Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Re: Yoli's Project Update 2

Hi Tessa

Thanks again for your post yesterday.

As you can tell, I am finding it very challenging to progress the look of my piece - hopefully this will make it all the more rewarding to get it right.

I'd like achieve the sense of contrast you've demonstrated in both your painted examples and plan to use a less distracting texture for the skin, experiment with bumps and SSS but first I'm stripping everything back to the colour scheme - as I really want to get this looking good.

Below are some (very rough) painted examples, which I wondered whether you could give me your opinion on.

The one I like is the mixture of aquamarine blue with pink. But I'm concerned that this goes against what you've advised in terms of warm over cool (though I have desaturated the background in the example below, in an attempt to pick out the blue).

I like that it still has a kind of putrid retro quality that I could soften with bumps and lighting (as in my new reference).

As you can see I have been quite keen to use coloured skin but perhaps this is time to let it go (as per your blue mood example).

Let me know what you think.

I really appreciate your taking the time to advise on this, as I realise it is taking me some to time to get going.



Monday, July 27, 2009

RE: Holly--Pin up project

Hi Holly,

Thanks for the update Holly. It looks like you have been very busy! I am glad you like some of my ideas from the last post. Apologies for the delay. I understand it is still work in progress, so sorry in advance if I comment on anything you already know about.

Camera moves complicate lighting on such a stylised project, for example rim lights are no longer such when you are looking from a different camera angle. From the front your image may look perfect but from behind the lighting could look ugly. You might want to light it so that it works from all angles. This is a tricky task, when you have something so specific to match to and I would not recommend getting into animating lights, as this would be quite advanced. I understand that you want to show off your model, but modelling and lighting to camera is also a skill (I don’t believe it will affect your mark). Why not concentrate on getting that right, and then after you have graduated you can render a turnaround for your reel.

I noticed you have made a few changes to the composition since the last post. I know I am not supposed to comment on the model, but the shape of the body affects the composition. By changing just a few things like the direction she is looking, the angles of the legs and the size of the skirt you have changed the balance of the shot. Previously when you drew a line through the centre of the action, it was more diagonal, which structured the image, and gave it direction.

In my opinion she now looks too central, there is a fine line when it comes to composition. Also I feel a bit uncomfortable with her facing camera and I think you have lost some of your voyeuristic qualities because of it. Her crossed legs do not look believable to me, so you might want to look at what you can do. I have tried sitting in this pose in the mirror, in order to get into that position I was not able to sit balanced on the chair, I had to role onto one bum cheek (sorry for this detail) Consequently your model looks a bit stiff and Barbie doll posed, when your reference has an impromptu natural feel. Try to think about ways you can get that feeling back.

For the skin tones, investigate further Subsurface scattering settings. You want the depth and the colours to be right, for realistic looking, or waxy looking skin. I have written some notes on your images, they are quite compressed, so painting over them has been a bit tricky. I am assuming that her right arm has a different shader on it, as it is much darker than the rest of the skin, but it needs to look the same. As you said on your modelling post, it would be interesting to try to incorporate an incidence multiplier on top of your SSS to darken down the edges, although this will probably need some experimentation. By lighting the skin quite front on, and using less fill light you may be able to get the same effect.



You mentioned putting a grain on the skin, but its going to be better for you to add a small bump or displacement to the skin, rather than doing it as a post process. It will break up the specular on the skin surface, so that it looks like the fine texture you are hoping for.

Currently the eyes are looking a bit empty, (this could be because the image is quite compressed) look at some reference to see how to put realistic specs in the eyes. On your fill lights you can turn off the specular, or you can light link the eyes with their own specular lights. The eyes are really important in getting a believable character so work to get them right. It’s also worth putting a tiny bit of SSS on them too.

Warm shadow means a warm fill light (when I speak of warm, I mean a warm colour like a red orange, although it only needs to be subtle to have an effect on your render), as that is normally what you see in the shadows. Generally fill light is a blue colour, because the sky is blue, that is the colour that gets reflected/bounced around, but you might get the look you are after with a slightly red fill light. You could render a shadow pass if you want, I am not sure what you mean when you say RGB shadow pass. Overall you want less fill light, and a hotter, warmer key light. I can’t really see your notes on the screen grab of your shot, as it is too compressed. I find it is easier to see what the lights are doing if you scale them up to match the size of your scene. Watch that your extra, more focussed spotlights, are not affecting other areas, light link it to that section of model if you have to.

I would look at rendering out an occlusion pass to use in comp (don’t just multiply it, invert it and use it to colour correct the shadows to a darker redder colour) to add soft looking shadows in the areas that should be dark like under the skirt, this should give a realistic, contact feel to the skirt, and in a few other places.

Hope this helps, feel free to ask any questions if there is anything you don’t understand, or want explaining in more depth. I think this project has got real potential as an inspired lighting project.

Good work and look forward to seeing more.


PS I like the mouth open (I know you are thinking of closing it), and I have attached some salutes I think are more feminine and your could use for reference. I especially like the amount the hand is bent backwards.

RE:RE:Yoli's Project Update

Hi Yoli,

I like your new reference. It all has a very soft feel to it. Textures are subtle, and look more like a bump than a colour texture. The models also have a chunky textural feel to them. The highlights are soft and seem to glow and the colours overall are saturated. You are not getting this across in your painted over examples, so I would keep working towards that goal.

I made quite a few suggestions to do with the colours and the focus in the last post, I can only re-iterate what I wrote before. The green you have chosen for the faces recedes into the background. I feel that this is your biggest problem, and the route to solving it involves changing both the background and the character colours. Different hues have different temperatures. Hot colours jump forward over cold colours. If your set on using green for the faces, try different greens to see what will help to make your character noticeable. This led me to Pixar’s short ‘Lifted’ because the main characters are also green. Also notice how the textures on the character are not distracting, but add interest. You are using a noise type texture, which looks messy and it adds nothing to your character. I recommend you re-think this texture, remove it or if you have time, paint something more interesting. I painted over your example again, to show you how the green can jump out at you when you use colours to help it along.

There is little you can do in lighting until you are at a point where you are happy with your characters shading. Look into using sub-surface scattering (SSS) for the characters skin. Skin is translucent, (ever tried putting a torch against your cheek or hands?), and some light is absorbed, scattered and re-emitted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsurface_scattering This will give you that believable skin glow look you are after, especially on those thin areas like the ears. Then use rim light to make him stand out, and match your reference better. For a more tactile look, use bump maps or displacement shaders to catch the light.

You need to consider what mood you want in your animation. I would be surprised if you haven’t seen this animation from 1999 by Victor Navone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duOoqDu2H70

Not only is the animation great, he has used lighting really well to show off the mood of the song. At the beginning the song speaks of fear of being alone, and the lighting reflects that with a single blue spotlight, a simple but brilliant way of showing overwhelming sadness in a dramatic way. Then as the song moves into the chorus the lighting changes to liven the mood, even with the flashing lights, using a black background means that it is not distracting from the animation. It is no wonder this guy got a job at Pixar. Having a basic understanding of all different areas in computer animation and being able to use those skills to enhance your own projects really gets you noticed in the industry.

Back to your render. On the last image you said that the purple is working well with the orange. Personally I can’t see any orange or purple, and I don’t really see how it is working together at all. I can see mauve, a dirty yellow, a dark yellowy green and a dark red. Pastel colours have less contrast than vibrant ones, and look better surrounded by more pastel colours. Try using the colour picker and taking colours from one of your reference images to use when painting over your render, see the comparisons I have made.

Even though there are six different versions, they all look very similar to me, washed out and unfocused. Remember it is not just the colours you use but how you juxtaposition them that creates or removes contrast. Your images have the wrong kind of contrast, as you have not taken into consideration my comments on shot focus. It is worth spending time getting this right, as I have mentioned in the Deli project posts, your animation will work better if you have lighting and shading that complements it.

Hope this helps you get back on track. Let me know how you get on.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

RE: Nigel Gore Architectural take 2

Hi Nigel,

I can quickly answer your questions. You would be surprised what you can do in 4 weeks. light and composite : 5 high quality film shots, 2 adverts for national television, 30-40 shots on a childrens TV show (this is an example of what I have managed to do since I graduated) I can only give you my opinion, and that would be to keep it simple and get it right. You are stressed because you have set yourself a tough goal. It takes time to learn this job, so don't be too hard on yourself. Cut down your workload and show off your best work rather than rushing to get everything done in time. Remember your initial brief "The emphasis of my project will be on realistic, high quality images"

Unfortunately your reference does not have the same lighting, the sunlight does not come into the room. That makes a huge difference, you have no Key light, only bounced light, the only key light you can see is outside. If this is the lighting you want, all of your shadows inside should be soft, and there should be lots of reflection occlusion. I recommend you make this ammendment to your lighting if this is the look you are going for. Trying to mix 2 types of lighting is probably why your image is looking a little confused. Read Jamie's older posts to see why I wouldn't use FG and Occlusion. Also I painted over your image on a separate layer in photoshop and made it overlay.

As for the blue tint on the floor (or if you ammend your lighting there will be no key light on the floor), you can easily do this in post with a roto, it doesn't need to be in 3d, so there is no problem rendering your glass or reflections on a separate pass. Yes you are right that you can see some reflections in the glass when there are darker objects behind it, but you do not have darker objects behind your glass because it is in full sunlight. Render the outside glass on a separate layer to fix your problem. You think your reflections will be stimulating, I think they will be distracting and unrealistic. Believe me when I say that potential employers will not look at the reflections and say... 'wow, reflections'.... instead they will say, 'ok, they know how to turn on reflections'.

I do understand the strain you are under, and I hope you realise that I only want to help you to get the best out of your lighting. I am passionate about this subject, and I have put real thought into each and every reply, so that you guys get to experience an industry point of view. Hope this helps. Cheers ,


NIGEL GORE - Architectural Visualisation


I have checked all of the geometry for 'leaks' and the light in the corners of the room are 'bounces' from the photons. Luckily, they are covered up pretty well by the occlusion pass.

The glass of the main windows have a slightly 'blue' tint to them - Therefore, once the door opens the 'warmer', contrasting sunlight comes into play.

The reflections in the glass and picture frames do not add much to a still image. However, I believe they will be very stimulating once the camera starts to move around the scene - If I ever get it rendered out! Ha ha...

The ceiling beams on the right appear much darker because of the angle of the light entering the room. Please see my reference photos.

NIGEL GORE - Architectural Visualisation

Hi Tessa,

Thanks again for all of your input!

I like the feel that you created by amending the image that I posted.
This is the type of effect I'm hoping to achieve in my compositing stage.
What filters / effects have you used here?

Initially, I didn't want to bog you down with a full series of photographic examples that I had been using as reference. However, here are two from 2 similar houses by the same architect:

As you can see, the interior areas appear to be much darker than you would imagine, even though the windows are huge and it is broad daylight. I believe that interior lighting would have helped both of these photographs. Also, you can see a few reflections of the room in the glass - especially against the darker, outdoor furniture.

I'm aware that with more time I could further enhance the visual stimulation of the XSI scene. (adding more 'pizzazz' as you say). However, I have just 4 weeks to get everything rendered and composited. Therefore, I am feeling pretty stressed to say the least.

I am now at a critical stage of my pipeline, where I think I simply have to 'draw the line' and move on to getting my scene rendered out.

I added the interior lights in order to allow me to move on to rendering out the separate passes and then controlling their intensity in 'post'.

Yes, I've been trying to establish if rendering the reflections separately would save any time... The general consensus seems to be 'no' - it will only give me more control in post.

Also, I tried to reduce the reflection depth down to 1 but it meant that the glass panels by the pool were not rendering at all (they appeared solid black):

Do you know of any trickery that could overcome this problem?

Ha ha, yes, since my last post I have experimented with the 'glows' and come to the same conclusion - I have successfully set up a separate pass just containing small white disks. I am confident this will give me the control I need.

I intend to bake the textures early this week and get on with setting up the various render passes asap. I'll let you know how I get on.



RE: Deli Animation

Hi Nick and Tony,

Thanks for your update, sorry again for the delay. There is some good work here, especially the outdoor lit shot. Those skin tones look great in the sunlight. You mention that you do not have the luxury of time, (how much time do you have?) the way I see it you have 2 options. You either:

1) Render all 59 Shots, schedule 2 people, for 15 days to do 2 shots a day, 8 hour days (this is optimistic but also realistic if you can keep it simple)

2) Aim to Render and comp 10-20 shots to the best of your ability. Schedule 2 people, 1 week or more, 1 shot a day. Render the rest with ‘temp lighting’ then finish it after you leave Uni (for your showreels or festival admissions) If I were your position this is what I would do.

I only put good animation on my reel, and I am not an animator. From experience I know that even if I put the most amazingly lit shot on my reel, if the animation is bad, people can’t see past it. Equally your animation is going to look better with lighting that complements and accentuates, everyone in your group needs to understand that. It is worth making a realistic schedule and then sticking to it. If that means you need to be less ambitious with how much you get rendered, I think that is a compromise I would be willing to take. Keep in mind that the industry will judge you on your worst work... not just your best.

A consistent rig is useful in lighting a set, and characters. If there are 2 of you lighting, it does make sense for you to have the 3 main lights (Key, fill, rim or bounce) in roughly the same areas/same intensity/ same colours, so maybe setup a simple rig that can be shared, rotated and moved on a shot by shot basis. A dome of lights as a rig does not seem necessary to me. What are you doing that is different to using one ambient light? Do all of those lights have a specific job? Do you remember when I said in my very first post on this blog, add one light at a time, and consider if it is really necessary. When I was at University we used a dome light rig with small blurred shadow maps to fake ambient occlusion (because back then it did not come with the software). You have access to ambient occlusion, so use it, and keep the lighting simple. I thought your previous shop light setup was fine, it just needed a little more key light and fill light.

By having the shop lighter at the front, and a gradual shift into darkness there is a nice sense of depth. Now you have lightened the darkness, your wide render of the shop looks flat. My eye is drawn to the big light coloured wall. The wall should not be the focus. The only contrast I see is that between the dark wood and the light walls, where is the atmosphere created by lighting? The back wall doesn’t seem to have that problem light on it any more but the right wall now does, you need to fix that. I am not worried about the saturation or levels as these can be adjusted later. As your now at the stage of shot lighting, I would take your widest interior shot, and use your simpler rig, with adjusted intensities. Don’t worry too much about getting this spot on, everything can be perfected in shot lighting and compositing. Once you have a shot finished that you love, match to that, this is easier to do in comp. Then as you finish more shots, keep watching them next to each other to check if they cut together, and amend so that they do.

I think that having most of the action at the back in the dark is no bad thing. You can really light your characters so they stand out from the background (as in the reference of Delicatessen from the last post) I know that this is not an accurate lighting portrayal but you are forcing your audience to look at the characters, they will be so much more involved in the action. Take a look at my quick Photoshop job, darkening the background and using light and colour to bring forward the characters, it is a little over the top, but I prefer it. Your animation is stylised, why not making the lighting stylised? My only comment is concerning the shadows. The key light source is quite a long way away, it is indirect and hazier. The shadows would be a little blurred.

A quick way to get through your interior shots would be to render in layers. The lighting doesn’t have to be very exciting for the background so it will be quick, and it only needs character shadows when sunlit (in which case you render characters with primary visibility off and shadows on); otherwise you can just use occlusion. Then on a separate pass light the characters. I will often light the characters and set with a completely different bunch (or rig) of lights, so I can get the look I want in one without upsetting the other. I don’t use light linking, and I don’t fuss over things too much, I just get the layers out and the comp started. Being able to independently adjust the layers gives you bags of control such as trying out depth of field on the background or just darkening it to focus the shot.

I really do like your outdoor shot, see the notes I have written on it. Hope this gives you enough to think about.

Overall, great work. Shot lighting can be a struggle, it seems like a big mountain to climb when your at the bottom looking up, but schedule it right and I promise you will get there in the end. Let me know how you get on.


PS sorry about my last post, the images seem to be small (they don’t expand, hopefully these ones do)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Holly -- Pin-up Project

Hi Tessa

Just wanted to say thank you for your previous reply to me, and sorry it's taken me so long to get another post to you, I have been keeping the things you advised in mind when designing and creating my piece, really like the idea of cut-off props, am still playing around with the composition of the props.

Right then I've finally gotten around to the lighting stage. I'm struggling abit with Subsurface scattering - I need to do some fine tuning on it, so it doesn't look quite like a barbie doll -

I'm not sure if I've got the hang of the lighting yet - I do I like the colours that are being produced, have tried adjusting the hues and saturation in photoshop and think this works well, I like the way the clothes are looking, just not the skin(I am considering doing a grain or noise pass when rendering, if there is such a thing, to help get the texture of the skin like Elvgren's).

At the moment I am using 3 spotlights, (really low, 3 and 4) and have put one infinite to light the model's side which is facing the wall. I put one spot light from above to highlight up the fingers of the saluting hand, as I think this is a nice delicate area (although I don;t think I've quite captured the right pose for the fingers yet)

I intend to use a matte painting for the sky background, so there won;t be any shadows falling on the backgrid that I've put in.

Also I've have decided to have an animated camera (time permitting), the pictures attached show what camera angles I am looking at, I would like to move the camera to close up on the face from the full-body shots and maybe pan around the face.

You mentioned in your previous reply to me that the shadows in Elvgren's paintings are quite warm - would you suggest the I do separate render passes for the RGB shadow passes, if this is possible?

Anyway hope that my images are clear and I look forward to any advice you can offer me

Thank you


Friday, July 24, 2009

RE: Nigel Gore Architectural

Hi Nigel, Sorry this post is a big higgledy-piggledy, I haven’t had my normal home computer to work on.

I really want to help you achieve your goal of realistic lighting, but don’t let your eagerness to move forward get in the way of the creative goal. Before you carry on with the interior lights I would lock down your main lighting i.e. the purely sun lit scene. Adding indoor lights is complicating things, before you are ready. I would rather see one really well lit scene than three compromised ones. Currently what you are showing me lacks pizzazz and focus. You need to look at more reference images so you have a clear image of what you want.

I haven’t really commented on the lighting so far in my posts to you, this was for a conscious reason, because I was concerned about your render times. I have tried to find similar images to yours with outdoor and indoor lighting, but they are almost impossible to find... that is because you don’t need (or see) interior lighting when the sun is shining! If the house was in shade then maybe you would want indoor lights on (see some of the photos I have taken), but if the sun is beaming into the room then with windows as big as yours there is so much bounce light that vampires would have no where to hide J Even through tinted glass the sun is so much brighter than indoor lights.

You have talked about contrast; think about using it to your advantage. The hottest points on your image are currently your spotlights.... do you want your eye to be drawn there? You have control over your audience, where do you want their eyes to be looking? What feelings do you want to invoke? Read the other posts on this blog to get some ideas, and also the notes on shadows (getting a blurred falloff in particular)

Have you though of rendering the reflections, not just the glass, on a separate pass? If you render exactly the same scene, but with primary visibility off on all objects except the glass, then yes, I am pretty sure that it will add up to the same if not longer render times for the two renders combined. The only thing that is going to reduce the render times is changing the amount of ray tracing your doing.

I am visiting my parents in Norfolk at the moment, they live in a converted barn. Like your house, it too has big windows. You only really see the reflections in the windows of really brightly lit objects. When it’s brighter outside, you barely see any reflections. Most people will not see nor be looking for reflections within reflections (set depth to one). Surely getting the overall feeling right is worth more of your time than getting (too) perfect reflections. Having reflections on a separate pass will mean you can dial them in and out so that they don’t distract, something you might want when you see your first rendered sequence.

Here are a few more simple comp tricks you could try. You want the change in colour of your pieces of glass as they move over each other? Try rendering a matte (or use a simple roto) and using it in comp to colour correct them!

I wouldn’t normally use glow straight out of the software, but if I were going, to I would definitely do it on a separate pass, and then as I keep re-iterating, use it in comp. To add glows in 2d you might end up tracking the points where your lights are, and then adding some glow. But here is a neat trick. In your 2d scene, quickly place some spheres where your light sources are, you don’t need any lights, or any other objects on in this pass, all you want is the camera and the spheres (which should render black and therefore uber fast) Then take the alpha channel into comp, this should look like white floating round disks. (If your lights go in and out of shot, you will want to render the camera with some overscan) Blur it, adjust it, add it over your main render. Hey presto, you have your glow.

Think about where you use glows to highlight the main light source in the scene. For most indoor lights you will not perceive a glow unless it is surrounded by a much darker background, or your eyes are in a much darker place. Also don’t forget that the sun on the floor and objects has a subtle glow to it (look at the reference from my first post to you)

When you have a problem, think to yourself, is there another way of achieve the same result. Software will often sell you on its ‘extra’ features. Although it is useful to be aware of them, sometimes using them is more effort than it is worth, if there is a simpler, faster and more controllable way.

Double check your model has no cracks; it looks to me like you have a light leak (unusual area of light in the corner of the room above the window). I have seen this before and I don’t think I ever fixed it, I just decided not to use FG in the end.

Finally try baking the lighting before you go any further. You don’t want to get to the last week, have problems and then not be able to render your project in time for the deadline. In the industry, that is no excuse, you have to schedule for possible delays, rather than hoping everything will go according to plan.

Hopefully there is some useful stuff in there. Look forward to seeing progress.



Hi, Guys
Just to let you know I am working on posting replies, but am currently away from home, visiting my parents in Norfolk. Hopefully I'll get to catch up soon. I am working in order of postings so Nigel will be next. Sorry about the delay.

Re: Yoli's Project Update

Hi Tessa

Apologies for the delayed response -I've been neck deep in animation and still have a way to go.

Having considered your comments (and those of other tutors) on bringing my 2D style into 3D with projected textures and toon shaders, I realised that, although I do like this effect(eg. your painted example), it was never my intention for this piece to have a 2D final look. I more wanted to mix up a 2D approach to design with 3D and I now realise how ambitious this is.

So I began to look at 2D style brought successfully into 3D (see mood board) - thanks for The Pearce Sisters reccommendation by the way.

I particularly loved the tactile look of Lost and Found and Stitch up Showdown so I experimented in comp with what I could achieve to this effect. I strengthened the key light slightly, saturated the foreground and desaturated the background (see below).

I really liked your suggestion to bring sharp lines into the composition (easily achieved with the chair), but in terms of colour and texture I was still unsure which way to go.

Wanting to achieve more of a sense of contrast, I experimented with some new colour schemes such as blue and yellow for the skin and hair. Making the foreground bolder in colour, I tested a distressed wallpaper background, including a plainer section, but found this to produce a yet softer effect.

Below are some of these tests and my thoughts, which are quite rough and I think represent a bit of a step back (before foreward hopefully) in the look development. Only the final example has any real contrast, thanks to the textures against white but I am wary of using a plain white background as I realise this has become something of a CG cliche.

Any suggestions please let me know

Thanks again for your time

All best,


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hey Tessa, this is Nick & Tony (we had a problem posting with our accounts so we are using Gareth's).
This is our update on lighting.

These are some tests we made. Let us know what you think and which one you prefer.

We had difficulty keeping all the shots consistent in lighting so we decided we needed a basic light rig. We did a simple light dome rig that we can use as a consistent base to light all our shots. then we can tweak each shot individually from there on. Please let us know what you think.

Below is a render composited with ambient occlusion. First of all we had a problem with our previous lighting setup, which was too dark. Half of our animation is happening at the back of the store, so we cant have it as dark as our previous version. so we bumped up the levels behind the shop as well.

After doing the above, we realised that the colors of the walls and floor were too saturated and it sort of clashed with our characters. and it did not really look 1930s anymore. It looked more modern than what we wanted. So we desaturated the walls and floor.

And after we bumped up the levels in photoshop and this is the result we got. please let us know if there is anything glaring to address.

We also tried to light the opening shot which is an outdoor shot. We brought it to photoshop and brought up the levels contrast and saturation. Please advise.

Below is one of the shots that we tried to light. We really like the levels and color but based on our premise, we might have difficulty keeping this look consistent throughout all of our shots. We handled this shot individually without including a basic light rig (that can be applied on other shots), so we dont have the luxury of time to replicate this look throughout all our 59 shots. Please advise. Thank you so much for your time Tessa.