Ari Rubenstein is a film compositor currently working at Blue Sky Studios in White Plains, NY.
For years he has developed side projects unconstrained by budget and scheduling limitations, in an attempt to explore tools and techniques not afforded by his current opportunities.
He is very intrigued by film illusion, the use of any and every technique from a wide variety of crafts which combine to convey story points. This is why he chose compositing as a specialty, a realm of production where all the art is composed into a unified, and final vision. This project is his first experience with Vue.
"I got into 3D by watching a dozen forensic animators at work, mesmerized by their capacity to communicate through artistic composition and animation. I started with 3dsMax, then Maya, and eventually found that the more ambitious large scale vfx shots I desired to create could not be handled with either application alone which is when I went looking for Vue"
In Compositing, perfect registration of all rendered layers is required for the illusion to be successful. Therefore, whatever 3D tools I use needs to have the capacity to translate camera and geometry between applications. I also need the ability to generate common render passes which compositors utilize, such as z-depth, tag channels, and more. Vue was the only organic landscape generation tool with all these capabilities."
This project took form as an attempt to study Shan-Shui, the philosophy behind traditional Chinese landscape painting. The subject matter of mountains, rivers, and the "sea of clouds", like many Chinese paintings, is inspired by Huangshan "the Yellow Mountains", which are located in the southeastern corner of the Anhui Province, in Eastern China.
There is a concept in Chinese landscape painting of "idea-realms", where the painting is inspired by a specific poem, or idea.
In that tradition, presented here are three "dynamic paintings", or, "idea-realms", each meant to reflect a fundamental idea in Taoist philosophy.
"I used this work as a means to study an artistic form I have been inspired by for quite awhile, and also to learn the Nuke compositing application, specifically 3D compositing techniques for large scale vfx shot creation."
This project took 14 months to complete and was accepted for the Siggraph 2008 Computer Animation Festival. The three "dynamic paintings" are essentially visual effects shots which demonstrate elaborate 3D compositing techniques. What follows is a breakdown of core procedures involved in the production of these three shots.
Modeling and propagation in Vue
"For modeling, I used Vue 6 xStream to create mountains and trees through procedural propagation. Trees are placed on the mountain surface based upon organic distribution parameters of altitude and slope. The density, scale and type of foliage within regions of the terrain is also highly controllable. Once the mountainscape is composed in 3d space, lower-resolution geometry can be exported as standard .obj files for reference in other software."
"What makes Vue special, and particularly suited for collaborative, complex vfx shot production, is a suite of plugins which enable simultaneous camera and renderer interaction between all the primary 3d applications. What completes the effective integration of this landscape generation tool is the application's capacity to render locally, or pass off a variety of image channel data to external renderers."
Ease of Use and Difficulties
Compositing in Nuke
"The easiest part of the project was the camera and geo updating between Vue, Maya and Nuke. This worked seamlessly with each and every iteration. I had so many pre-vis variations and composition changes during the course of the project that had this been a cumbersome workflow I might have thrown in the towel very early on."
"I realized that I couldn't render animated sequences in Vue without ‘noise’, however I overcame this by exploring the technique of 3d camera projection onto low-resolution geometry. This way I rendered 4k mountain stills in Vue, with other passes, then exported low res versions of the mountain geo, and projected the 4k render stills onto the low res geo and rendered that with an animated camera in Nuke. These new projection passes I re-constituted and composited in Nuke (re-combined multiple renders (7 different mountains) for a variety of further editing to create atmosphere and integration with FX generated in Maya and 3dsMax."
While 3D compositing creates a variety of creative options for environment creation, the specific use of projection mapping must be well planned out or the technique will become obvious, and the effect unsuccessful. Meticulous attention to camera behavior must be considered, or realistic parallax will not be achieved and the fake dimension of the environment made plain.
As part of the submission Ari created a companion website to his submission which describes the project in more details http://www.curvstudios.com/nature
Ari Rubenstein is currently working on another side project which will make heavy use of Vue for a large 10k matte painting. He will be creating a huge forested, snow-capped mountain range vista for a sequence in a short film.
"Just a big thanks for creating such a forward-thinking product. My hope is that you will steer this application towards the film production arena, continuing to create functionality for matte painters and compositors."
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