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Compositing in Style

Compositing in Style

My Entry about my school projects containing an explanation about the techniques used to create the VFX.

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My name is Franca Wisselink and I'm currently in my final year at the Netherlands Film Academy. I'm specializing myself in Compositing and VFX supervision.

In this showreel I've included multiple shots from three different projects I have been working on this year: Kimiko,  Longing (Dutch: Verlangen) and Exolvo.

In this entry I will explain a little bit about these projects and what makes them different and interesting!

Kimiko is a teaser trailer about a little girl who visits her mother for the first time in a very long while. In this world people wear masks to hide their true feelings and create a barrier to protect themselves.

We decided to make this a stopmotion film using VFX to make the world come to life.

Because we wanted the characters to feel alive even though they were puppets, we experimented with putting real life-action eyes on the stopmotion dolls. The idea was the exact thing we were looking for, but the techniques to realize them were a real puzzle.

Somewhere along the way we came across the Keentools plugins for Nuke. These facetracking plugins were exactly what we needed to create the vision we had for our film, and so we got to work.

We photoscanned the dolls heads and used the Keentools geotracker to locate the head throughout all of the shots. We then exported this as a camera track resulting in a moving camera in Nuke looking at a static 3D replica of the doll. We then filmed the actresses with a motion capture helmet on to get a frontal capture of their eyes. This footage we stabilized and projected in nuke on the geometry. Combine this with the moving camera in Nuke and the stopmotion dolls suddenly had realistic eyes. And thus our vision for this film was a reality!

Longing (Dutch: Verlangen) is a 3D animation short film. This project was in collaboration with my whole class. We all got to play our part in making this awesome short and creating our graduation project.

This film was a difficult project because of the style we wanted to achieve. We wanted every frame to look like it could have been a painting. This watercolour painting style meant we had to think about every little step of the VFX process to figure out how to best create this look. Everything from the way the assets were animated to the way they were textured to even the grain used in the compositing, everything had to be looked at through a different eye.

For a more detailed explanation of all the intricacies we had to think about during the making of this film you can see the Rookies entry for Film of the Year.

I worked on Longing as a VFX coordinator and Compositor. I worked on a lot of shots but the two I included in this entry stood out the most.

The first shot I included is a shot in the forest. This shot had quite a challenge because we figured, after looking at paintings of forests, that at some part the actual CG trees had to stop and we would have to create a 2D image to go behind the trees that looked like vague shapes of trees. But how far away should this plate be and how do we integrate these vague shapes with the 3D shapes in front of it. Throughout the whole forest scene  this backplates shifts places to create the best view for each shot. This really helped to create more of a painting look.

The other shot I included is one of the important story telling shots. In this shot the father character holds in his tears and we see the those tears bottle up inside him. This was a big challenge to create and let the actual shot tell the story in a way that everyone would get what was happening. I played around a lot with how his transparency works and how it would look. We finally settled on this see through paper sort of look that made the whole shot look more like a painting. Then we had the issue of his tears being hard to spot so I played around with their color and look to make them stand out enough to get what was happening without distracting from the emotions of the father.

In my showreel (at the top of this entry) you can see these two shots in their full lenght.

So about the compositing of this film:

A lot of work went into making the CG look as close to something that could be painted as possible, but as you can see in the process views, it still needed some work to actually look and feel like a painting. So we had to answer the question How do you make CG look like it was painted?

A few steps were taken to answer this question.

Step 1. Painting realism instead of Photorealism

Normally when you composite a live-action shot you look at photography to determine imperfections a camera or lens could have applied to the footage and add those to your CG to make something look as integrated as possible.

But because we wanted to create a painting we realized we had to look at paintings and apply the imperfections we saw there to our shots. This sometimes meant we had to go against our instincts we had build for live-action shots. For example camera's have a hard time registering a lot of dark and light values in the same frame, but paintings are registrations made by humans whose eyes can register all those different values at once.

We also came across the phenomenon that instead of painting the most intense lights (like the sun) white, a lot of painters tended to paint them with more saturated colours.

All these little steps made the CG render look more like a painting, but it still had some characteristics of a CG render, so on to...

Step 2. Photorealism Elements

Even though paintings don't have grain, vignettes, glows and other photorealistic elements, we wanted to apply them to this project to create a more cinematic look. But this required us to think about these elements and how we could naturally apply them in the watercolour painting style.

The supervisors soon realized these elements had to be constructed from real elements from a painting.

And so they asked the Production Designer to paint a black vignette on a white piece of canvas paper. This got scanned in and made into a gizmo in nuke for a watercolour vignette.

For the grain a gizmo was created that made noise that looked like the texture of paper for watercolours. This grain would still alternate every frame like normal grain would but because of the texture every frame looked like an actual print on paper.

Step 3. Paintstroke Edges

To complete the look of painting only one more thing needed to be done: the CG edges had to go.

During the process of making this film the edges were made using a few different methods:

A noise was moved using motionvector renders of the characters pinning the same noise pattern on the same CG edges as they moved across the frame, then using this noise as a mask for an edge extend on the separate elements of the shot.

The other was used on more static camera's: We would export a few frames of the composite into photoshop and paint the edges on these frames. We would then use a program called Ebsynth that uses AI to create the frames inbetween, using the original composite frames as a guide for the movements in the shot. In composite we would then separate the painted edges from the composite and put them over the final composite in nuke (putting the 'photorealistic' elements on top).

After all these steps the shots looked a lot like paintings instead of CG renders and our goal was met.

Exolvo is a full CG project with Dark Fantasy as a theme. Two of my classmates and I started this project because we wanted to make something that was more up our alley in terms of genre. We were inspired by popular games, like World of Warcraft, and decided to create a short film in the shape of a trailer for a game.

We created our own story and concept art as a base. Everything was then modelled, textured and shaded by our class. The characters were sculpted, rigged and animated. The environments were built, FX were simulated and the scenes were lit. And this all in the short span of 3 months!

My roles during this project was Co-VFX supervisor, VFX producer and Lead Compositor. I've been involved with the project since the very beginning and I have guided the Directors and Artists with a planning to keep everything in line and finish (mostly ;) ) on time. Because of the short time span I also stepped in when gaps appeared and thus also fulfilled the roles of Texture artist and Layout artist.

We are currently rendering all the shots and compositing will start soon. So these two stills from the renders are a little sneak peek of what is to come :)

That concludes my entry for the Rookie of the Year contest!

Hopefully you'll like everything you see :)

Some stuff I've been working on for the past year is still in progress so to see future work please look at my website!

If you have any questions or want to know more about me:

email: [email protected]


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