Wander Well — VFX short

Featuring characters and ships from across multiple centuries, Wander Well is a celebration of exploration realised as a self-portrait project that could be filmed in isolation during the 2020 lockdown. Live action character plates were combined with fully digital landscapes and ships, along with a lot of compositing work.

3D models were primarily licensed under Creative Commons Attribution, please click through to Vimeo for the full credits list!

All 3D elements were rendered in Blender using a combination of Cycles (first shot and all background plates), Eevee (volumetrics and effects), and Radeon ProRender (all of the ships, from sea-faring to space-faring). Everything was composited in After Effects, and I used some custom filters built in FxFactory + FxCore to create some of the skin processing, lens optics, and lighting effects.

The first shot was rendered entirely in Blender, using a PNG sequence for the rotoscoped character.

The rest of the shots take more of a composited approach, using Blender to create background plates using assets from World Creator and Scatter, animated ships from SketchFab, and elements like blowing dust using fluid sims and Eevee.

I used Radeon ProRender for all of the ships, from sailing to space. I really like the uber shader setup, and the GPU acceleration was super helpful as I did pretty much the entire project on my MacBook Pro and Razer eGPU with an MSI 5700 XT.

The nebula scene was the most complicated, requiring interactive lighting to be rendered for all of the different pieces! The nebula visuals themselves were created using Eevee and a self-distorting texture system that gave me realtime results. But for the background plate rendered in Cycles and the ISS rendered in ProRender, I used multi-coloured luminous geometry as lighting sources. With a TON of compositing, it all seemed to come together ok!

I was super excited to present the making of this project at the November Mograph Mondays Detroit event, a monthly meet up for motion graphic artists in the Michigan Detroit Metro area.

You can read more about the project and check out the Mograph Mondays presentation and Q&A recording over on my portfolio post.


Awesome work! Very well done.

I thought I recognized the user name and looked at your portfolio ( very nice , by the way) and noticed you’re an old Lightwaver like me. :+1:

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Thank you so much! And indeed I am. 15 years of production in Lightwave, switched to Modo in late 2018, then Blender in 2020. :smiley: Always good to see a familiar face around here.

Modo is a natural step as a Lightwaver why did you switch to Blender?
I just jumped straight from Lightwave to Blender and never been happier. :grinning:

are a lot of old Lightwavers and also modo users here, so you can feel right at home.

Modelling in Modo was great, no doubt! The similarities to Lightwave made it an easy switch, and the procedural toolset was a huge step up.

But I just didn’t like the shading system, the node based editing was far too clunky, I never once got Radeon ProRender to work (the entire app was pretty unstable), and I ended up not trusting Modo as a primary production solution. On top of all that, I couldn’t justify the licensing cost for personal projects.

After the 2.80 redesign, it was hard to argue with free. I first used Blender as an augment to Modo modelling, and from there it turned into the primary production solution (rough going at first, but I pushed through, and it was worth it). I still have Modo installed at work but I don’t really use it anymore. Blender isn’t as capable in some areas (there are things I miss from both Lightwave, like the far more usable texture nodes, and Modo, like the procedural selection toolset), but Blender is equal or better in most areas…and that’s what made the difference.

I agree, but with every version Blender closing those gaps more and more… As long as it does 80% of the things you do most equal or better than modo or LW it’s a win. I feel that Blender has opened up for much better and fun workflows compared to LW. I love features like video editor and grease pencil that enables completely new ways of working compared to Lightwave.

In my productions this past summer it was all about the python (with extensive community support), render passes, and curves! Was able to create rigs and workflows for client projects that wouldn’t have been possible and/or as easy in Lightwave or Modo.

Great animation, very stylish and well put together. Great concept too :+1:

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Thanks for checking it out, I’m glad you liked it!

Great directing of photography, colors, composition and camera cuts. Also lighting style and mood were on point. Also excellent choice of music too.

Excellent work mate.

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Same here, my first Blender projects involved animated text and that was just impossible or too cumbersome in LW so I used animation nodes i Blender and was blown away of the ease of use.

@melvi Thank you so much for checking it out! Really glad you liked it. A ton of work, but lots of fun to do.

@Ztreem Nice!

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