VFX shot; Pacific Ocean flyover

Hello Blenderartists!

I’ve got a VFX shot project that I could really use advice/feedback on. It’s very ambitious but I thought I would give it my best shot before deciding it can’t be done.

Goal: I’m looking to create an approximately 20 second establishing shot, with the final product as close to photo-realistic as possible. The shot consists of a camera dolly-in as helicopters fly overhead toward a distant island in the Pacific Ocean. Not a particularly creative shot, but fun.

So far, I’m planning to make use of the Ocean modifier and Cycles. Being as I have very little experience with either, I watched a few CGcookie tutorials which gave me a good starting point. Below I have some renders from an afternoon of experimentation with placeholder models. Note that I’m using skymaps from David Keyes.

ToDo: Everything! :smiley: The main thing I’m looking for critique so far is on the general animation (camera in particular). I would like to get that reasonably finalized before I continue.

Questions and Challenges

  1. Are there ways to get better performance out of the Ocean Simulator? I tried the CGcookie suggestion of making a few different chunks at different resolutions, but the edges and repetitions are painfully obvious.

  2. I know I’m at a severe disadvantage when I try to render everything out in one pass, as I did here. What can I do to help improve performance/gain creative control?

  3. Since the water goes from closeup to a far shot, that presents quite a challenge in and of itself…is it even feasible to attempt this or should I instead stick with one distance or the other?

100% size ocean res 26 500 samples


50% size ocean res 18 500 samples



(Above picture uses an alternate ocean sim I set up with just one “chunk.” It solves the edge problem but chokes at higher resolutions)

rendered 50% size ocean res 10 15 samples

Thank you for looking, and I appreciate any critiques or suggestions! *Also, this is not quite the right place to ask, but if any Cycles/OceanSim/Compositor/Blender experts would happen to be interested in contributing in exchange for a VFX screen credit, I will happily discuss it with them. :wink:

something about the angle / scale is off. can’t quite put my finger on it.

You can clearly see from second 10 to 20, there was a division in the water and the island just wasn’t up to scale if you were to analyze it in real life.

I feel like you have the basics down you just need to work on tweaking and adding the details to make the scene appear real. There is a fantastic tutorial on realistic islands that you should check out on blender cookie. Also look into making the ocean a bit bigger in each division because you can see the horizontal breaks in the ocean.

Thought I would share a render from today’s work before I hit the hay. Managed to get some good changes in despite having a hard drive fail on me while I was working - the sky texture here is the only one I have left at the moment! Reworked the ocean meshes and put in actual helicopter models (legalities are hopefully okay?) Islands are still untouched, but they definitely need to look further away. The problem with the blender cookie tutorial on the island is that it uses Blender internal; are the principles somewhat transferable?

100% size 18 res ocean 400 samples


I’m rendering out another preview animation which I will put up tomorrow if I get a chance.

It’s really hard to say. Again, it looks like you have the basics down. But what really sells an effect like this are the subtle details (e.g. lens flare, light-wrap, atmospheric glow) which are usually “for free” when captured in-camera. I’d highly recommend studying shots like this from movies (Jurassic Park, for example) and photos to capture those happy accidents. At the end of the day, it’s all about lighting.

Well, here’s the animation I rendered out last night. I forgot to animate the wave motion, which explains why the render times weren’t that bad. Unfortunately, adding the animation brings rendering to a crawl, as might be expected. So now, I really need to figure out some optimization tricks.

ToDo:
I would agree that its the subtle effects that do the most to achieve realism, so I do plan to add the following if I can figure out how and resources permit.
-downdraft from helicopters (using dynamic paint to make a displacement texture??)
-subtle DoF - no camera can keep everything perfectly in focus
-atmosphere, especially at the horizon
-little bit of chromatic abberration
-light-wrap
possibly
-slight water spray from downdraft
-lens flare

Thanks for mentioning the Jurassic Park example; I’ve been trying to find examples but that one completely slipped my mind. Now to find a high definition clip of it…

This looks a lot better. I would say that you should use the wind(force-field) to create the downdrafts. Also I don’t actually think you need the ocean animated since it looked pretty good in the render. You can use most of the same principles from the island video with a little work to make the island come to life.

Actually I agree with Dacoolinus, the ocean looks just fine. This version is much better!

Also,here’s the shot I was thinking about from Jurassic Park, it even starts with the same ocean pan :wink:

I would also suggest making the island a lot bigger and more detailed, because even though it’s trying to appear off in the distance, it still looks like a tiny rock outcropping.

But overall, good work - it’s getting there!

last version is quite good. just work on the compositing textures details (add a camera shake as the helies fly by, maybe slight moke/heat distortion from helis)

aw the Jurassic clip ends as i was just getting into the movie, :stuck_out_tongue:

Test Render #3 - after getting a basic idea from the CGcookie Ocean sim/Cycles tutorial and with a bunch of trial and error, I started down the compositing road. Effects included so far are horizon haze, light-wrap/glare, chromatic aberration, and a tad of DoF (perhaps not enough, but its hard to tell at these preview sizes/samples rates).

ToDo:
-Islands - I’m still using the original placeholder models haha
-Animated ocean - not sure how I can do this while being render-friendly :frowning:
-Downdraft - dynamic paint failed miserably. How could I use wind forces with this? (forces only interact with cloth, softbody, and particles I thought)
-Something’s a little funky with the camera animation at the end, so I will try to do something with that.
-Helicopter animation is also a little stiff and could use some work.
-Helicopter blades. As we see in the Jurassic Park video, they look much different. I haven’t found any settings for Cycles motion blur…so I’m a little stuck.

just work on the compositing textures details (add a camera shake as the helies fly by, maybe slight moke/heat distortion from helis)

  • Nice ideas! I had actually thought of the heat distortion earlier but forgot about it. Camera shake is a great idea although I think it should be very subtle.
    -?? suggestions? I’m sure there’s a lot more. Performance tweaks for one.

Also, I tried throwing in a little lens flare in AE, but quickly realized that it will be a pain to animate, as there’s no way to track the motion that I can think of. Suggestions?

*PS. I’m really and truly impressed with Cycles now. I’m surprised with how well this is already looking, and I’ve only been using basic Cycles materials so far (with some messing around with bump-mapping…no idea what I’m doing)

100%scale 600 samples - I wanted to see what it looked like at full quality and after a little post in AE


Thanks for viewing!

None of us know what we are doing…We just teak settings until it works. Great job it looks really good. Blend the sky into the ocean a little bit more so it does not look like a straight line.