Dec 20, 2013

The Hunt (Process & Making Of)

Here's a short sequence I made with two amazing gals: Grace Lacuesta and Nicki Yee.
This was made in ANI 128B over the course of a few weeks. 


The Hunt (Short Sequence)
 from Youri Dekker on Vimeo.

Grace Lacuesta did the first shot, Nicki Yee the second, and I did the third. I was appointed team leader and also responsible for building and lighting the sets. 
A couple people have already asked me how we went about making the shots in terms of sets and rendering, so I figured I'd describe the process in detail below....

The first step was finding the idea and the story.
The assignment was to have a character climbing, and that was it.
I wanted to try something in the jungle and so we began looking for inspirational images. 

This single image of Tarzan was a huge influence on where we took our story and setting. 
The scale of this piece was so epic and grand, and so from that I wanted to try 
and capture something along those lines. 

Grace and Nicki had also found a few images of other artwork and photos.

At the same time we were developing our character, Yara (which means butterfly). Classy name, I know. 
As you can see from the description above, we wanted to get a sense of contrast in the scale of the jungle in comparison to Yara and the butterfly.
She also had to have an intention to her climb, which is where the idea of chasing and hunting something came into play. Insert and cute little butterfly that wakes her up form a nap and you have your story. 

video
From all that I went ahead and made a 2D animatic, really trying to focus on getting a variety of shots to make the sequence more interesting. 

When the animatic was approved I began to build the set in Maya. While I was doing this I was also thinking about what the final lighting of the piece would look like. We established that dappled light would look pretty neat, so what I did was place a textured PNG image onto a plane so that when the light would go though it, certain areas of our set would be hit with light, the others with shadow. 
Later on I also added a light green plane on the bottom of the set to allow for some more bounce light to hit the branches and character. 

video
Here's our first pass of blocking and setting up the layouts for the shots. 

video
And then another pass a few days following that. 
It's come a long way since then!

The Lighting and Rendering Process:

Here's some of Mental Ray's render settings we used. 
To render my work I use something called Image-Based Lighting. 
This is slightly similar to Maya's Physical Sun and Sky, but with IBL you have more control over the colors in your scene, and it doesn't give you that washed-out look that Physical Sun and Sky can sometimes do. 
Found under the Indirect Lighting tab, IBL creates a giant sphere around your scene. You then add an image  to that sphere (usually blurry with a gradation), turn on Final Gathering, and Maya will bounce light around your scene based off of the image place on that sphere, giving it immediate color.

Image-Based Lighting with no lights, just Final Gathering turned on. 

To simulate the sunlight I created a Directional Light. 
I ended up increasing the intensity quite a bit because the dappled light was blocking a lot 
of the highlights on the characters. 

At one point Nicki had the idea of creating light rays for our shots. 
Here was the set up for that. 

Spot Lights have a Light Fog effect you can place on them. One of the tricky parts here was tweaking the numbers in the attribute editor so that the rays weren't to prominent and distracting. 

Then the idea came up to have the light rays slightly move to simulate the leaves moving in the jungle canopy.
video
This was an earlier test I made where I translated the dappled light plane to see how it would effect the rays and objects in the scene. It was too much. 

In the end Nicki really toned down the intensity and movement of the rays in her shot. If you look closely you can kind of see it in her final piece; it's even more subtle than the image above. 

And that's that!
Put all that stuff together and you have the final render. 

Pretty cool right?
Yara seems to think so. 

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