There were so many fantastic VFX movies last year. From the (Hollywood) blockbusters such as The Avengers, The Hobbit, Prometheus or a film that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved; Looper, or even Total Recall that didn’t do so well at the box office but Double Negative’s work on it was top notch.
One however, stood out from the rest. Life of Pi was the most beautiful movie of the year. Sure the work on the tiger was unbelievable, even with the tiger swimming sequence being real, it was still superb. But that’s not why Life of Pi got my attention. Life of Pi was a complete package. How a movie should be. Good directing, story telling, acting, cinematography (in this case married heavily to vfx) and a visual effects that enhanced everything to a level beyond anyone’s believes. A creative collaboration at all levels. Even the 3D Stereo delivery was flawless, did you notice the aspect ratio changing in the flying fishes sequence and the fishes actually coming outside the frame?
What is not even remotely close to a complete package, is the behind the scenes story. The VFX studio responsible for the work, Rhythm & Hues, filing for bankruptcy, The Academy (Oscars) cutting the VFX team speech short just when they were about to address the recent difficulties for the VFX industry and while there was a protest going on outside. It is just such a big shame that Life of Pi will go down as movie that won the VFX Oscar that tasted so bitter!
People working in VFX are there only for one reason, their love and passion for the films and arts. They tolerate all the difficulties, instability and unfair working conditions just out of their love for the craft. However, when on top of everything else they see their work and contributions are not respected, then all the other problems come to surface. I hope whatever happen from now no, and with the awareness raised to the state of VFX industry, and a new movement starting amongst VFX artists calling for unity, film studios will work towards establishing mutual respect and understanding, and for once not driven purely by numbers and maximising their own profit, there’s enough here for everyone!.
Of course that’s not all that happened! There was an interesting intro to stereoscopic, the theory and setup at the beginning followed quickly by A breakdown of a shot in The Hole from the VFX Supervisor (John Gajdecki) which revealed some interesting aspect of setting up a 3d rig and the production and post production issues that you might face. You can listen to his presentation below.
John Gajdecki – The Hole.
Next, and rest of presentations in some ways, were promoting OCULA; the stereoscopic post production plug-ins dealing specially with polarizing effect happening when shooting stereo and vertical alignment of the footages.OCULA was apparently heavily used and developed alongside Tron. This was followed by MARI, the 3D texture painting package which is actually a very good tool and it’s new abilities to work with animated geometry and camera to do projection work; not that impressive at it’s current stage for projection since all this can be done inside Nuke in a similar fashion.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the presentation was the stereo conversions methods in Nuke which you can watch below.This highly anticipated part was rather very short and you could see some people, a small group, leaving afterwards. Apologies for the shaky camera! it was all hand held.
There was also a sneak peak of the Nuke 6.3 showing some pretty cool new features such as 3D particle system and planar tracking. Watch it below.
The event was concluded by a short breakdown of a Tron’s shot. It was alright, not as great as they were teasing us for it the entire day! especially with so many breakdowns of the show already available online. A better presentation was expected from a successful company such as The Foundry. I understand they need to do marketing for their product, but when you call it a Master Class you don’t expect to hear a sale pitch(for the lack of a better word) which was the first impression of many of the audiences. I think they can hold promotional events and keep the master classes technical and for the professionals. Overall it was ok. It’s important to say that expectations are very high from the Foundry. Maybe if this presentation was from any other company I wouldn’t have been this critical, but Nuke has been a sensational tool and it has changed the industry in many ways and people have high regards and respect for the Foundry. Besides,I got my Nuke badge and T-shirt .. so… can’t complain really!
*The videos are intended only for public use,
Although this was a public event, the foundry has the rights to ask for removal or alterations should they find it necessary.
**This article is only reflecting a personal opinion. It was revised on 11/02/2011
Rotoscoping could be one of the least desirable things to do, but it is nevertheless one of the important steps in preparing a shot for the final comp. Personally I find it ok, sometimes it’s exactly what you need! to just seat back, listen to some music and get on with it! but in occasions when the process gets very long and days passes by with making just a little progress, you start to feel a bit anxious!
Many skills are required to become a good roto artists, I couldn’t imagine I would be excited to do a roto task because I knew this time I have new challenges! but it happened! and as far as there’s something new to learn, there’s joy.
One of hardest things to tackle in a roto work is getting the motion blur right. When you have something like that (image above) to roto, suddenly there’s no visible edge, the direction of the motion could be misleading as the direction of motion blur is not always the same(depending on the shutter speed/angle), so it’s important to understand the tools you are working on.
Some companies have developed their own in house tools (e.g. Noodle in Double Negative) , but I believe Silhouette is the most commonly used and industry standard package. Amongst it’s good futures, calculating the right motion blur is extremely useful, there’s a little trick though! To create the motion blur accurately, Silhouette calculates the distance that the points travel in each frame. It’s very important to keep the point consistent meaning if a point for example is on the tip of a finger, it should stay there for the entire frame range.
In Nuke, apart from the default motion blur options inside the roto node, you can control the motion blur with feather quite easily but this sometimes involves you in doing a lot of frame by frame motion blur modifications. There are so many tricks you can work out to deal with this of course (e.g. applying motion blur node, or Motion Blur 2d by tracking the movements) and create the motion blur on the mattes, however, an easy solution would be using “TimeBlur” which is very similar to the motion blur settings in Silhouette. It takes a little time getting used to, but it gives you motion blur based on the shutter speed. (you may apply as many as TimeBlur nodes needed to get the best result)
* don’t even think about doing roto with a mouse! get yourself a tablet.
I’m doing a short talk tomorrow for the third years students. One of the things I’m going to talk about is how to de-interlace your footage inside nuke and thought mentioning it here might be useful for some people too.
Some cameras capture the image in interlaced format (such as XL2,XH A1 etc). When keying such image you will see the scan lines creating a distorted looking edge area. De-Interlacing will help improving this issue. Nuke’s built in tool for de-intterlacing is only for NTSC video. Also this gizmo has not been developed since Nuke is mostly used for Film post production where the de-interlacing is not required.
Keying a de-interlace image before(left) and after(right)
To access the DeInterlace node go to other )>All Plugins ( ) and press update;
1- Now press tab inside the work area and type in DeInterlace. Double click on this node to access its properties and press on “Copy to group” button.
2- Open a Notepad – copy the Group1 node (ctrl+C) and paste it into the opened notepad file (ctrl+V). By studying the script you can spot two Reformat nodes are converting the odd and even fields into NTSC format. We need to change this to PAL.
3- PAL’s resolution is 720×576 with the aspect ratio of 1.09 so you need to change
format “720 486 0 0 720 486 0.9 NTSC_video”
format “720 576 0 0 720 576 1.09 PAL_video”
in both cases.
4- Now select all the lines (ctrl+A) and copy (ctrl+C) them back to nuke. Anywhere in your work area press ctrl+v to paste the modified script. Now connect your footage to this node.
*If you are working with a HD camera then you need to change the resuoltion respectively (e.g. for HDV 1080i ;image resolution 1440×1080 – aspect ratio 1.33 as well as changing some positioning lines)
The official Houdini 11 Launch event was held last night in London by Side Effects. In this fairly short presentation (2 hours), as well as Kim Davidson president and CEO, Janet Foster Senior Account Executive and Jeff Wagner (old school blog) there were people from Double Negative and Framestroe showcasing how they’ve used Houdini in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”,” Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang”.
It was overall an interesting event which was followed by a little party afterwards. I didn’t stay long , the place was too small and too crowded, but you could find interesting people from London’s big effects houses there. You can watch some of the Houdini 11 new features that was presented by Jeff Wagner at the event in the video below.
It’s been another few busy weeks but things are coming together and I will have a little more time to spare soon, but I hope not for so long! It will be stressful until I get my first job. Meanwhile I’m developing some Nuke tutorials for a course in my old university Kingston. I’m very happy to do this and give the students the chance to learn and little more and hopefully motivate them to do more on their own.
I’m going to upload my masters project here today, this is the first time it’s going online officially and only here in my weblog! It’s been different experience and I’m not sure how much I’m satisfied with it, but what I’m really satisfied with are the things I’ve learned from it, have it look!
Still working on the DE Techniques, the third term project. Have made some progress with designing the environment but the fluids are still making trouble! It’s a bit tricky to make them float up!
Global Illumination is such a magical light! although on its own it can never really deliver a complete result but the level of the reality that it brings into the scene is fascinating!
Fluids is one of the areas that I’ve never dared to touch in 3D! so deciding to do it for my project was a bit of a gamble which I have to wait and see how it plans out. Getting started with fluids in Houdini is pretty simple, but then making it look good and real is the challenge. My first test looked ok enough to make me optimistic to carry on with my idea, the idea that was cut down by the course leader! Apparently he likes doing that! what he doesn’t realize is after he does that it’s not my idea anymore!
Adding fluids (Particle Fluids) is really easy in Houdini and can be easily done via the Particle Fluids tab in shelf menu. It can be generated from a geometry or emitted from a source. In the following video you can see how a simple fluids effect is made using the Emit Particle Fluids and a static object.