jeudi 9 août 2012

The Gathering Dusk - Trailer

The gathering dusk Trailer from GatheringDuskTeam on Vimeo.

Elements of Storyboard

Eleanore - Character Design

Creating Eleanore was a bit of a challenge; from the start I had decided she should be based on one of the silent movie starlettes, since I imagined her acting in a similar manner, though not quite so overstated. I began by working from photos of the likes of Louise Brooks to get a base, until I reached something I was more or less satisfied with. The idea was that at first glance she should come across as a frail little thing, put upon by circumstance, a classic, albeit faded, English beauty, the stereotypical colonial wife. Naturally, however, her character could not end there; she needed some bite, some substance, which is were the angles in her face came into play, her pointed chin and defined jawline. In the final tweaks (which occured when the character was more or less fully modelled) I brought her eyes slightly closer together, and lengthened her chin. Minor Hairfarm details such as her rather long, dark eyebrows enabled me to give her more structure, and make her more atypical. The rest was left up to her acting.

Eleanore - final render and texture maps

Skin rendering is something of an obsession of mine. It comes as a close-second to modelling, and would be on a par if it weren't for the frustration of render times. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted Eleanore's skin to look like, how I wanted it to react to light and so on, but at the time of production, the Vray Fast SSS 2 shader, which I had decided to use since I wanted to be sure that I was not foregoing any interesting options by choosing the simpler Fast SSS, was fairly undocumented, so it was a matter of (a lot of) trial and error. I had already used it in another short I had produced in my 4th year, but the results, in hindsight, were unsatisfactory, and I knew there were quite a few things I had failed to grasp. It is still definitely not perfect, but I am getting there. At the top of my list of things I wanted to get right was translucency, and lots of it. This is the legacy of working in scanline and trying to get round the desperate plaster-like opacity of it's shaders. In keeping with her delicate features, and the contrast between her colorings and those of her surroundings, I wanted her skin to seem almost paper-thin at times, and not remotely suited to harsh sunlight. With that in mind I spent a lot of time fiddling around with the Scatter Radius and SSS Color Texture maps, and ended up painting a complete map of veins on Zbrush, with an anatomy book as reference for accuracy (in order to be able to go into deeper detail, I divided her uvs into 5 "plates", so these, naturally, are only the textures for her head and neck).

Eleanore - Modelsheets and Topology

EleanoreWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

Posing by Alexia Rubod of our Making Of team

Eleanore's wardrobe

I was responsible for the cloth simulations on the film. Although I am not of a very "technical" disposition, this appealed to me, since it meant that I was fully responsible for the characters as a whole, from their design to the way their clothes moved. My only regret is that I did not study the latter, before the former. That is to say, I sculpted the clothes in Zbrush, complicated folds and all, and then recreated the topology to make it "low-poly", supposing that this might "help" the simulation. It did not. Moreover, since these were my first tentative steps into the world of cloth simulation (steps that often seemed to be taken in very wet sand) it took me a while to understand that the problem did not lie simply in my settings, but in the mesh itself. Fortunately, once I had figured this out, and remodelled and retextured all the clothes accordingly, it all went swimmingly. Unfortunately, before I figured this out, before I even started testing the simulations, I created two completely different dresses for Eleanore, until I was satisfied with her appearance. I dearly hope this is the only character I ever model who can boast superfluous clothes. But at least I learnt quite a bit about Zbrush - and more importantly, I learnt that if I know that somewhere towards the end of production lies a task I know nothing about, I should do some very pre-emptive dabbling before launching into the production of elements which may then turn out to be useless.

Dress - take 1

EleanoreDressWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

This was the first dress I modelled. It is based on this design:

The idea was to go for something casual and light, and give the impression that on the whole she wasn't making very much of an effort. However, when it came down to it, it didn't look right on the character in 3d, because she has quite a feminine shape, whilst being very slim, which meant that once she was swamped in the fabric, her hips looked very broad and too womanly for the girlish cut of the dress, and yet her legs looked like spindles emerging from the flared skirt. Thus it was decided she needed a makeover, and I began to look into a more fitted garment.

Dress - take 2

The second dress was quite a puzzle to get right, since the 1930s are mostly associated with evening dresses, very formal gowns of lace, sequins and fringes - which besides looking completely out of place, would have represented a year's work in themselves, and a year more in cloth simulation. The 1930s were also quite prolific in loose styles, and my previous attempt had confirmed that such a cut would be lost on a character with such extreme feminine proportions. So the dress needed to be fitted - yet not in a "femme fatale" way - and had to have at least elements of 1930s styling. In the end I combined two styles:

Of the first dress I kept the backless design, which I liked because it is what takes the dress from the banal to the seductive, and only becomes apparent when she moves away into the jungle, away from her husband and her life of invisibility.
Of the second dress I kept the very fitted front, the high neckline - and initally the sleeves, but they looked quite suffocating so we decided to do without. The result was this:

EleanoreDressWireframeTurn2 from amy brutton on Vimeo.

Angelique - Character Design

As you can see from my first sketches, the research phase for the character of Angelique was very short. In fact she came to be before we really knew what she was going to get up to in the film. Small tweaks were made to her bodyshape to differentiate her further from Eleanore, to reach the proportions illustrated in the quick comparative study of the two characters. And a few adjustments were brought to her features to make them more 3d-friendly. But all in all, the proud face and stature were a certainty from the very beginning of production.

Angelique - Modelsheets and Topology

Please excuse the creases, these lived in an A4 folder beside my processer for the best part of a year.

AngeliqueWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

Zbrush sculpt and topology of Angelique's dress and apron

AngeliqueDressAndApronWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

AngeliqueHeadscarfWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

Here, once again, I sculpted the clothes in detail (and textured and shaded them) before realizing that the resulting topology was not at all "cloth friendly" and replacing them with a very low-poly proxy. So neither the dress nor the apron feature in the film, but I believe (or rather I have to believe) that at the very least I improved my sculpting skills.

Zbrush Detail - the loincloth

AngeliqueGarmentWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

Here, once again, I sculpted the garment in Zbrush before recreating the topology and exporting it into 3dsmax, and texturing it in photoshop. Fortunately, since this particular element of clothing was simply skinwrapped to the character, we were able to use it (albeit in two shots...)

mercredi 8 août 2012

The husband - elements of design and wireframe turntable

NathanaelWireframeTurn from amy brutton on Vimeo.

As you will find explained in more detail below, the rather hectic wireframe of the character of the husband is due to my using the topology tool in Zbrush to create his mesh, with, this time, little regard for edgeloops and such, since he is not required to make any actual gestures, and as such I could focus more or less exclusively on retaining the detail of my Zbrush sculpt - without the very high poly count. Here I have subdivided the mesh once in Zbrush.

Giving the husband's deathly sleep... some life

As you can see from the complicated wireframe pictured above, the husband was never intended to move. However, he was intended to look alive, so I created a few morphers for the face and hands, slight twitches of the fingers and lips and three yawning morphers; the shirt and jacket were then skinwrapped to a chest proxy, which had it's own set of "heaving" morphers, which enabled us to retain the impression of life.

Zbrushing the husband

The husband was the character that required the most work on zbrush - or more exactly, that allowed the most work, since he is basically a statue. Therefore, besides his shoes and hat, the whole of his shape, his suit, hands, and head, were generated in Zbrush. I created the general figure, which I wanted long and lean, in keeping with the other characters, with the zsphere system, and sculpted from there. Once I was content with the result, I proceeded to retopologize the whole thing, since displacement would have been too expensive in render time, and was a luxury I only used for the fine detailing of the hands and neck. Finally, since bare skin would have seemed out of place on such a timeworn figure, I applied hairfarm to all the exposed skin, and used maps to control the density, length, and texture of the "fuzz".

Zbrushing the Parrot

The Parrot was definitely one of the most time-consuming elements of the film. The first hurdle was finding reference shots of "nude" birds, since some form of believability relied on it looking anatomically correct once it had it's feathers on (I subsequently trawled through a large number of shots of ancient and/or trichomaniac parrots - a sad sight indeed). Similarly, finding the equivalent of a t-pose for an armless creature was a bit hypothetical. The next task was zbrushing it, which was lots of fun, since a parrot has so many different skin textures, from it's papery head, to it's almost crackled beak, and scaly feet. In terms of feathers, I only dealt with the ones on it's head, since the others were organised on a complex rigg. As such, I used hairfarm and hair instances with three different types of feathers and three different maps, so that the limit between the feathers and the skin was not too abrupt. The perch was another affair altogether. The idea was that during the final sequence, a sculpted crocodile materialized on the wood, opening it's jaw and setting the bird free. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the final sequence, and the growing darkness "on set", this detail is quite lost, but the process of setting up the effect was no less interesting (or time-consuming...). I first zbrushed the top bar of the perch, then created, in 3dsmax, a series of morphers so that a very basic crocodile shape could be brought up out of the wood. Finally, I zbrushed the sculpted crocodile into the final morpher, exported the displacement map, and from there, using the animation tool in Photoshop, created a series of animated maps so that onto the initial wood texture, appeared waves, then the head of the crocodile, then it's teeth, and finally the complete open jaw.

Zbrushing the various organic props

Given that the film featured a rather large number of close shots (a number that diminished quite sharply as production progressed...), and that said shots were of organic subjects, such as food and small animals, there was a lot of zbrush involved. Since, however, these were short shots, I relied here upon displacement maps as opposed to retopology, so the geometry (give or take a minor zbrush "beating-up") is exclusively 3dsmax generated (as opposed to the previously described process used for the clothes and characters). Having spent a lot of time on research, I'll allow myself the luxury of adding here that the fruit is an Ackee, which is the Jamaican national fruit, of a consistency similar to scrambled eggs, and, served alongside the dried kipper (also pictured), constitues the country's national dish. The caterpillar is a swallowtail caterpillar, a species also very present in Jamaica - but my choice here was guided less by documentary exactitude, that by aesthtetics, since it has such a beautiful pattern on it's back. I was also very taken by it's diaphanous bristles, the execution of which allowed me to delve further into the "realistic hair material" in Hairfarm, and it's light-scattering properties.