MA Perfecting The Look: Rendering and Final Comp
Welcome to the final post for this class! You know what that means...
This will mainly cover the rendering process and my composition of the final piece within Nuke before everything gets submitted. So, let's-a-go!
Before I committed to the big render, I did renders of the first frame from each of my render layers to check how they looked in case something was wrong with them. It was a good thing I did, because I realised that I had not actually separated my shadows properly. I accidentally included the ground plane on all my shadow layers thinking that this was the correct thing to do:
I confirmed that this was the case with all my tests, so I went back into Maya to correct the collections I had made, but left these tests in the Nuke project to show that this stage of the process had been done.
Then, once I thought I had sorted everything out, I began the real rendering, which took about 27 hours to do in total. The process was pretty scary since it caused my CPU to overheat 3 times during the rendering 😖 but I got there eventually! I did a quick test with the nodes to make sure things looked alright this time, and I think it was a much better result - plus I now had control over the ground plane separately from everything else.
Rendering the Comp
After I completed the renders and connected all of my layers up inside Nuke, I noticed some pretty serious problems which were that I had messed up my collections in a couple of places. The main ones were:
The grass layers didn't acknowledge the masking of other objects in the scene
The ground plane didn't acknowledge the masking of the invisible objects
The ground plane was glitching / bugging out at certain frames
Fixing the grass and ground plane masks wasn't too terrible, despite headaches it caused. I knew I needed to create instances of objects and apply aiShadowMattes to the duplicates, however for whatever reason, the render view would only acknowledge some or none of these assets - at best it would show one object's silhouette but refused to show any others. Rather conveniently, this issue decided to disappear when I tried showing it to my professor, so I guess it at least fixed itself but man...what a pain.
The ground plane glitching was less straightforward and required a fair bit of debugging with the help of my professor. It wasn't exactly clear why this was the case, but it seemed that breaking the connection with the displacement map ended up resolving this issue. I had a hunch it was connected to that, but my online research didn't dig up anything that confirmed my suspicions until we actually removed it. Why this is the case, I still do not know, but at least this horrifying glitch is gone!
The Final Steps
With almost everything now working after doing a final few renders, I connected my new image sequences into the node tree and made some little colour adjustments along with some defocus nodes to help things look less sharp for the final render.
Something which I've been super excited about doing is adding in particle effects using the Foundry's video tutorial on using the PointCloudGenerator. I used the reformat to make a small size for the particles, which is 64x64 pixels, and connected a noise node which had a pinkish colour. Using one of the petal textures from the tree, I rotoscoped out a shape to get something like this:
Connecting it to a Card node enabled me to see it as a 3D object. To animate it randomly, the ProcGeo node was added, setting the noise method to "Turbulence" and the orientation to the X axis.
Now came a fun part - animating the rotations to be like a falling leaf! Using the TransformGeo node, its an easier way of doing this as opposed to manually animating this mesh. This first requires some setting up before I bring in the expressions I wish to use. By right clicking and choosing "Manage User Knobs", I can access a menu that lets me create some new floating point sliders which are needed for this expression to work.
I can separate these new floats apart using the "Divider Line" and placing it in between the X, Y, and Z variables (which you can see in the above left picture). Once I am done with these settings, I can connect my TransformGeo to a ParticleEmitter node and make adjustments to various settings inside there which will influence the behaviour of my particles. At present, I am using a cube to act as the spawner and causing the leaves to spawn from random points inside this cube.
Now, I needed to create a PointCloudGenerator and Camera nodes and have them connect at the end of my node tree for my footage. After analyzing the sequence and trying to track points, I got an error message saying that it had failed. I attempted extending the range of the frames to a larger value but still got the same error, as well as trying out different connections to see if that changed anything (such as just having the tree as the only CG element connected). Sadly, no success 😭 and with the deadline so close now, I think I have to cut my losses with this, which is a huge bummer. The node tree ended up looking like this in the end before I was unable to go any further:
The Finished Comp
Well, without further adieu, here is my finished composition for this class!
And of course, here is what my final node tree looks like:
All things considered, I had a good time learning about Nuke and VFX compositing techniques, plus I got a nice reminder of stuff in Maya (along with some new knowledge, ho ho ho). It definitely had its ups and downs, especially when it came to things which took so many hours to research on for fixes or solutions, most of which didn't really bare any fruit.
As for the final comp, I am happy with it, but there are definitely some areas for improvement. I know that the shadows for my grass are still visible in places where they shouldn't be and the bee is not animated as per my intentions, but fixing these would've seriously risked me missing the deadline which I wasn't keen to gamble with. I could also try and find out more about what is up with displacement maps, especially after the glitchy, geometry adding problem I had to face. Still, I got what I wanted which was a nice nature scene and I'd like to think its not that bad!
Big thanks to the teaching team and to the lovely teaching assistant we had, whose artstation can be found here - https://www.artstation.com/jenchibi
And as a little send off, please enjoy this little VFX breakdown video I made in After Effects (which was my first time using this software, its pretty neat!):