This World is MINE!

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page.This World is MINE!

In keeping with my goal of making my images look like stills from a motion picture, I set the camera on this piece low with a long lens.  If I were shooting this as a film that’s what I would do.  Unfortunately that makes the background environment flatten and, in this particular image, I think it makes it look like a layered composite over a still.  I spent a lot of time trying to adjust the depth of field and the camera angle to make it look “whole” but I think I was ultimately unsuccessful.  There may be several reasons for this but I think it may be partially psychological.  In a film this style is common and accepted without question, but here we know beforehand that the image is synthetic and therefore our eye is on the lookout for signs of fakery.

One thing I learned from my early experience with actual physical model making is that a shallow depth of field will make the model look small, regardless of how well it’s done.  You always need everything in focus to fool the eye and make it look bigger, otherwise the eye will notice other cues and the actual scale will be revealed.

I really don’t want to be limited in that way with my CGI work.  I need to find a way to use a shallow depth of field and make it look right, especially on medium and close shots.

Rendered in DAZ Studio
Color correction in Lightroom

Prints are available on my Deviant Art page.  Hang one on your wall today!

I was fluid, like water

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page.I was fluid, like water

Looking back, my previous CGI images have all been very static, essentially characters just standing there.  I wanted this one to be dynamic!  I imagined something less realistic looking with an Anime flavor that said, “Stand by for ACTION!”

I also wanted to keep it bright.  Almost all my previous images have dark low key lighting, mainly because I like the visual drama that creates.  This needed to be bright not only because of the comic book animation inspiration but also because I wanted to offer this image as a print.  I wasn’t sure how well my previous dark images would translate to a printed photo on the wall.

To create drama in the background I wanted a long space corridor.  With a wide camera lens the one point perspective could simulate a stylized anime background action burst.  I wanted it to look like a comic book splash page.  I imagined a long space hallway like the white corridor on the rebel blockade runner at the beginning of the original Star Wars.Star Wars white hall

I tried every hallway set, factory, train station, and urban exterior I have, SciFi or otherwise, but nothing really worked.  I did have a modular SciFi construction kit with various wall and floor panels so I decided to build the corridor I needed myself.I was fluid like water BTS set building

It had to be quite long and recede far into the distance.  I tried many different combinations of the panels but most of them didn’t work.  I found that even slight raised details changed the character of the panel lines when viewed edge on, especially way in the back.  Getting strong unbroken lines down the corridor was difficult and took a long time.I was fluid like water BTS camera setup

Whenever I tried something and it didn’t work I had to propagate a change down the entire length of the hallway.  Fortunately most of the pieces in the construction kit were similar sizes so it became a matter of knowing the offsets of sections further down the hall and simply replacing the objects.  Relatively easy but tedious.I was fluid like water BTS blue walls on top

In the end one panel with two blue painted lines became the theme of the entire space.  The blue was similar to the blue in the “spacesuit” I had picked out for the girl so that helped.I was fluid like water BTS long hall

Initially I had built the lighting into the walls of the set.  I had placed small “practical” lights along the top angled section of both walls. Extending those lights down the entire length of the hall created an even overall “hall light.”  It worked OK but became unwieldy when making so many changes to get the walls correct. There ended up being over a hundred of these small lights that had to be moved every time there was a change, so I dumped them.I was fluid like water BTS first hall slice

I decided to try the Advanced Ambient Light by Age of Armour that had been recommended to me awhile back.  An ambient light is able to bring up the light level of everything in the scene all at once.  I was leery of using it because it creates a very flat and unrealistic light, but it did exactly what was needed for the background down the long hall.

The ambient light lit up the main character too but the quality of light was just so blah.  I added seven very specific spot lights on the girl to punch it up.  These lights aren’t bright but they’re angled in such a way to model the face, hands, legs, etc. and give the character more dimension.  Each light is subtle but all of them together make quite a bit of difference.I was fluid like water BTS spot lights 640

Setting them was tricky because if you weren’t careful you could end up with some crazy shadows on the background.  The lights needed to be very focused.

After rendering out of DAZ studio at 10K, post work on the image was minimal.  I fixed a few minor problems with the hair in Photoshop and did a little bit of color correction in Lightroom.  What do you think? I was fluid like water BTS lightroom

Prints are available on my Deviant Art page.  Hang one on your wall today!

I do the job, and then I get paid!

I do the job, and then I get paid!

This is my newest CGI creation. It was a long road to get to this final image and I almost abandoned it. Here’s what happened.

My initial idea was to do something similar to this famous pose from the TV show Firefly.

firefly - Mal points

I’m starting to manually pose my characters and relying less on presets.  Could I capture the drama in this screen capture?  Well, I worked on it for a while and thought either I was still too inexperienced to capture the dynamics or maybe I picked the wrong image to emulate.   My version was just so meh.   There wasn’t any dramatic focus. Here’s what it looked like at that point:

I had put the character in a large futuristic Gothic chamber to add some drama and I had sunlight streaming through the windows.  It was clear that the complexity of the architecture and the shadows made the background a mess.  I re-lit the scene for night.

Better but still busy in the background especially when I put anything outside the windows. I didn’t know what to do so I played around with the gun surface for a few hours and made it shiny.  That just put more emphasis on the gun and less on his face.

So I trashed the “location” and tried some others. I was fun to turn off the visibility of the “set” and load new environments just to see if they would work with the exact same character pose and camera shot.

alt location kitchen

I tried a futuristic kitchen set…

alt location asylum

…a run down insane asylum…

alt location mars

…and even the surface of the planet Mars.  The Mars landscape was the simplest and in keeping with the source inspiration but I really wanted to have more than a plain color as a background.

Finally I settled on simply rotating my original set so the character would be backed by the wall instead of the entire gothic chamber. This simplified the background while still keeping some of the look I was going for.  I also tried to make the windows look like lights on the wall, you know, like in the death star?  But I felt that was too bright and finally decided to just make them black. Anything else was too distracting.

Another element that I think didn’t work was the red light I put in the barrel of the laser pistol. I loved the effect but I thought it pulled the viewer’s eye away from his face. It took me an hour to get that light in the gun just right and I like it!  So to balance the red in the image I made the characters hair the same color.  I’m not sure but I think that works.

I do the job, and then I get paid!

This is probably not one of my best images but on the long road to its completion I learned plenty.  What do you think?

love is not enough

love is not enoughAdvanced lighting class!  A black suit against a dark background and forties film noir style glamor lighting on the face.  I’m now comfortable setting lights, well the spotlight at least, which is the most like a real Fresnel movie light.  Still not too sure about some of the other style lights available in the program.  I tried using a point light as a fill light and it was a disaster, very unrealistic looking.  I’m going to stick to spotlights for interior lighting.  Wish they had barn doors to make a quick slash on the wall.  I made a “flag” with a flattened solid primitive cube though and that worked.

The background is actually a scifi medical bay set with diagnostic beds and everything.  I spent hours trying different background lights but eventually settled on leaving it dark with only the computer monitors lit.  It just seems more mysterious that way.  It’s the same on a movie set.  If the lighting isn’t working you’re probably using too many lights.  Turn some off and see what it looks like.  Chances are it will be better.

a million faces, a million lies

a million faces, a million liesMaking movies is something I know about.  I know how to light a space and frame a shot on a real world film set.  It’s a process that makes sense to me.  That’s comforting when I’m floundering around with all the thousands of CGI controls that I have no clue about.  It gives me more time to experiment and learn.

This image actually came about serendipitously when I was setting the depth of field on the camera in the previous shot. I was off to the side (in a virtual sense) measuring the focal distance from camera to subject and this is what I saw. I set another camera, moved the red light a bit to adjust the shadow, and threw a cool blue light on the back wall. It’s just one of those happy accidents that sometimes becomes the coolest shot in your film.

what do you want?

What do you want?

One of the things I’m trying to do with my CGI work is develop a cinematic style.  Some of the digital art I see around the internet looks like it’s trying to imitate traditional illustration, other pieces look more like comic book or manga style, a lot looks like computer games.  This is all fine but I want my work to look like it came from a motion picture.  I want it to look like The Godfather, High and Low, Barry Lyndon, Days of Heaven, or Night of the Hunter.  I want these early test images to look like a still frame ripped from a longer dramatic story.

I actually thought this image would be more of a challenge than it actually was.  Lighting chrome in the real world is difficult.  I was ready to abandon it if it looked terrible.  I imagined I would have to light the entire set around the character but I tried lighting it directly first and it looked OK.  There are only four lights working here, a cool bluish key and two reddish fills on the character, and a light on the background.  I’d really like to see this character moving with all those reflections but that’s a little advanced for me right now.  I’ll have to come back to this one later when I start experimenting with animation.

thinking of you

Thinking of You

I went back to my first setup to try a long lens closeup.  I’m not really happy with the hair.  It’s a bit unrealistically kinky.  The shadow makes it worse, but that’s not what this shot is about.  The super exciting major point of this shot is the column in the background!  I actually set a light and adjusted it myself so you could see something back there!  Now I know how to set both cameras and lights!  Onward…

Make sure you click on the image to see it in the original 4K size.  The detail of these inexpensive models is stunning!

Oh NO! He’s loose in the city!

Another test in DAZ Studio.  This time in an exterior location.  (click to embiggen)



I think at this point I’ve mastered how to set a camera and control the depth of field, which has been my main focus up to now.

I’m still having trouble getting the feet on the ground correctly.  The back foot just doesn’t seem to be on the ground.  I think this has more to do with the shadow than anything else.  I’m still using light presets that come with the environment so I’ll play around with this more when I set some custom lights.

I color corrected this a bit in Lightroom to give it a bit more punch.  It makes a big difference.  The two images in my previous post were right out of DAZ Studio and I see now that I should have done the extra work and color corrected them too.

Models = Infernal Behemoth in Urban Sprawl 2

I’ve started experimenting with computer animation

That’s right.  This former model builder and stop motion animator is embracing the evil, evil world of CGI.

Way back in the before time when I was a kid, my first step into narrative film-making was stop motion animation.  I was a model builder and it was a natural step.  It was also the only way for me to create the SciFi worlds I saw in my young head.  Since then as technology advanced I always wanted to try computer animation.  In fact, when I bought my first non-linear editing system, it was a toss up between that and a Kinetix 3Dmax system.  I went the editing route and I have the heavy iron D/Vision workstation holding my door open to prove it!  Cut to today:

Right now I’m experimenting with DAZ studio which is free software for the new CGI/Illustration market.  (Go check out anything traditionally illustrated with paintings like romance novel covers and chances are you will see a CGI image created with DAZ models.)  DAZ also has a marketplace where you can buy reasonably priced CGI characters, clothes, environments, and yes, spaceshipsRight now I’m at the basic learning stage.  I have goals like: “Can I make a character stand in a room, set a camera, and render it properly?”  Well, what do you think?  (click to embiggen)

v6 test 09 cam 01 v6 test 08 cam 04 red light off



Space: 1999 original 44 inch Eagle One special effects model!

Check out this video of the original Space: 1999 Eagle One 44 inch special effects model as it appears today!  See the inner workings including the crude pilots in the cockpit and how the rocket engines shoot out compressed air!  Fabulous!

…The Original 44 inch Eagle One special effects model, from the 1970s Gerry Anderson television series Space: 1999. The only large model available at the start of filming (it was later joined by two other similar models at that size) it featured heavily in most episodes – and was crashed many times. Now 35 years old, it has been damaged and painted several times over the years but was given a major refurbishment in 2002 to return it to it’s studio appearance and more importantly to prevent it falling apart. It should now easily last for another 35+!