finally the creatures completely disintegrate.
This here was just a first rough cloth physics test, in the viewport.

Oh boy, I have strongly mixed feelings about physics. :woozy_face:
I looooove it when it works…but I’m desperate, when it doesn’t. :rofl:

Here is a short video of the tunnel animation.
It’s downscaled to 2k, to match the upload limits. (Original is 4K and 14 sec. It can also be looped endlessly.)

Since I kind of like it…I decided to to another animation - this time looking to the side.
Got to keep my machine busy!! After all, I’m the only one allowed to sleep at night!! :wink:

This will roughly be the perspective… (I render it slightly oversized so I can zoom in and keep rotating it in After Effects. I can’t do that here, as I will have to be able to loop it after 3 seconds.)


I will slightly rework the ceiling vent, as we gonna be closer now. (Even though there will be lot’s of motion blur and the whole thing will probably be just a grey swoosh. Simply can’t keep my hands off it…)
For this scene, I can easily do the motion blur later, in After Effects, by the way. That means I don’t need too many samples, as it will get blurred anyway. So I can render this sequence with 1000 instead of 2000 samples.
I will render this animation at only 66% of the speed of the first one. Since the motion will be much ‘faster’ in this kind of perspective anyway.

And just for fun…one last picture of this tunnel. Let’s call it the ‘Zen’ version.

But now I really have to get going with that cloth physics… :grimacing:

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I’m really digging this, keeps looking better with each update! I travel extensively for work and with nearly every tunnel I’ve come across, I’ve always been inspired to make a scene just like this. Had planned to use the exact technique that you had outlined, just never got around to doing it. Turned out exactly as I had imagined, looks great! The reflections from the angled faces of the tile are really what sells it!

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Thanks a lot, Ben!

Oh yeah, tunnels can be really mesmerising. I could look at a loop of a tunnel animation for an hour. Has something meditative. :innocent:
And tiles are simply an extremely thankful ‘material’. With few polys they can look organic and real.
Tunnels & Tiles - a winner combination. :grin:

You should also do a tunnel scene. It’s really fun and rewarding. Would be interesting to see, what your tunnel would look like…

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A tiny little update, today.

As I’m mostly focusing on editing, at the moment, I don’t do much CG.
But some things are essential for editing. And it turns out that CG can help me here as well.

As the timing of principal shooting was very tight, we kept some close shots for a reshoot at a later time.
Hmmm…which got me thinking…why not do them in CG as well. :wink:

One of them is a close shot of an old photograph our lead actor looks at.

So I did it very quickly in Blender. (Much quicker than a reshoot.)


(Pure render, without noise and lens effects.)

The photograph was a clean digital picture, by the way.

Noise modifiers create natural, organic hand and camera movements. They’re extremely helpful.

For the background I super roughly extruded a film still. Just to get a little perspective shift, when the camera moves.

It’s not perfect yet, but already looks ok. And it let’s me move on with editing.
So…thanks Blender…again. :heart_eyes:

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little update…
I’m currently grinding through 20+ creature shots.
Nothing too exciting. But it will add to the atmosphere of the film.

These are two easy shots. Later ones are more complicated.
The floating creatures symbolise the voices in the head of one of the lead characters.


(Original video files are 4K. This video is a highly compressed 2K file, unfortunately.)

Creatures are modelled in Blender - and composited in After Effects with Element 3D.
It’s easier to add little imperfections (heat haze), blurs and grain this way.

I have to admit, though, that I never really looked closely at Blender’s compositor, as I know After Effects. So it’s faster for me to do it there.

For some more complicated shots I will render the creatures in Blender, though…

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Quick cloth simulation test…

A ripped cloth/burlap wrapping a character going crazy.
Oh boy, I’m currently learning a lot about cloth/dress physics. One of the few subjects, which is hardly covered in good tuts, I noticed. (Or haven’t found them.)

After a bit of a fight it seems to work very well now, though. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

But more about that later…

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i rate this topic a 10/10 :raised_hands:

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Thanks a million, my friend! That’s too kind. :pray:

I think you made me blush… :blush:

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Here’s a little video, what my crazy creatures look like in the film.
(obviously downscaled and highly compressed.)

It’s actually great fun using cloth sim this way. It adds so much ‘life’ and chaos to the animation and makes it look much more ‘real’.

But on the way, to get there I encountered several issues, I guess most noobs bump into. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
Like having overlapping vertices in the cloth mesh, which completely freaks out the physics system.
Luckily this issue is easily solved, once you found out about, that is. (Just merge vertices by distance.)
Another super simple solution, once you know about it: the subdivision of the cloth has to be identical for the viewport and the render, when you bake the sim!! Otherwise your cloth will go bazooka.

In some less wild scenes I pinned parts of the cloth to the creatures. This was more of an emergency solution, though. It was the only way, to ged rid of jittering parts of the cloth in slow, calm animation. As soon as cloth is hanging it’s perfect. But the parts constantly laying onto a complex collision mesh (the creature), just keeps wobbling slightly. Obviously the higher the subdivision of the cloth the less obvious. But I could never get rid of it entirely. So I had to pin these parts.
If anyone has a solution for this jittering issue, I would be very thankful to hear about it.

In general, it would be amazing if someone could make a tutorial about all the issues you might run into when doing cloth sims (on characters especially). And about all the values and their actual effects in the cloth physics tab.
And hey…if you can fit all of it into one minute…even better! Ha, ha, ha.

I render the creatures in Blender as transparent PNG sequence - and then composit them in After Effects. I only use the real life footage in Blender as camera background pictures - as a reference for camera lenses, angles and lights.
To render the creatures I have to use Eevee, by the way. (As seen in this clip above).
Cycles render times would be almost manageable, but would slow down the whole process extremely. I prefer to keep moving and experimenting, which is only possible with Eevee.
Luckily there is a trick to get object motion blur in Eevee by using a vector pass from Cycles.
(Thank you Dylan Neill for the great tip and tut.)
This instantly lifts the animation on a different level.
Unfortunately the alpha channel is not blurred correctly and the motion blur is not transparent enough. But it works ok in my rather dark scenes. It actually creates a special kind of ‘look’.
But maybe somebody knows how to blur the alpha channel perfectly when using this trick?
Would be super helpful…please…anyone?? :wink:

So…now I wanna have some more fun with crazy, wild cloth frenzies!! :smile:

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Oh, one more thing!! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

As the longest render times are used for baking the cloth sim, I made the animation quite a bit longer than needed for one shot. Then I let the cloth bake over night, or during lunch. (Well…‘my’ lunch might be dinner for other people, ha, ha, ha.)
So I can use different parts of the baked animation for several, continues shots.
As it’s not possible to move the baked cloth sim, without breaking it, I rigged the whole scene (camera, lights, floor & ceiling bounce surfaces and so on) to an empty which is positioned exactly where the creature is. This way I can easily circle the creature with the camera without moving the baked cloth sim. The whole ‘set’ basically moves with the camera around the creature.
Easy and quick to do multiple angles and framings this way. (Obviously when the camera get’s closer, I only move the camera, not the whole scene.)


One Empty controls the whole scene (except the creature with the baked cloth sim).

This approach seemed much faster and easier than all the other solutions I read about (exporting the baked sim or turn it into shape keys). At least in this case here, with such a simple scene.

Btw, one thing I’m really, really missing in Eevee for this kind of work is a real shadow catcher function.
The workarounds (basically luma-keying a shadow on a white surface) often don’t work in my cases.
And pleeease…dear devs…don’t make me create a green screen set in CG! :rofl:

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Another little chapter in my quest for cinematic ‘gory’. :wink:

Unfortunately this time, I have to talk about the first real problem I ran into. An issue I could not solve so far. Just when I thought I grasped the basic challenges and possible issues of cloth simulation - I got slapped in the face and told otherwise.

So please, please, if anyone is experienced with cloth sim and could imagine what the problem might be - your help will be greatly appreciated!! My endless love and affection will be yours to behold!

I just quickly want to mention it here, as I explained it in detail in a separate topic:

The problem is, that a cloth sim would not bake nor cache. If I try to do so Blender either freezes (caching) or pretends to work… but actually does nothing (baking). This might be common in politics - but for a software that’s not a wonderful feat.
The strange thing is, that I tested an early version of the cloth, which worked perfectly fine. Then I extended and refined it, and actually made the mesh look much better - but it doesn’t work anymore.

Here’s a little video of what the test looks like:

Old version - No Problemo

New Version - Problemo!

Anyone has a clue what the problem might be?

EDIT:
The answer is…eh…yeahhhsomehow.
User Photox gave me a great tip for a workaround!! Kudos to him again. :pray:
(Append the cloth sim in a new project.)
So it works now!! Yippie! Bakerman is baking bread…again! :grin:
I still don’t know what the problem was - but…hey…who cares! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: