Friday, August 9, 2013

Scene Replacements, Take One

Anyone doing anything is aware of the fact that things never truly go according to plan. Except, maybe for theives... but not even then most of the time. The same is VERY true for animated shorts in production. It's almost like a gamble sometimes when you hit the render button on a scene.  Things just kind of... happen, that were completely out of left field. Or, it will become painfully obvious that one setting or item wasn't turned off when it needed to be.

It's especially rough when these mishaps happen in animated productions. In live-action, if necessary, you can go back and reshoot something to fix what's wrong. In animation, re-rendering is almost a last option most of the time. Because rendering is so time intensive, it's usually called upon the compositors to try and "edit out" what might be wrong with a shot, if possible. Here, I'll detail one such time where in compositing, I needed to cover up a tiny goof.

Here we have shot 039_01, the last shot of our film to actually get rendered. Everyone was all "Yes, all the shots are rendered!" And then our small team that was still in the studio put the EXR file into nuke to see how it came out... and we noticed something that shouldn't have been there.

Frame from shot 039_01 with those rotten numbers showing. (post composite)

NOOOOOOO!! Our camera rig's timecode appeared in the upper portion of our picture. It was almost suggested we leave it, as it wasn't the center of attention in the shot and not necessarily as noticeable. But those of us that couldn't stand it won out quickly. However, a full re-render of the shot, or even just the frames that the numbers appeared on, would have taken too long and we were already too close to the premiere to take another step backward. So, I was asked to see what I could pull together to hide the rogue numbers in Nuke.

The answer was simple enough. I could just cover up the dirty area with a clean slate that was correct. It was SO lucky that the numbers came in after the slight camera move in the scene. It would have been way more problematic if I'd have to move the patch with the camera. But since I lucked out, I could merely take a simple patch and place it over the affected area.

So first things first, the clean plate. Like I said, the numbers appeared on screen after the camera had completed its motions. From that frame on, the camera was motionless. And also, the numbers came down into frame, floated for a moment, and then lifted off the screen again. So after the numbers left, voila, clean slate!

A frame with no numbers visible that could be used as a clean slate to
hide the numbers from view. (pre-composite)
Now I had my solution: replace a piece of the clean slate over the dirty area of the renders. Here was the solution's execution.

Shot 039_01's Node Tree
First, I made a Roto for the area that I'd be using as a replacement.

And then I made it into a mask.

Next, I applied the mask to the full EXR of the shot. Applying it before the composites meant I could make changes to the whole shot and wouldn't have to do them separately.

Tree and Viewer with the rotomask deactive...
...and then turned on.
Yeah! Replacement successful! However, the replacement process wasn't complete. There was a camera move in the shot, and the roto was a single frame. The frames prior to the camera's move would then bee wrong. To rectify this, I altered the read node's properties to make it begin reading on frame 331 instead of 139, like the EXR file.

Later on , we discovered that our foolproof plan wasn't as bulletproof as we'd first thought...

NO! More numbers! However, there shouldn't be any more numbers on the EXR file, and even if there were, the clean slate should be covering it. Then I discovered that this assumption was correct, and that these new numbers were in fact coming from the EXR for the Ambient Occlusion pass, which had been rendered separate from the rest of the shot.

That bugger. Well, now there needed to be a second cleaning solution for the shot. The cleaning slate wasn't working because I decided to apply it before the scene went through the composite tree, and the AO pass is added later on down the tree. If I wanted to move the clean slate behind the AO pass, I would have to make a second set of nodes specifically for the slate, and that would get very cluttered pretty quickly. So instead, I decided to make a little "fill light" to cover the numbers.

The first image is the node tree used to create the light. The input of the merge is connected into the colorspace node of the clean slate. The RotoPaint node masking the slate is a repeat of the original RotoPaint, giving the new light it's shape. The CC node does exactly what you think it might. I left the panels on the right side visible to show you that I also have the Merge node animated.

This was an unexpected and quick fix I didn't know I would need to make. However, when it came to judging how to place the light, I had to make it at least somewhat believable that there could actually be spill light there coming from the window. Not to mention, a matching color.

And there you have it! Replacing an area of a shot with a still image in order to quickly hide some of the unfortunate goofs that occur when you least expect them too. And I say quickly because this method took maybe an hour or so to get completed, whereas a re-render of those woe begotten frames would've taken an overnight rendering shift!

Final Composite!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where I'm At, At Present

So, I feel like I've been neglecting my site and blog, and that I haven't been working on my projects, but this isn't true! At least, the latter isn't. My month of storyboarding is complete, and while I don't have a lot digitally to show for it, I've got a lot of stuff upcoming. I thought I'd share what I'm currently working on so that it doesn't seem like I'm not working and being lazy!

Storyboarding and Story Development:
     I'm currently in the process of writing two other stories on top of my first script, "FACED." These two stories are entitled "The Nightmare Creator" (a more dramatic story) and "Wanted" (my first venture into a comedic tale). My month of storyboarding was mostly focusing on trying to get "FACED" well through the process of being boarded. I have at least half of the story now in various stages of boarding, and I'm a little upset at how slow I'm progressing at it, but now that I have a second job and because I'm still learning to get more comfortable with drawing digitally with a tablet, it's taking me longer than I thought it might. However, I'm farther along with the project than I was a month ago.

     "FACED" is now in the process of being boarded, yes! I've also made up a Shot List for the short, and I've made overhead maps of each of the environments with full camera movements and positions. This is exceedingly helpful with boarding, since the hard part of deciding how the shots will be set up is already taken care of. I'm also working on Model Sheets of the main characters so that I have official reference for each of the boards. The Boy's model sheet is almost complete. Two more main characters remain.

     As for the other two stories, they are both still being written. "The Nightmare Creator" is my official second story/script. I've gotten at 3/4 of the story completed and written out. One scene has been sketched out in my Moleskin already (to see it, go here > This story I'm creating differently than I did "FACED." With my first story, I had a distinct idea of how the story would play out and how I would proceed from beginning to end. With my second story attempt, I'm letting the story create itself. The scene I've already sketched out was the first scene/idea I had for the story. I was looking through a digital painting book when I came across a painting of an artist's idea of a nightmare creator. After reading how the artist worked through the story of his image, this scene came to me. It was so vivid I had to sketch it and write it out. Then I set it aside because I was working on "FACED," and I had no thoughts to where the story would go or how this scene would play out in it. Then, randomly while working, a new idea came to me for the story, and with the new character, a new scene popped into my head. This too I wrote down to come back to later. Then two other scenes came to me this way. I feel as though the story is basically here now, and I have most of it inside my brain waiting to get drawn. I've pretty much let the story guide itself, and because of this, I have a grand idea for a specific vision of the film. Soon I'll have the script completed as well as the model sheets, and I will begin storyboarding it!

     "Wanted" is my most recent concept, and this one began with a T-shirt design I saw. I thought that the idea behind the shirt was funny, and then later on that night found myself thinking about it again. Over the course of the night, I had a full story idea and the main character. I've also made a few sketches for this story and drawn up a few of the boards in my Moleskin.

     I've got a few stories lined up to work on, and eventually, I will have animatics of each of them to share. I've got my work cut out for me here!

     I'm back in Maya! Right after August began, with my month of storyboarding at a close, I could return to Maya! I'm currently working on a two character interaction animation. In it, a character two of my friends created/modeled and rigged curiously sneaks up on a cute rig of a cube character I found, Johnny the Box. The creature scares Johnny, and he proceeds to yell at the monster, causing it to cower in regret.

     I'm currently helping two of my friends with their personal projects. For one friend, I'm editing for promotional materials for a Collectible Card Game "The Spoils." I'm editing clips as well as doing a little first time blue screen work in Nuke.

     I'm also helping another friend on a pilot for a show he wants to pitch to Adult Swim. It's mostly compositing work, attempting to remove some green screen from footage.

     Lastly, while scouring the interwebs for digital jobs where I could animate, I came across the Animation Collaboration Group on LinkedIn. Going to it's Google+ page, I found out it was an entire short being created by people coming together online. The ACG is an interesting idea to gather people interested in working inside this field to give them more experience and pieces to boost their portfolios. I'm currently helping the production UV objects so that they can be textured, and will be animating on it once it makes it to the animation phase.

     I've recently started working a second job in order to make money to maintain my living situation as well as meet the need to save up as much money as possible for a future move to a more industry conducive area (namely Cali or NY). This has definitely eaten into my time, but because I'm making tips now, I'm actually getting saving money!

Damn, writing it all out like this definitely shows me I've got a lot on my plate at the moment! But I'm the type of person that always needs to be working on something. I think I'm doing that! But, I'm hoping that all of this will pay off with new connections and portfolio pieces that will eventually earn me the job I've been looking for!

I also feel as though I should be keeping up with this blog, and doing a bit more like my first post within it. So, in an effort to do so, I'll attempt to write at least one blog a week on more compositing pieces and hopefully an animation one or two (now that I'm back into it!). And that won't include this one! So come Friday, I'll have another new post for anyone checking this out! Until then!