Webtool & Procedural Cave - FX Project

Webtool & Procedural Cave - FX Project

Jackson de Broughe
by yahiko on 31 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

As a student at Rising Sun Pictures, we were tasked with creating one unique visual FX shot in the past 7 weeks. For my project I decided to create a fully procedural cave with the implementation of a tool that I created that allows for the easy addition and customization of webs in any scenario.

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Project: Webtool

This year I was tasked to come up with 1 original idea concept visual FX shot, that we were to execute in 7 weeks.

Initially It was extremely difficult choosing a concept for a shot, eventually after much brainstorming and research, I decided I wanted to create a web-tool. When I initially thought of the concept, I had the idea that I wanted to test my knowledge and understanding, but also build something could possibly be useful to me in the future. So here is my project!

Project Brief

With the project, I set out an extensive project brief to try to cover all bases of preparation such as color, general look & feel, as well as the concentration on a story like element. I also gathered ample amount of spiderweb reference to make sure I knew what web I was trying to achieve.

Initial Web-tool Development:

The web-tool went through many different iterations, and took quite a few attempts to get right. Developing the idea was difficult, I had to spend quite a lot of time plotting out how I wanted the tool to work like was it a solver that simply created the whole web from scratch? Was it using a spider that drew points one at a time as a spider would? I found success into separating the operations up into different tasks and figuring out how to execute each one, and then harmonize the output of each.

(The first few tests also include a few basic vellum tests just to get the feeling of the webs)

I first tested with quite a lot of for-each loops, and found they I had some success there, but I was not getting much feedback and there were still quite a lot of issues that I needed to fix in individual areas of the webs, e.g too many lines joining to one point.

Continuing development, I moved over to an iteration-based solver; a solver provided me with more feedback from each step so I could tweak the results interactively as each step solved. I ended up using the solver as the main generator of the main structural lines of the web, as I wanted to place more focus on developing the divisions in other areas (like VEX).

Moving onto the divisions, I explored quite a few different options, firstly continuing with solving but, I found this wasn’t giving me the results that I was after. I then found success in the near points function that allowed me to gain control over a search-distance and also a fraction to create desired divisions.

With this function, I then used this on numerous levels starting at larger details moving all the way down to very minuscule details.

Cave Creation

The webtool was a major part of my project, but as I stated in my brief, I wanted to create a cave to stage my webs and overall enhance the story and mood of the webs themselves. The cave creation process was long and took quite a long time, as I went through many iterations, starting off very low detail shape building all the way to the final product which is the culmination of combining noise after noise.

The first few concepts, I was focused on building a cave and just a cave. I was trying to get a feel for what method I wanted to use, I first explored the idea of randomizing 3D noise to reach a rough result I liked but the results were wildly random and uncontrollable... I then moved to blocking in rough areas with platonic shapes, this gave me much more control over the actual creation process, as well as where certain details would protrude or rocks would lie. Once I had a rough shape, I continued testing with volume noise, but once again to no avail. I eventually tried using displacement which gave me a much more successful result.

I worked with one main iteration for a long time, but I was just not achieving the level of detail I was after, especially with the rocks. From here, I went back and re-invented the current cave, and instead added more subdivisions at the start of the process and refined my noise process which led to something a lot more successful.

I still have some minor lighting and shading issues I am currently addressing, like some light leaking which is leading to sparkling geometry and also just general specular value is way too high which I want to tone down to match a rockier feeling.

The final shot also includes a number of other passes. One of those is a fog-pass, this was to emphasize the overall feeling and mood of the cave, as I wanted to execute a feeling similar to my mood board, eerie and cold, this also helped create god ray's.

Final Product

At the end of the 7 week period I am quite happy with the product, the tool itself came to be quite successful and the overall look and feel of the cave was great. There is still much I would like to complete with the overall product, the look development could be pushed further, and the lighting and other parts of the scene could also add some more dynamism and story driven feeling.

The web-tool itself is something I plan to continue pushing, I'm currently making improvements to the overall jagged look and the 'amount' of webs inside the scene.

Over the next few weeks I will continue updating this project as I hope to reach a final very soon!

Thankyou for taking the time to read!

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