Quick and Basic Lighting & Rendering

Here is a super fast way for animators to texture, light, and render shots to spruce up pieces to have a finished quality for reels. What’s great about this method is that it can be as simple as you want or as complex as you want; like baking a cake you can have plain yellow cake made from a mix out of the box or you can continue to add sprinkles, frosting, and rum to it.

In this tutorial I will be using Mental Ray and in Maya 2014 but it can be done with any render engine and across different platforms as long as you render out the necessary layers of at least the diffuse (color) and occlusion.

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Big Hero 6 Review

This is way long overdue. I originally watched Big Hero 6 back when it first came out but life was hectic and I never got to talk about it. Today I was planning on going to see Selma since I got an early screening pass but the theater filled up before I could get in. I wasn't too bummed out since I saw that Big Hero 6 was still playing at the theater and I was way more excited to see that again.

I had almost forgotten that Feast played in front of Big Hero 6 so I got really excited when it came on. I had already seen a rough cut prior to the full release and then once again the first time I saw Big Hero 6. When I saw it in front of the movie, for some reason I had felt that Feast played somewhat faster, as in a shot or two might have been cut, than what I originally saw. It was mainly in the beginning when the man and the woman gradually fall out of their relationship. Now that I saw it again I didn't feel that as much, particularly as I was able to focus on what was going on in the background instead of Winston, the dog, and his food. Other things that I really enjoyed was the visual storytelling. The color green was used so well as it being associated the woman and unwanted foods, but then turns around at the end with the baby on a green chair. I loved the shot with Winston opening his mouth wide and we get a shot down his throat during the football game and is then mimicked again when the baby drops the meatball.

Big Hero 6. I loved it the first time. It was hilarious and also so sad. All the feels! I felt them all again watching it this second time around. During the scene where Hiro is first introduced to Baymax and had to say "I am satisfied with my care" I already lost it and was crying.

I am also currently obsessed with finding a San Fransokyo hat like the one that Tadashi has. If anyone knows where I can get one, let me know!

The skin texture/shading/material is so interesting that I kept looking at it throughout the movie. They're stylized and simplistic and different than what I'm used to doing. The skin is smooth and there's some beautiful color variations with blush and lights and darks which makes it interesting to look at but not overly detailed. Generally for skin I've always had to use a speckle in the specular map and a noise in the bump to give it that skin texture with pores look.

Lighting. Disney has their new Hyperion render engine and I've read a few articles about it and it sounds awesome. More importantly though is that some seem to claim that with Hyperion only a primary light source is needed to light the entire scene of Big Hero 6 and then everything else is left to the render engine to calculate global illumination. I'm not quite sure how true that is as there were a lot of light sources in each scene in and there were clearly primary and secondary lights; otherwise it wouldn't be possible to have both a specular highlight in the eye and a rim light coming from behind. It would probably be more accurate to say that the amount of lights necessary to light a shot has dramatically been decreased and more calculations are handled by the render engine which in turn also decreases some inconsistency of light and color between shots.

Generally I cringe at the thought of sequels but I really want to see a sequel to Big Hero 6!

Quick Lighting and Rendering for Animators

Awhile back I posted a Lighting and Texturing Cheat for Animators but that write up was a slight cheat in itself as I took an already pre-existing shot and just recomposited it in the cheat method without specular, reflections, and GI. I now have a more detailed write up with more screenshots of where things are located and fuller explanations.  Quick Lighting & Rendering for Animators

The tutorial can be found over on TeaTime Animation's forums. Come sign up! TeaTime isn't just limited to us club members but we are open to the entire animation industry community. We are rapidly growing and have people from all over joining in and posting, sharing their work, resources, and critiques.

This is a super fast way for animators to texture, light, and render shots to spruce up pieces to have a finished quality for reels. This is in essence what some short films such as Saga of BiornMac'n'Cheese, and Meet Buck do but at a very basic level. What's great about the method is that it can be as simple as you want or as complex as you want; like baking a cake you can have plain yellow cake made from a mix out of the box or you can continue to add sprinkles, frosting, and rum to it.

In the tutorial I will be using Mental Ray and in Maya 2014 but it can be done with any render engine and across different platforms as long as you render out the necessary layers of at least the diffuse (color) and occlusion. This lovely scene and animation is byMendel Reis. [youtube]

DreamWorks Outreach Program

Stopping at AAU while on her global journey to reach out to various schools, we have Tiffany Feeney, DreamWorks' manager of university relations, come spend an evening with us to talk about DreamWorks' Outreach Program and what recruiters like and want to see on applications. There's a little bit of everything for everyone in different departments and it is at all their locations, Glendale, Redwook City, and Bangalore. The Outreach program generally takes 40 to 60 people so get those resumes, cover letters, and reels ready! While there is no exact deadline listed, Tiffany recommends to have your applications sent by the end of March. Story It is important to have original stories to show your creativity so be sure to include 2-3 of your own works! Stories should have a beginning, middle and end; do not do "To be continued" as it shows nothing of your capabilities and ends up killing your portfolio. There should be 10 to 40 boards per project. For story artists, there is a program called the Story Initiative where you must send in a physical copy of your portfolio, along with resume and cover letter by March 21st. For those chosen, a story test will be given of a script containing DreamWorks property and you will have to draw 100 boards in a certain amount of time.

Visual Development Visual development are artist who design characters, sets, environments, and props. As an entry level position, you will be designing the sets, environments, and props, while character designers are positions that are promoted into after showing adequate skill and knowledge of the pipeline. Often the character designers are also the art director. It is important to demonstrate how you think through showing thumbnails. Think also about light and color and the story behind everything you design. A good design doesn't just stop at how it looks but also consider how it lends itself to animation and the pipeline procedure through turntables and  shader packets.

Modeling While it may look nice to have your model beautifully textured and surfaced, that should be the last thing for you to consider as a modeler. It is perfectly fine, and even encouraged, to have a plain lambert gray shaded model so that whoever is reviewing your reel can see the topology and the joints. Have strong organic models, such as trees and rocks, on your reel as they are difficult in their own way to model well. Beautiful cathedrals can look impressive but modelers know that they aren't all that hard to model as cathedrals aren't really all that complex; once you model one buttress you just duplicate it over and over again. When even modeling items such as environment assets or simple props, give the object a character; not only characters have individuality. Once again, consider the pipeline and don't over detail. It may look fancy to sculpt in all the weaves and folds on a piece of fabric but that becomes unusable in production as fabric usually goes through dynamics and smaller details are done through surfacing.

Character TD All you elusive riggers, show those deformation systems of skin wrinkles and cloth movements along with standard joint based skeletons. Have bipeds, quadruped, and facial rigs.

Surfacer Even though you may be trying to specifically enter in to the CG animation side of the industry, it is good to show realistic texturing and surfacing. Try to match an object to a live action plate and what recruiters always enjoy seeing is food that looks so real that they get hungry and want a piece.

Previs/Layout Show off that film background with some amazing camera work and some set dressing and composition techniques. A lot of times what separates a student film from looking professional are those static locked cameras so getting in there with some adjustments to camera and lenses to make your film look more dynamic.

Character Animator Give your characters a performance and personality while focusing on acting and physical movement. While lip syncing is good to show, you don't need it on everything, instead try having a character off screen or to the side and show a second character emoting in reaction to the dialogue.

Character Effects Hair, cloth, and fur, oh my! Since there weren't any people present who were interested in this particular area, Tiffany didn't delve too much into this area.

Crowds Crowd artists are the ones who populate scenes that contains 6 or more non-main characters. Crowd artists will mainly animate in cycles and also use mocap.

Lighting It is suggested to take a recognizable object and be able to sell it well with lighting so pay attention to the world around you. Lighting tends to intersect a lot with surfacing so there are the same suggestions of matching to a live action plate and showcasing food is always a crowd pleaser. DreamWorks' entry level lighting position is called Lighting TA (technical assistant) and lighting TAs are the CG supervisor's right hand wo/man and are responsible for setting up shots and light rigs to be passed on to lighters to polish, render, and composite.

Matte Painting Demonstrate atmosphere and space in sets, worlds, and extensions.

Effects Cloth, fluid, and physics. Like the story artists, effects also has a challenge called the FX Challenge for you to send your reel to.

Technical Director For those of you who are good at problem solving, programming, scripting, and can fix everything to make the lives for the rest of us in production easier. ___________________________________________________________________________________

For those who haven't seen it yet, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is finally out in theatres. For those who have, those who joined us at the early press screening, go see it again! What we missed out on in the press screening is the short that goes before the movie. It is a 4 minute short introducing us to DreamWorks' next movie, after How to Train A Dragon 2, Home, that is slated to be released later this year in November.

Lighting and Texturing Cheat for Animators

Often times when you talk to animators, they mainly focus on how good the animation is. They don't particularly care at all about how well the shading/texturing is or how nice the lighting set up is, all that to them is additional bells and whistles that they don't want or have time to think about when animating. While having a fully textured, lit, and rendered shot isn't as important to animators who solely need to show how well they can animate, having a finished piece in a demo reel on top of having great animation can make oneself stand out all the more. There is actually a really easy and fast (both process and rendering) method of getting a "finished" looking shot. This method is similar to what is done for shorts such as Saga of Bjorn, Mac'n'Cheese, and Meet Buck. This is great for animation students or those working on individual projects.

Starting with shading/texture painting. Simply use surface shaders and apply it onto everything with the color that you desire. That's it! One great thing about this method is the versatility. You can be as simple as necessary or go into as much detail as you want. You can use the simple one color surface shader or you can go as far as to detailing the surfaces of objects. If you wish to actually paint the surfaces, unwrapping the UVs will need to be done first. Unwrapping isn't that hard but it's made even easier with tools such as UVLayout or Roadkill where all you have to do is cut the geometry apart, flatten it, then press a button to automatically layout the UVs. As everything is using a surface shader, the rendering time is super fast, a few seconds per frame. diffuseCompd Of course you probably want to give your models some form so that everything doesn't look like cutouts on the screen. Render out an occlusion pass. Rendering an occlusion pass will be take the most extensive amount of time to render as it is done through a calculation by Maya of objects between objects. ao171 Composite the occlusion layer on top of your diffuse; the simple way would be to use a multiply but a more correct method would be to use it as a mask to drive a color correction. Now you have some volume in the scene and it looks pretty decent. aoCompd The above looks like it would work decently well, but you this open window and think nit would be great if there was light coming through to create a grid pattern onto the floor. This is really simple to do; create a new render layer in Maya and right click > create material override and apply a basic gray lambert onto everything. Shine your lights in the scene, and render that out. This renders out very fast as everything is just a basic lambert shader. Now composite this light pass on top of your previous image with a multiply adjustment and there you go! In my example, my lights are a bit more extensive as I actually lit the scene with fill and bounce lights instead of just casting a few spotlights for keys. 171lightlightsCompd

To get super fancy, if you know what you are doing in Nuke or After Effects, add some bloom highlights, god rays, and a depth blur. Additionally, I took the specular, reflection, and refraction passes from my normal render and composited those in also to get this final look. finalCompd

Again, this is a quick and dirty way to get a decent looking render for someone, such as an animator, to increase the visual aspect of a short reel piece. For actual texture artists and lighters this would definitely not work as using flat surface shaders means you lose all the actual texture qualities of the material (specular, glossiness, reflections, sub surface just to name a few).