Finished a spot for a new show on History called Invention USA. Had a short window of time to come up with the concept and go to finish, which I do admit consists mainly of a bunch of things that Cinema 4D does well (and fast), namely stuff falling on a floor and bouncing around. A little lazy perhaps on the concept side, but it was one of those situations where I just needed to come up with something fast, in the midst of doing 12 other things, and see how it flies. Client liked the concept so I went with it.
I gotta say though, when I'm in a tight bind, C4D always comes through for me. Setting up the dynamics required minimal effort. It just works. And the rendering was fast as well. I started off meaning to use GI and also tested the scene with the new R13 physical renderer, but because time was an issue (needed to go straight to finish in a very short amount of time) I went with the standard renderer. The still above was rendered with the new physical renderer, however the final shot (not shown here) didn't really look much different in the end and rendered in a fraction of the time. Hope to eventually post the spot. Some style frames also included below.
What started out as a simple test to explain camera-driven shader effects in Cinema 4D to a friend in need, turned into, well I don’t know, THIS I guess. Staring at that Optical Flare in the hazy distance makes me ponder the meaning of existence. Then I just click on a cat video and I’m all better.
But I digress. I’m using the gradient shader in “3D spherical mode” set to camera space applied to cloned spheres. As objects come closer to the camera, they glow. Objects in the distance are dark. A nice way to fake fog in your scenes (and a lot of other things depending on which channels you use it in)
The radius value (below) determines the length of the gradient effect (left to right, left being the camera which is at the center of the “virtual” sphere). I copied this shader setting into my diffuse channel to darken the objects in the distance.
I’ve done some post work on the clip above which kind of makes the camera falloff luminance harder to spot, but hopefully it makes sense. I got a little carried away.
I came upon this technique maybe a decade ago as described by CG/VFX artist Richard Morris (aka Jackals Forge of Gallerie Abominate fame) on his website documenting his cg production process for the science documentary BodyStory 2 for BBC. Make sure you check out his work. Although his website is over a decade old, the work still looks great and the information can still very useful to those in the biomedical visualization field. The relevant information can be found in the “Dynamic Shading” section of the article.
Jackal’s Forge BodyStory 2 Tech. Click here for website/article
A few years ago I got to work on an episodic TV project called Factory Floor. You may have already seen my other posts about it earlier on in my blog. Yeah, I know, I’m milking it. It was not a particularly successful series (it only lasted one season) but looking back it was really a great experience overall, and I learned a lot about what its like to be involved in a TV series production. There were ups and downs, funny stories, sleepless nights, stress, and ultimately, a feeling of relieved satisfaction bordering on triumph when we delivered the last approved graphic call after a roughly nine-month period of working. I still marvel at how I and my then business partner R. Scott Purcell, our producer Bob Larkin, (and the occasional 1 or 2 extra freelancers) were able to turn around 100 graphics calls while jumping through all the usual hoops of a production schedule.
The image above is the beauty pass render for a piece of machinery called a pencil extruder. It squeezes out bits of lead that will be inserted into the pencil. Below is what the final call looked like after compositing (and thats CAULK GUN by the way. Get your head out of the gutter.;)
One of the things I really liked about this project was that it required me to QUICKLY build and rig dozens of mechanical objects, mostly factory machinery, but sometimes the odd item like cheese curds, toilet paper or potato chips. I’d get a script, and usually a rough cut of a given episode, and from the low res quicktime footage, as well as google picture reference, I’d need to knock out various models in a short amount of time. I’d usually spend no more than 5 or 6 hours a night researching, building a model, then get started on roughing out the animation timed to the corresponding piece of the rough cut. Each night I’d shoot to have a shot ready to go. After a few weeks, (and then months), the process was like second nature. Research, build, animate.
The style of the graphics was to resemble a sort of moving 3D blueprint. We developed a workflow right from the beginning in which we had a master Cinema 4D file which included all the shaders and lighting we would need in every scene.
The rendering and compositing workflow would go like this:
1. Beauty Pass. We would apply realistic shaders and textures to our models with a decent lighting setup and render this pass usually with ambient occlusion if rendering time allowed. We had a set of metallic shaders we would reuse again and again for the various pieces of machinery.
2. X-RAY PASS. We also developed a set of x-ray shaders using a variety of colored fresnel (angle of incidence) gradients loaded into the alpha channel of the shader. We would take our master project of the given scene and then apply these shaders and render that pass.
(below , the X-ray pass for the lead extruder call, a fire extinguisher, and a taser X-ray right below that)
3. LINE ART PASS. We heavily utilized the Cinema 4D module Sketch and Toon to generate a bluish line-art pass on white. Although the S&T render method can give a big hit to your render times, we found that setting S&T quality to low and turning off AA sped up rendering times considerably and still looked great. Sometimes we would create custom overshoot and perspective lines and render these in yet another line art pass.
4. BUFFERS. Each animation would require us to hold and highlight a specific part of the object or machinery. When this occurred we would need to glow each part. To help with this we rendered object buffers for each part of the model. If a piece of the model was obscured in some way, like for instance, a battery or valve inside the main object we would render those pieces out separately in their own scene file.
Scott developed a a template in After Effects from which we would create each and every shot from. It included a blueprint overlay, background textures, labels and leader lines as well as a layered workflow to style the renders into that blueprint look which would need to mix with the textured background. Scott used the linear light layer pass which yielded the perfect look. We would also use feathered masks to accentuate certain areas, and bring out more of the beauty pass, line pass or X-ray pass as needed.
1. We would typically drop the beauty pass in first then apply the layer effects to mix it with the background texture.
2. Then we would bring in the x-ray pass, then mask out areas as needed, and fade it back considerably.
3. We would drop the line pass in and mix it a bit, set to multiply.
Below is an example of a typical AE Comp.
In the end the final look was nice, and completely in line with what was appropriate for the show, as well as being exactly what the producers wanted. I’ve recently gone back through the files, remembering how much time went into building them all. I thought Id share some of the pre-processed beauty passes and showcase them a bit, as much of the detail gets lost in those original blueprint renders. These are by no means examples of rendering excellence. No global illumination or linear workflow, just some simple down and dirty 3-point lighting and metallic shaders with a touch of AO.
I may continue to add more images to this post, so check back. I have tons of them.
Thanks for looking!
Working on a new tool /rig for Cinema 4D users for the quick creation of animatable floating dust particle environments. Should be ready soon!
Exploring some type ideas for a project in C4D. Stumbled upon a technique using Thinking Particles, Mograph Tracer and the HAIR shader (applied to tracer). DOF blur created with ZBlur (BIOMEKK Plugins) which allows for in-camera DOF (as well as depth maps) that doesn’t override other post effects (for instance: HAIR) like the built in C4D DOF does. Hair WILL render with built in DOF, however the depth map ignores the HAIR and blurs it indiscriminately.
The blurred hair creates a subtle smoke like effect.
EDIT: Animation rendered:
And below with the c4d built in DOF effect. Notice how the blur is not applied to the hair where in front of the text object.
Back in November on ’09, R.Scott Purcell, Bob Larkin and I were asked to work on title design for the History Channel show “Swamp People” which premiered just recently. Although the client wound up going with another studio in the end, I thought I’d post some images anyhow.
Scott did some kickass comps, filming elements in his bathtub and incorprating the results with footage from the show. Below are some screen grabs from his submissions.
You can check out more of Scott’s work here: Betatron
I set off in a different direction, exploring some 3d approaches in Cinema 4D. I will not deny that the shot below may have been influenced from having just recently watched that old 70s Sid and Marty Krofft show: Land of the Lost. Rarrgh!
Got to play with the C4d plugin Ivy Grower for this one. See my post about Ivy Grower here.
And this one below was an idea we had to turn the show title into a night lantern of sorts, surrounded by a swarm of fireflies and plenty of mosquito’s I’m sure.
A Friday night Cinema 4D experiment. Playing with pyrocluster, a volumetric shader that creates some interesting volumetric cottonballs among other things. I use it a lot for smoky environments.
Applied a little (OK a LOT) of Video Copilot’s TWITCH plugin in post as well as ReelSmart motion blur and a touch of frischluft Out of Focus.
I’d say it was inspired by undersea footage of the gulf oil leak, but I’d be lying.
Loops three times. Don’t stare too long.
Here is yet another Factory Floor-related post. The industrial Potato Slicer, which takes your standard potato and tosses it one step closer towards the arterial plaque it will eventually become.
Our good friend Jason Martin modeled the slicer carousel in Lightwave I believe (the central part that spins) and was rewarded with his name adorned upon the blueprint title block. This was rendered and animated in C4D, then composited in After Effects.
Below is another, The Snow Blower, which Jason and I worked on as a tag team.
We were originally to be given a CAD model from the manufacturer, but for legal reasons we were (somewhat humorously) only given a wheel, a short section of handle bar and the red “shroud” that envelopes the machinery, meaning we had a lot of work left to do on it. We were originally told we would need to do a product “build” so most of the guts were initially built as well, but in the end, none of the animations focused on the machinery within.
We pecked away on the model over the course of a few months, only because the schedule changed regularly, frequently pushing the snowblower later and later in production, while other scenes moved to the forefront in order of priority. As mentioned in an earlier post, there were about 100 animation calls to get through, which included approximately 50 or so models to build, rig and animate. While some models may appear somewhat straight forward in terms of model complexity, the sheer amount of objects to get through forced us to prioritize when we could work on them.
Thought I’d post another animation created for Factory Floor.
Behold: The Escalator.
Next time you’re heading up to the food court, take a moment to appreciate the complex workings hidden a few inches beneath your feet.
Hold on to that handrail, and for goodness sake, make sure your shoelaces are tied.