Playing the Real? - Game

Playing the Real? - Game

Hanna Vatterott
by HannaVatterott on 30 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Hello! My name is Hanna Vatterott, and since I was a kid I was fascinated that stuff that looked so real on the tv screen could never exist in real life. So when I got older, I decided to learn that magic and entered the world of Visual Effects. I hope you like my contribution!

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So welcome to my entry for this years Rookie Awards!

I am a recently graduated Compositing Artist and want to show you my two favorite projects from my student demo reel. I hope you like it!

“The Window Sill”

This was a collaboration project with Hanna Karalus, who did the Modeling, Texturing and Shading for all CG Assets.

I am responsible for everything else!

We based our asset on the “Houseboat” concept by Runa Ivana Rosenberger.

My goal for this project was to make the audience doubt what is real and what isn’t, be it a major asset or a small detail. Even though it as planned as a simple CG Integration of the snowglobe, after some feedback I decided to sneak a few other things in there, to test my own ability of matching the footage. Did you find every detail?

Aside from a bit of cleanup work, there were two other major changes: The Kleenex logo on the tissue box and the birds flying outside the window.

The logo was as simple as it gets. I hoped it would be easy to overlook, Kleenex being the brand that a lot of the world associates with tissues anyway, so it wouldn’t seem strange. The planar track worked perfectly on almost the first try, so it was easy to get a good enough matchmove. After scaling the logo and fitting it to the side of the box, all I had left to do was some general colorgrading and roto work to match the light on the box and that’s it!

When I looked at the footage, I noticed that even with the objects in front of the window, it seemed a little empty. I wanted to add some movement, that had nothing to do with how the camera was moving, to try and give it more life, so it wouldn’t feel like an exhibit being shown. Using birds outside the window was a logical next choice, but the implementation was a bit more tricky. I had the advantage that with the distance and the movement of the birds, I wouldn’t need to find footage that was too detailed, since that was hard to come by. I also thought that too many of them might seem a bit of, so I chose just one pair from the footage I found and played around with the transform and time offset a bit, to make it seem like a natural movement. The keying was easy enough, the integration was a bit more of a challenge, since I needed to make it seem like they were behind the glass and I couldn't lose the reflection. In the end it came down to a play with the opacity of them, while merging some window details back over. Adding the reflection that the snowglobe would eventually have, it worked out great.

The Snowglobe as obviously the main asset (though I had people tell me the ascendent next to it looked suspicious too for some reason) required the most work. To match the window light was surprisingly easy, a simple dome light provided us with exactly the highlights from the back we needed, but caused a problem with the reflection of the glass, since the big white spot was always visible, and the globe didn’t seem right without any reflection. I decided not to take a chance with that, and borrowed a 360° camera from my school and learned how to make my own HDRi of my room where the windowsill was in. That worked out well, as it gave the globe some believability by showing an extension of the environment seen in the footage.

During that process, I had already decided not to render out the shadow and glass distortion from Maya, since doing it the Nuke way seemed a lot easier and controllable for me, I am a Compositing Artist after all. The track itself gave me little to no problems, I actually ended up using the same cameratrack that I made “just to test” how well the footage would track. But it was so perfect, I had no need to go back to it.

There were some more matchmove problems with the reflections on the sill and the window, for which I made a different tracker, tracking some points on the stone and the glass, roughly where I wanted my reflections to be. They didn’t come out perfectly and I had to make some adjustments in the transform node by hand, but overall none of it was very difficult to fix.

I got advised against using the dropshadow node too much, but in this instance I think I did exactly what it was supposed to. I used two of them differently, one for the immediate dark ring under the wooden stand, and the second for the wider, softer shadow comparable to the one the box casts. I had to do some roto work to cut off the shadow on the sides, but it gave me the control over the color, softness and distance that I needed, and I am very satisfied with the result. 

Adding another ring as a second, small CG object was already an idea while filming the footage, so I made sure to put different rings there, not only so it would blend in better, but also so I would know exactly how to match the light. That itself was easily done, but the reflection if the HDRi that seemed like such an asset for the snowglobe turned out to be a problem here. It always gave the ring quite the greenish tint, and dialing up the roughness wasn’t and option, because then you could immediately tell that something about the ring seemed off. I took an embarrassingly long amount of time to fix that problem, simply by turning down the saturation and increase the contrast, which gave the ring the nice grey metallic look I wanted. Since the shadow had worked so well with the snowglobe, I decided to apply the same method with the two dropshadows again, and it worked out perfectly.

The last step just consisted on adding some overall color correction, some distortion and I added a tiny bit of a camerashake to the finished project, making it subtly seem like the integration and matchmove worked even more perfectly. 

And that was it! I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I have, all your thoughts and feedback would be welcome!

"The Dragonfly" (or The Yellow-Winged Darter)

This was a collaboration project with Hanna Karalus, who did the Modeling, Texturing and Shading for the dragonfly, and Tim Höfer, who did the Rigging, Animation and camerawork.

The goal for this video was to make it seem as a real shot someone took with their camera of the dragonfly. That was how the texturing was done and how the camera moves. So I had to get in line with that, trying to come up with details too add to the project, to make it seem more realistic.

By the time I got a maya file to work with, texturing and animating was already done. The cameras were also already settled on, so I could directly get started on the lighting. I settled on an approach were each part of the anatomy had its own light to highlight the associated features. That worked out quite well, especially since I rendered out all light AOVs separately for the maximum control. I also rendered the Specular and SSS AOVs to adjust color and intensity slightly. 

After the lighting went over smoothly, I concentrated on building the environment. What was new on this project was that for the first time, I had to build up a whole environment, since all the render gave me to work with, was one stick. So I had to think, where could be a stick like that lying around, where a dragonflies most prominent? So after what was originally planned to be just a few branches and leaves to match the twig the dragonfly sits on, quickly turned out to be a fully developed underbrush. I almost only used png images of leaves and twigs to build it, with a sky and a ground to catch all the "holes" that might still exist. After that was settled on, I build similar versions for the two other shots, with the third one looking down from the top. So instead of showing the front of what could be a normal hedge, I had to made it look like the camera looks down into it, while still matching the earlier images. 

Everything else was detail work. Matching the motion blur, the defocus, give the image a bit of depth. I did most of that by hand at first, but after I went over the project with my teachers, I could add a little bit more to make it look real. I made another render run too add more motion blur and set up a system to use the depth map to get the "real" depth of field in there and added some highlights on the leaves with the color matching the dragonfly’s highlight. I made the underbrush darker to give it some more shadows and depth and did overall my best to match the background to the dragonfly render while still having the dragonfly as the biggest focus. 

I loved this project, since it was full of detail work. Getting the scale of the leaves right, matching up the highlights, getting the real depth in there, matching the motion blur. And that doesn't include all of those little extra subtleties that don't get noticed, until they all add up, like the lens distortion, some grain, putting a noise pattern on the leaves to create "fake" shadows... It was great seeing how so little things can add up to change our whole perception of a shot.

And that was it! I hope you liked this entry and as above, thoughts and feedback are always welcome! Have a great day!

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