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Antoine Barbannaud - Environment, Lighting  and Compositing TD
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Antoine Barbannaud - Environment, Lighting and Compositing TD

Antoine Barbannaud
by AntoineBarbannaud on 1 Jun 2024 for Rookie Awards 2024

I'm excited to share my second entry to the Rookie Awards! I'm an environment TD with a focus on lighting and compositing. I hope you'll enjoy my work.

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Hi again! Welcome to my second entry to The Rookie Awards. I'm a passionate 23-year-old french environment TD, lighting and compositing student at Creative Seeds, entering my final year in September. Here are my best projects, with some cool recent additions!

Frozen Industrial 

I've been meaning to make a snowy environment for the past year, this personal project is the result of that ambition! 

Starting from an AI generated concept, I quickly made the composition my own by drawing inspiration from the megastructures of Star Wars and spent a lot of time figuring out the primary shapes.

Texturing on this project was entirely procedural, as there were too many assets to UV. I used decals, hand placed and scattered (like on the roads) to add further detail where my procedural shaders weren't precise enough. The ice shader is a blend of marble textures, noises and photos of snow. 

I also used Substance Designer to create a tileable panelling map for the city walls, as I couldn't for the life of me find a decent one online!

To enhance details and tweak minor bugs, I used camera projections in Nuke as part of my push to learn more about DMP.  

There was a lot of layout work in this project: half of my time was probably spent placing things around in Maya. 

In Houdini, I procedurally UVd the background city: with one high res texture, the buildings' uv shells are mapped according to the type of building it is. Not very visible, but a fun excuse to do some procedural work!   

I also created a script in Maya that would take a plane cut into panels and turn those into the final model with UVs, as the process is very repetitive. This was super useful for the big wall around the city, to sell the scale there needed to be a ton of panels.

Despite all the procedural shaders and scatters of VDBs this environment renders at roughly 30mins/frame. 

I haven't released this project on Artstation yet, so keep an eye out in the coming weeks...

The Promised Valley

This environment was completed last year in 2 months, as my first full CG environment. While the initial composition came from a painting done by Lorenzo Lafranconi, over time I turned this piece into something of my own.

I'm nothing if not a sucker for moody atmospheres! While creating this, I really wanted to capture the dramaticism of epic environments from Harry Potter films and various medieval fantasy novels I read growing up. In a way, I did this project for younger me: wanting to immerse myself in worlds is why I'm an environment artist.  

This project has a total of 20 million un-instanced polygons for hero assets and 1.7 million instances for vegetation and rocks.

Here's a small plot showing all the vegetation that goes into the foreground! I had over 100 variations of rocks, bushes, grass, sticks, and various elements you'd find in a valley. 

Making the terrain was quite a challenge. I was greatly inspired by the Alps, the shape and structure of the mountains is drawn from those around Annecy that I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago!

To layout the shot, I started by sculpting the shapes I wanted in Maya, then brought them in Houdini as heightfields and give them natural erosion and detail. For the hero mountain I used a mix of my layout, Gaea's rock and erosion tools and Houdini. There were lots of prominent cliffs, so after seperating them from the mountains I gave them some love with noises and triplanars displacements. 

This was also my first time doing matte painting! I'm pretty happy with the result overall, and this is now something I do on all my new projects.

VOL

Vol was an extremely challenging group short film I worked on last year, during my third year. 

There were around 30 unique set dresses, as it was a fast-paced chase through a city. Technically speaking, rendering a wet city with volumetrics and hundreds of lights is a nightmare, but with some optimization I managed to get renders down to 20mins/frame at most, and on less than 16gb of ram!

The biggest challenge was time: due to the quantity of sets to build and limited amount of time, I dedicated roughly one day for modelling, one for texturing and one for lighting/comp on each shot. So in total every shot you see here is roughly 3 days of work in environments!

The project took around 6 months from start to finish and it's definitely the most intense workload I've had to take on. Thankfully we managed to finish it all in time, in no small part thanks to the rest of the team that did an amazing job.

I was really inspired by the cinematography of The Batman and Seven. In a way this project is a love letter to those grungy images that we love so much...

With Guerilla I could render in near real-time the whole city set with its 250+ instanced lights, volumetrics, specular surfaces and such. Even when working on a shot with depth of field, motion blur, groom and FX I could get immediate feedback. Oh how young 16 year-old me would have loved to hold this technology instead of having an oven for days... 

There were of course lots of interiors, so I figured out the following workflow: because the kitbashed buildings had uneven interior heights I had to place interior cubemaps by hand. With Houdini we could decide if the buildings were offices or homes, as well as add stores on ground level! Then in Guerilla, we deactivated their GI emission and refraction, and avoided rendering the refraction of the window while keeping specular.  

The Creator Fan Art - CG Integration

Having just watched The Creator, I really wanted to give a go creating a shot with a similar feel. 

I found a plate on Pixabay that matched the general tone and exposure I wanted, and in 3 weeks tracked and integrated some CG. 

I tracked the plate in 3d Equalizer, exported my camera and did a quick concept in photoshop to see where I was going. Then, I create some 3d assets as well in Maya and Speedtree, and found photos of the  real locations where they shot The Creator to use as reference and matte painting elements.

Getting the reflections down was a tricky challenge! Thankfully with some noise projections on a plane and distorts, I managed to roughly match the speed and patterns of the waves. I also added some smaller ripples around the stilts to better sell scale of the CG house.

Utah Mountains

Inspired by the dramatic and rugged terrains of Utah, I made this shot in one-week as part of an exploration into Gaea workflows.

For texturing, I used a blend of photos and maps exported from Gaea. In retrospect, I can tell this shot would shine with some matte painting. I guess we're always learning in environments!

Tribal Motorbike

Moving on, this was my first hardsurface asset! Having always leaned more towards making images than assets, it gave me an excuse to practice finer modelling and texturing. At that point, I had modelled and textured my first object almost exactly a year before!

The original concept comes from the super talented Darren Bartley and his universe of tribal vehicles, characters and environments.

Interpreting the concept was quite difficult as a lot of the mechanical components were rough. I had to figure out shapes that could make sense and connect to each other in order to have a realistic result.

The asset totals 8 million polygons, 15 udims and 96 8k textures and took me two months.

To get around the complexity of this asset, I made plenty of python scripts like automatically renaming groups of meshes and transferring their UVs. I also had fun multithreading the .tex converter in Guerilla Render by making a standalone tool, which brought my preprocessing time from 10mins to 2! This allowed me quicker iterations between Substance Painter and Guerilla.

It was also the opportunity for me to learn how to make interfaces with Qt, which I had never done before. The tool has settings, preferences and cache (so you don't have to re-enter the file path every time!). 

Tools - Maya/Nuke Live Link


I had heard stories about how at ILM on Star Wars, render times were so long that they were placing tons of lights that may look good, letting it render overnight and effectively lighting in Nuke by turning lights on/off and tweaking them. Essentially, this tool takes the same idea by creating a live link between Nuke and Maya/Redshift.

You can quickly iterate on your lighting: render, import in Nuke, tweak and in a single button the values are back in Maya, while taking into account colorspace!

As both a necessity and a choice, I also found it nice to have a one stop-shop to edit your lights instead of accumulating grades and color corrects. This way, it's easy to find what's happening to a light! I coded this tool in Python and had a ton of fun doing it.

I have loads more pipeline tools and R&D for my end of studies short film, which we are starting production on in September. Something something USD and machine learning... Keep an eye out next year! 

As always, I need to thank my mentor Jean-Michel Bihorel, Jean-François Macé and my classmates for their invaluable feedback and putting up with the commotion when I get a new project idea...

Thank you for your consideration, I hope you enjoyed my work!


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