CG Effects for live action Feature Film

yeah, what tutorials did you watch - (channel names)?
Your building looks gorgeous as it is. Very aesthetic. I can imagine you drive Davinci Resolve to finish your shots?

It was Andrew Price (BlenderGuru) who ‘introduced’ me to Blender. After first reading about Blender I watched one of his tutorials and thought, ‘Wow! This is amazing. Informative and entertaining. Lucky Blender users!’
At the same time I was sure, I would never achieve a level good enough to be able to use his tutorials. :wink:
After that I got hooked and I watched some of his, and dozens of other tutorials from basically all blender tutors out there. And I’m super grateful to each one of them! I think I got about 100 tutorials bookmarked by now.

I never followed one channel, by the way. I always looked for a specific tutorial, which helped me sort out and understand one specific issue. Often they were from young artists, which could be my children. Ha, ha, ha.
The most ‘creative’, funny and surprising tuts are from Ian Hubert, in my view. Simply amazing what he creates with very simple tools…and teach it in under 1 minute! Very inspiring.

I actually use Premiere and AfterEffects for post production. Most pictures here are pure Blender Renders, though. Without any post work. (Only for Eevee renders I add a bit of noise.)


Thanks for the reply JollyJumper. I hope you can get in contact with some users here on BlenderArtists, so you could get your purposed vision into designing, creating and enjoying the process. This is coming from an artist who’s used every 3d and compositing software under the sun. I get it when you mention “could be my children”.
I am sincerely happy for you, because your experience shows where you want to get producing your content in the end. I´m glad because you’ve made the jump.
Welcome aboard and than you for calling “1800-I love blender”.

1 Like

Hello again - today I’ll post something slightly different. No buildings, streets or trains, for a change.
Something more…‘artsy’, instead.

I started to test projecting real life footage onto distorted surfaces - to use as hallucination scenes.
There are so many possibilities and I barely scratched the surface yet.
I got some really cool ideas (so I think) and hope I’ll get the time to try them. Unfortunately such scenes are second priority - first I need to do the main work…then I can get artsy. :smirk:

Here are some first tests…

I also tested projecting footage onto buildings and highway bridges. It would look amazing - but the render times are enormous, unfortunately. (I don’t even have a decent render to show. They are all too noisy.) So I fear I might not have the time to do that. Bugger…

Let’s call this chapter ’ Eevee Plus’. :smirk:
As I’m still fighting with render times (an eternal struggle, I guess), and I’m not happy with the existing noise reducers (for animation!), I was thinking of another option to get good looking results in a reasonable time. It’s a super simple solution, but I hardly ever read about it, so I thought to mention it here: Combining Eevee with Cycles.

Here’s the situation - I have a 650 frames animation.
And since I’m on a Mac I can only use the CPU to render. (10 cores)
With Cycles the animation would take 12 days to render in good quality! (1000 samples needed, since it is a dark scene. 2K res, which I would blow up to 4K later on.)
Now, 12 days doesn’t sound amazing to me.
So I decided to render the scene with Eevee in full 4K, which takes less than a night - but looks too clean and fake.
Additionally I render the scene in Cycles with only 250 samples (2K). This creates quite some noise in parts of the picture, but takes ‘only’ 3 days.
So my total render times is about 4 days.

I then combine the noisy Cycles render with the Eevee render in Premiere. I do it, by mixing different parts and brightnesses of the Cycles images with different logical operations and transparencies to the Eevee images.
I use ‘screen’ for the bright parts. Those are usually pretty noisy, but don’t need much transparency to be visible (around 20% does the trick). ‘Darker Color’ I use for shadow parts. They can be more opaque. And then I mask out the least noisy parts of the Cycles renders and add them on top of it all. It takes a few minutes to do and gives me full control, of which parts of which render I want to be seen.

So this is a pure Eevee render:

And here is a combined render - Eevee with Cycles added to it:

It’s not a huge difference - but the Cycles render adds those ‘organic’ reflections, lights and imperfections, which make the final result look a bit more realistic, then a pure, overly clean Eevee render, I think.
(In the final comp I will add steam rising up from the bath tub.)

Obviously, this is only a solution for very specific situation. But for me here, it really helped.

By the way - this is the very first scene I ever modelled in Blender. :wink:


This is some good stuff. I am also going to make a CGI live action feature film in Blender.

Overall of your progress, your scenes are a bit dark don’t you think? Might have some lighting to turn up a bit with the lights (if someone already said this to you). Otherwise, this is a good progress with your film’s scenes. Keep it up.

I had the same idea: picture looks rather dark and Cycles adds some lights in the reflections. Tried to process the Eevee render with Photoshop. Only simple curve manipulations, no masks. Could be done with Blenders compositor. Here is a result. Of course, it is an artistic decision what kind of mood you want to show.

Thanks Daniel.

It’s funny to hear about the darkness from you…considering your nick! :wink:

Seriously, I think the brightness is a matter of taste…and monitors.
(obviously you were not the only one thinking the scene is too dark.)
Me personally, I like atmospheric, dark scenes. In this shot the camera will rise higher and higher and pan into the tiles, which will be almost completely black by then.
I like playing with dark parts and silhouettes in visuals. So my movie will be rather dark.

Besides the movie I’m mainly directing beauty commercials - there I have to shoot a lot of bright visuals. So I love to dive into dark imagery in my artsy works.

Wish you the best with your project!

hi seawolf, thanks for taking the time to work on my picture.

as mentioned before, I think the brightness is a matter of taste.
although for this scene it’s a bit different. Since it’s a scene out of a movie, it has to match the atmosphere of the shots before and after it. That’s were the mood comes from.

maybe the missing light sources in this scene are a bit irritating. that’s what makes the shot look a bit unnatural. there should be a neutral soft light from the top.
I had a lamp on the wall, but it didn’t look good (with eevee). so I removed it. maybe I have to rethink that.
unfortunately I can’t have light hanging down in the middle of the scene, as I’ll have ‘something’ floating upwards with the camera in the final comp.

Thank you for this idea. That’s a massive improvement, and seems to be a great way to get the best of both worlds. Your images look great, btw. Very interesting thread!

1 Like

thank’s a lot for the kind words, thorst!
I’m happy to hear that you like my thread.

I think render times are a big issue for many people - so every little idea is welcome. :wink:

If you have issues with aliasing, moire effect flickering and other artifacts like that you could render in an higher resolution and then scale it down using the appropriate algorithm to create a nicer image.
Increases rendertime, but also quality if you need more of the latter.

For you DoF issue, you could use Cycles to render out a depth pass and fake the DoF in post. Again, this increases the rendertime, but it might be a price worth paying.

1 Like

Thanks for your tips Romanji! Greatly appreciated.

The depth pass is definitely something I have to look into. It’s very high on my ‘to learn list’. I agree that this is surely a price worth paying. Hope it doesn’t take tooooo long to render, though.

How do you know about my moire issue? :wink:
Actually I don’t have a huge problem. A few moving lines, which I think would disappear with a 16bit render. As render times are really my biggest issue, I will try to get rid of them in post.

Hello dear Blender friends. Today I’d like to write about the biggest scene I’m working on:

1,5 km (!) of street scenery at the outskirts of Bangkok. Which will be used for a 700 frame animation.
It’s a flashback scene of a car accident which happened 18 years before the movie takes place.
At one of the principal shooting locations. So I had to rebuild this location, the way it would have looked like 18 years earlier.

Obviously such a huge scene works a bit differently than most of my other scenes. No wasting polys and plastering the place with as many details as possible.

Here it’s all about saving polys wherever possible. Treat them like precious diamonds.
Keeping the scene super low-poly….while still retaining enough details to sell it as ‘real’.
Otherwise the project size and render times would explode.
This resulted in a scenery I’m not really proud of, to be honest. Cause on still pictures, the reduced, low-poly approach has a cheap touch. Hard edges everywhere. Not enough details and variety. Which is a bit frustrating.

But this scene is only used as a driving scene background for green screen car shots. So there will be a lot of motion blur and it is only seen slightly out of focus. That means…. it should be pretty forgiving. :wink:

(This is a rough test composite with a low-sample render of the animation. Hence the fireflies and grain.)

I’m pleased with the render times, though. They are still manageable. And that was the main goal.

So this is how I did it:
I built one section of the highway bridge including the street below it, power lines, street lights, ad poles and all the greenery.
To keep the geometry as limited as possible I only used flat png-images for the plants. I duplicated them with array-modifiers. Then I placed loads of them in random order to create some kind of a jungle backdrop. I think that works ok.
For the ground I used a slightly deformed ground texture.
The ground, bridge, street, sidewalks, and so on are also very low poly. No chance for displacements unfortunately.
The one thing helping here are the textures, which I all shot myself, on location. (Apart of two which are from TextureHaven.)

I then instanced this one section over 60 times. Half of them on the right side, and half on the left.
(The ones on the left side I ‘mirrored’ by setting the y-size to -1.)
After that I added additional instances of ad poles, power cabinets and plants to break the repetitive nature.
And finally a few png images of buildings in the far distance.

(The thin, wide planes are fog images.)

Since the distance is way too long for volumetric fog, I used png-images of fog, which I placed randomly along the street. Since the camera is moving through them, I’m fading them out just as the camera is passing through them. Otherwise they would simply ‘cut out’, which would be disturbing and ugly.
As the distance is soo huge, I needed 40 transparency passes to make it work.

A downside of cheating the haze this way, is that there is no ‘real’ atmosphere to diffuse the light. This is especially important for such a backlight scene. The contrast gets unnaturally hard in the objects close to camera. And placing a soft bounce light/object for over 1 km of scenery is simply not possible. So I had to use a very subtle, blueish sunlight from the front to lighten up the shadows a tiny bit.
(For some of the pictures here I simply made the HDRI brighter.)

I then added a railroad crossing, and a few animated cars.
The railroad crossing plays an important part in the story, as the main car is crashing into a truck, right in front of it. (This might be another chapter. Although it will involve mostly compositing.)

For this scene I also needed a train passing, right when the camera approaches the crossing.

I tried to buy the railroad props online, but couldn’t find anything appropriate, in terms of quality, look and price. So I built them myself. Well….lowpoly… and only seen from afar….so it’s not really that much work. :wink:
And the benefit is, that they are now matching real Thai railroad props of that period.

With all the animated cars and train, the railroad crossing blinking and closing, it started too look like a miniature train set……and I started to feel like a little boy again. ha, ha, ha.
(The train is the same model as in the train graveyard, by the way. Just 18 years ‘younger’.)

The big downside of the flat plant and haze png-images is, that high angle shots, like these two below, are not possible. It’s a pity, but that’s how it is.

I am planning to use a section of this set, for another scene, though……with real 3D plants and more details. More on that in a later post.

I first built the length of the set to allow for a 60 kmh speed. Which seemed realistic for this kind of road. But it turned out to be too slow, too lame. So I doubled the distance and now have the ‘car’ driving at almost 120 kmh. This feels more dynamic and gives the accident at the end of the animation much more ‘bang’.

To set up and judge the camera perspective (we were not sure about the lense any more. Yep, I know….sloppy work on set.), I added a dummy car. Exactly the same model as the car in the movie. For the final render I deactivated it.

This made it much easier to get a feel for the framing and perspective.

As an additional detail I rendered a reflection pass for the rear window of the car. It shows the reflection of the highway bridge and the sky. For this I used a slightly curved mirror plane, which I placed exactly at the right position of my dummy car.

And finally…
I do most of my work on an iMacPro, but, ironically, I built most of this scene on an old 2013 MacbookPro with a 2GB GPU, while travelling.

  • ‘All fine. Just don’t hit the look-dev button. Dooon’t hit the look-dev button…don’t hit it…oh NO……… ok, coffee break…… toilet break…… dinner…… weekend-trip to Paris……. Yippie, Blender is back! Now careful, careful….don’t move the camera……oh NOOOOOOOOO!!!’!

After an endless last post - here’s now just some short fun stuff: :relaxed:

Did a quick, super-rough test of a CG version of my lead actress. To see if I would be able to do so and get a feeling of the time it would need and the results I could get.
Just took a make-human base mesh, re-modelled the face and projection mapped a film still on it. (that’s why the texture is totally off on the side.)
Tried it the ‘Lazy Way’…in the spirit of the great Ian Hubert. (Oh boy…he had me at ‘lazy…’)

Obviously it would need muuuuuuch more work. But with some effort and enough time, I think I could get it to work. To properly rig and animate facial features (mouth and teeth!) I would have to dive deep into dozens of tutorials, though. Got huge respect of that. Especially since I have never done it before. (Well, like almost everything I’m doing here…:smirk:)

Hmmmm…for me, as a director it would be extremely tempting to have CG versions of the talents ready for some wild dream sequences and/or hallucinations scenes. If only I had the time…

Oh Blender! Wherefore doth thee tempteth me with all these possibilities?!

Awesome project! You prove that ambition and creativity beats Blender experience. Keep up the great work.


Thanks a lot Meshmonkey! Super kind of you.

I think ambition is the key to many things in live! Nowadays almost anybody can achieve almost anything. Just follow the tutorials on youtube…

Bugger the one about how to become a millionaire keeps not working for me… :thinking:

1 Like

Today I’ll be a bit unfaithful…to Blender. Please, please forgive me. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I just wanted to show the first Teaser Trailer for the movie, I did a while ago:

The earth is done entirely with the free Videocopilot AfterEffects plug-in ‘ORB’.
Textures are from NASA.
Feather is shot for real (blue screen).

When I did this trailer, I did not know Blender, yet. I have to admit, though, that creating such an earth is simpler and faster with the ‘ORB’ plug-in, than with blender. Once you have the day and night textures set up, they react automatically to the sun/light position.
Micro-Displacement is not possible, though. And the max texture resolution is limited in After Effects.
(I don’t remember exactly, but I think the max I managed to use was 21K)


Great Job you are good at it already welcome to BLENDER . awaiting your next post, I enjoyed your use of diction.

1 Like

Thanks a lot Wisdom. Greatly appreciated.

Currently I’m super busy with TV commercial projects. So I hardly find the time to work on my feature these days, unfortunately.