It’s been a while

So it’s been a while a few weeks a couple of months. First there was Easter, then there was intensive work to finish the final year project and write a good report, then Studio Practice & Business had its turn, and suddenly and without quite knowing how I got there, two months had just vanished.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on the AVE ICA, merely that I’ve been busy to the point of not finding time to keep the blog as up to date as I probably should have.

Starting with the week leading up to the Easter holidays, Andreas Nor was kind enough to help me record foley sounds in the Phoenix building. The week after, home in Norway for a couple of weeks, I began building the 3D scene. At this stage I had ruled out Vue as it caused too many new problems that needed solving. Instead, I opted for 3ds max, using Mental Ray as the render engine.

During the easter holidays I created the first version of my 3D tree and tracked all five shots in PFTrack.

As I had only used PFTrack once before several months ago, I had to relearn a fair few things, but the tracks went well and I feel they ended up being pretty solid. Having created the tree and the tracks, I actually began rendering a few shots and performed some test comps.

I wasn’t exactly satisfied, but before I had time to make any changes, Easter was over and I returned to the uni merely five days before the final year project was to be handed in. This forced me to stop working on the AVE project for a while and as I later got an extension on the final year project, two weeks went by without any updates to the AVE ICA.

After delivering the final year project on 26 April I once again returned to the AVE project. During the for lack of a better word “break”, I had decided that the scene I made originally was too heavy, too boring, badly lit and lacking in detail. Starting up again, I therefore chucked nearly everything in the scene. The branches, the lighting and half the textures were some of the things I got rid of.  From there, I started with a tree from seek.autodesk.com, rotated it on its side, added moss and plants and tried to make it look more detail-rich.

Having now created one branch, I converted it to a Mental Ray render proxy and made ten instances in 3ds max. From there I started populating the big tree. Using instanced render proxies greatly sped up the viewport and reduced memory use, though it had the obvious drawback of looking repetitive. In hindsight, I probably should have made a few variations, but time didn’t allow.

As soon as I was reasonably happy with the finished tree, rendering begun. The shots were quite heavy to render due to light spilling through a lot of leaves. With rendering settings dialled lower that what I wished for, only a few days left until the deadline on 7 April and still without finished renders, I had to ask for an extension in AVE as well. By the time the renders actually finished, the deadlines in Studio Practice & Business were closing in fast and once again I had to take an unwanted break from AVE.

In the end, the last Studio Practice & Business deadline was late on a Tuesday and the AVE deadline was set for the following Friday. This effectively meant that I had less than three days to key and composite five shots, solve any unforeseen problems, cut the project together, write a report  and hand in the assignment before 4pm on Friday. I delivered 3:50pm.

Having finished I think the project turned out quite well. Sure, the pulled keys are imperfect in places, the leaves aren’t moving due to Mental Ray render proxy issues and the render and contact shadows/lighting could have been improved in places, but overall it could definitely have been worse. I also gained quite a few skills during the project, such as more advanced use of PFTrack, better understanding of roto and comp, and I used the 3D tools in Nuke for the first time.

Next and probably last post regarding the AVE ICA will contain the finished piece.

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