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by CarolineRougevfx and juangillm on 1 Jun 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Awakening is my third year project (BA VFX). It is a short narrative revolving around a long forgotten temple buried at the bottom of a lake and its ominous secret.

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The mountain lake scene is the opening shot of the project.
I created the scene by compositing a matte painting (Photoshop, Nuke) of the mountain landscape and a series of renders in Arnold (lake, mist) together.

The images for the mountains and the sky come from Pixabay and Pexels.

Awakening curiosity: the lake was made in Maya using a simple plane with a bump map and coat with no roughness

Scene elements and processes:
Matte Painting: Photoshop
Matte Painting Geometry: Maya
Lake: Maya
Mist: Houdini. Mist made using volumes ad noises, exported as VDB to Maya and rendered with lake plane in Arnold
Projection and compositing: Nuke

Original animatic/storyboard for the full opening scene


The staircase shot is one of the main underwater sequences in the project. Initially supposed to be a matte painting, due to the complexity of the camera movements in this and other shots, it evolved in a full CG scene.

The statues were sculped by Juan Murrell (juangillm) on a base found online by Tsvetomir Georgiev (
The texture for the rock spikes was downloaded from
Fish and bubbles are stock rendered elements downloaded from footagecrate

I created the temple for the scene using several software:
-Maya for the base of the structure
-Houdini for the staircase (done procedurally using a copy to points node)
-Zbrush for the mesh noise (temple and staircase separate elements)
-Substance Painter for the textures of the staircase, temple and statues
-Maya and Arnold for assembling the scene and rendering

Nuke compositing process breakdown:
- textured render (.exr sequence)
- grade down and colour correction (using render passes to fix small mistakes)
- adding background (constant, ramp node, noise projected on a card for water surface, volumetric rays)
- ZDefocus using Z depth pass
- Volumetric rays 
- Water grading and colour correction
- Lens distortion, chromatic abberation, final grading

Awakening curiosity: the staircase shot is the first scene I came up with and designed, and from which the rest of the project was born.
The two images above depict the first sketches of the scene (October/November 2021)

Final sketch for the temple layout

Sketches for the temple statues design
References sketches for Juan Murrell about the main statue

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