Here is the final result.
"The Veil of St. Veronica. Stained with the blood of christ, and is worth millions on the market".
This project is a trailer for a concept for a feature film. This project marks the end of a three year Bachelor Degree in VFX. At the institute we mainly focus on Compositing, but I wanted to show myself what I have learned in 3 years. There is a mix between compositing, CG focused shots and some mattepaint.
I am the sole artist who have done something on it regarding pre-production, production and post-production. The only exception is actors, Prod.Ass and the creators behind pre-build assets I have acquired on the internet.
This goal of this production was not to make a high level VFX production that could win an Oscar or something. A lot of the shots are not even 100% finished. However, this production was meant as a final test on deep water where I am putting everything I know to a test.
I know no one forced me to do this alone. The reason why I was the only artist on this project is up to debate, but the short answer is that I had no other option.
Research & Development
Before I start talking about what I did and how I did it. I think it essential to know that this trailer is a concept about (in other words how it all started).
It all started with a simple (mandatory) collaboration between VFX and Script department at The Westerdals Institute (now under management by Kristiania University College). The task was to create a small script with the scriptwriter that could be a potential BA project.
Personally I am a big fan of games like Uncharted and Tomb Raider, and love exiting treasure hunt films like Indiana Jones, Sahara, Pirates of The Caribbean, Sahara Tomb Raider (again (2018 remake)). There is no doubt these films and games inspired me wanting to create something in the same realm, but could be turned into a feature film without copyright strikes from the producers of those mentioned above. And there is where Emil Kobberød came into the picture. He supplemented me first a synopsis about the film, then full script from the first scene, and eventually the trailer script.
It is worth to mention that I believe this BA project does not make justice of the script Emil wrote for the project, and I hope one day this film will be a reality.
What is the film about?
The film "The Veil" is about a tomb raider named Carter in his 30s. In the beginning of the film we learn that he is hiking Mt. Belukha in search for the Tomb of Alexander The Great. Carter is inspired by Nathan Drake, but more cynical and his only goal there is to find some diamonds so he can pay his bills.
At the top of Mt. Belukha there is an ancient cave. There we are introduced to his rival "Howard". Howard, inspired by Konstantin from the Tomb Raider series. However, this nemisis/rival is more tuned down, and funded by National Geographic all over the world in search of lost relics and tombs. Howard is not your moral guided Indiana Jones either, as Howard have "goons with guns" with him.
A lot of action that I don´t want to reveal happens on at Mt. Belukha. Somehow, Carter must escape the mountain with Howards men behind him, since why not.
Some days later we are in Instanbul, where Carter sells the diamond he found at the Tomb of Alexander The Great. In the markets of Instanbul, Carter encounter a former client who hired him several months before to find "The Veil of St. Veronica", and reminds Carter that he has a deal to withheld.
From there on starts a fast pace adventure with a mix of The DaVinci Code, Uncharted, Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones to find The Veil of St. Veronica.
To make things easier to follow, and reduce the amount of effort I actually have to write this entry. I am going to write this in concord with the BA rapport which I also have to deliver as a part of my finals at the institute.
Snowy Mountains is the first scene we encounter in the film, and trailer. Here we are at the final ascend of Mt. Belukha. Personally I did´t really like the profile of the Mountain based on the images that I found
I wanted to make something pretty, opposite to a blizzard ascend shot. In this scene, our protagonist Carter, has climbed up the entire mountain overnight, and is moving into the final 30 minutes before he gets to the cave where Alexander The Great is burried.
The colours here are suppose to present a new day = new opportunities. This scene is in the first 20 minutes of the film, and the mood is meant to support the feeling that there is something new. Foreshadowing that something has ended
Yesterday = the hunt for the Tomb of Alexander The Great.
Today= who knows (we do, the hunt for The Veil of St. Veronica).
Some might say the colours look candy-like, but I like it,
Shot Code: q01_s010a
With the same background as q01_s010b, in this shot we see Carter for the first time entering frame. The shot has been cut three times, to kind of speeding up the time with same time (confusing? just look at the trailer and you know what I mean). At the picture above you see the second cut.
Here is a quick Plate, Alpha, Final wipe.
Shot Code: Q01_s010b
Following Carter walking into frame and kind of introducing himself, we see more the location where he is. For this shot it was essential to have a really low angle (quite close to ground) to make him taller than the other mountains in the frame to give the feeling that wherever he is, he must be on a really hight mountain. In this shot Carter is motivating the camera and actually starts the trailer.
SideNote: Since this shot is heavily inspired by Uncharted 3 (when Nate grabs the Kalashnikov and walks into the desert), I too had to give my protagonist a Kalashnikov. Link to key art on this text to avoid copyright strikes.
Here is a quick Plate, Alpha, Final wipe.
Here are some key iterations of the composition to final image.
Note to progress view: Mattepaint was changed quite close to deadline, and it would take too long to have a progress photo with the mattepaint pictures un-edited.
Shot Code: Q01_s010c
This is the mountain where Carter is hiking. In the script it is Mt. Belukha, but since I preferred the profile of K2 instead, I modelled it after K2 in ZBrush, after getting a base mesh with heightmap from Gaea.
I am not particularly proud of this one. Previous to this shot the last time I sculpted was as a first grader for a couple of weeks, The result was terrible.
I set-dressed the mountain with Megascans meshes. The final technique to texturise the mountain was with camera mapping in Clarisse. I went through several iterations of this mountain before I landed on a final shape and look.
Here is the final progress view of the final look.
In the script Emperor Tiberius is standing in front of a legion in Rome. There is also a scene where the assassin is running on the rooftops of The Vatican in 1527, but that was changed to tie some storylines together and to save resources. Instead, the assassin is running on the roofs of Rome to assassinate Tiberius.
The shot done in the Rome scene didn't rally have any references, as I didn't found any suitable.
Lighting, set-dress, layout and rendering is all done in clarisse. Some comp has been done to get flames, BG and lensflare. Grade is also done in Nuke.
Shot Code: Q02_s050a
Emperor Tiberius, played by me since my actor ditched in the last minute. This shot is more to motivate the next one. I didn't spend much time on it, maybe 1-2 hours max in total.
Moreover, I did spend 12 hours sewing the brocade onto the toga (not joking. I was sewing from 1600 to 0400 by hand while watching Netflix).
Shot Code: Q02_s050b
The following shot to 050a. Here we are on low angle total where we see more of what is going on. Emperor Tiberius is standing in front of a legion. Some might think the soldiers are quite stiff and static, but they are in fact disciplined to stand still.
Here is a small recap of the progress, since on the contrary to 050a, I actually made an effort on this one.
Shot Code: Q02_s060a
The character in FG is the assassin on a mission to assassinate Tiberius. He/She is running on the roof of Rome while a ceremony is taking place on the ground.
As all 3D scenes, this one is also made in clarisse. I used point array to make the legion with soldiers on perfect distance between each other. The flames and sky is roughly comped in Nuke.
Here is a small progress recap.
Shot Code: Q02_s060b
Really dark, but quick. The assassin is running through some columns trying to get close to Tiberius. He/She is now in the ground.
Jesus & St. Veronica
The three shots with Jesus & St. Veronica was all done in Photoshop. I took the opportunity (BA production) to learn myself photoshop. These three shots were more or less the first shots I did in photoshop. Taken with a Canon 5D MII w/ 14mm Samyang in the greenscreen room, the idea was to only use photoshop to cut out the actors, give Jesus a CG cross and trail & error practice mattepainting. All in photoshop.
Personally I think they were more or less "ok--> successful" consider that I have only used Nuke for any type of composite before.
What I learned on these shots was implemented on shot Q04_s110b, which marks my first successful mattepaint in photoshop, comped in 6 days, right before deadline. More on that later.
The grade on some elements is a bit inconsistent, but I will let it pass due to the nature of the shots.
Extra VFX shots
The final sequence of the trailer consisted on some extra filler shots that tells the audience "BTW, here are some of the other things you will see in this film. If you want to know the overall context, buy tickets".
Shot Code: Q04_s090
This shot was more an exercise in clarisse with light, megascans and scatteing of threes. Since I only had one weak computer running clarisse, it took me 48 hours to render 50 frames. Moreover, there is a sphere light in the scene I forgot to delete, but lets just say it is part of the shot somehow. The soldiers are from BIG::MEDIUM:SMALL, and the temple is kitbash.
Shot Code: Q04_s110b
This mattepaint shot was a replacement of another shot that didn´t look nice, and would damage the overall final result. I made this in less than 6 days, from idea to final. This is actually my first successful mattepaint (about 95% completion). However, since I only started using photoshop more or less for my first time this semester, I would say this is quite successfull.
After the mattepaint was completed in photoshop, I took it into Nuke, shuffled out the layers to cards, and a small dolly in.
Here is a quick from idea to finis wipe.
Here is a quick collection off all photos I used on this mattepaint.
As I mentioned above. This production was meant to be a final test where I am putting everything I learned the the institute for a final test. Some shots managed to get over the 95% mark, most around 80/90.
The reason why I consider this production as Mission Accomplished is because:
1. Due to corona there are some holes in my education.
2. Working on outdated harware/software and a pipeline leaking more than a soviet nuclear submarine forced me to update the pipeline and adopt additional software to make things work.
3. Even though there was a pandemic, I really didn't have any choice but work at campus due to the accommodations where I live. The campus is an old warehouse with absolutely no AC/Ventilation (if there is any, it does not work). If that is not bad enough, campus is located above one of the biggest night clubs in Oslo, and they are playing everything from heavy metal to rave almost everyday (not an exaggeration). This has lead to a lot of mental breakdowns,
4. Increased quantity of shots needed to pass the exam. In the middle of corona the institute increased the amount of shots needed to pass the exam, instead of focus on smaller quantity with better quality.
There are more reasons than those above, but those are the ones I am somewhat willing to disclose. Given all the reasons mentioned, I consider my finals as Mission Accomplished. It might not be the smartest move writing this, but I am entering The Rookies this year "Under no Flag", meaning whatever my ranking and performance is, it will not have any affect on the ranking of the institute.