For better or for worse, I decided to take charge of the visual look of the project upon receiving the first round of animation. Jerika had no plan for lighting, other than the established set lighting that was done by another student previously, which I personally found flat, boring and impractical to render for animation. Having done a significant amount of lighting design for film productions in the quarters before, I felt I could do better.
Since the set was a treehouse, I envisioned a dark blue ambiance with bright streaks of light shining through gaps in the wood creating interesting shadows andeffects. Reference imagery was collected and I got approval to proceed.
Out of 25 total shots, a single shot was selected as a pilot for getting the workflow down. This shot contained one of the characters and a good amount of the set in focus. I spent more time on this shot than any other, but the time was well spent developing the look and ironing out issues.
In order to add some life to the set itself, I played with some ways of getting the light to move around as if it were shining through moving branches and leaves. I ended up creating two planes that had a foliage alpha channel and moved them around infront of the sun light in Maya. This worked to an extent but broke down in shots that had the characters in full frontal sunlight. Ultimately more R&D time would have been helpful to iron out the issues.
In addition to complex lighting, mastering the project in 1080p was a contributing factor to the render time. Unfortunately there was no way around this, as the depth render pass used to compute depth of field had to be rendered at a very large resolution. The main beauty render pass also had to be at least 1080p for the post-processed depth of field to work without artifacts. The post DoF technique proved effective, however, as rendering depth of field baked in the beauty pass would have pushed the render time even further.
25 shots were delivered fully lit and rendered. Lighting for character animation was a fascinating experience, as was taking knowledge of film lighting and applying it in a different way.
- The Pipeline
- I set up a rigid directory structure and had no problems referencing files or transferring my assets to the renderfarm.
- Using Reference to Develop Style
- Finding and presenting reference images gave a clear goal and guide.
- More tests for R&D
- I took one shot to completion first and spent a lot of time on it to iron out issues, but I should have selected an additional shot of a different style. Problems such as the moving foliage through light were only apparent in certain shots. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time to rework what I had.