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Light vs. Darkness
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Light vs. Darkness

by jonashagenvald on 16 Jan 2021 for Rebelway FX Challenge

My entry to the Rebelway FX Challenge, playing with the concept of light vs. darkness, and the visually interesting contrast between the two.

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Update - 15 Apr 2021


It's been a super intense week, and after so much hard work I can confidently say I'm proud of what I've accomplished.

I was worried for a while that I wasn't fully realizing my original theme of light vs. darkness. And while I could certainly push it much further with time, I'm pretty happy with the results. I wanted to instill a feeling of the Hydra spewing out so much dust and debris from itself and the underground that it literally starts blocking out the sunlight, hence shrouding the scene in darkness. I think I managed this fairly well in the end while also balancing the feeling of power and impact as the Hydra pushes everything out of it's way with it's breath.

So yeah, there's plenty of things I wanted to add on top of this, but this is as far as I could take it in the week since the last update. Some of the things I've added are...

 - Shockwave for main pyro simulation
 - Shockwave particles
 - Background/environment pyro
 - Hydra breath FX (pyro & particles)
 - Custom pyro shading for heat distortion pass in Nuke
 - Shield FX (particle impacts, ripples, hexagonal displacement patterns, and wireframe shading)
 - 2D foreground smoke elements in comp
 - Basic color grading

I may have missed something, honestly my head is a little loopy. It's 6am and time for bed. I hope you'll enjoy the results of my labor.

Shield FX breakdown:

Raw render vs. comp comparisons:

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Update - 8 Apr 2021

It's been far too long since my last update, I've had to make the choice to focus on other projects for a while. You know, gotta pay the bills.

Anyway, here's my update going into the final week of the challenge. Very very tough crunch time ahead but I'm set to push as much as I can into this scene with the time remaining. Below you can see my current progress, since my last update I have:

 - Finalized the RBD simulation
 - Added particles, using the Debris Source sop as a source
 - Generated pyro from the ground destruction, mainly using the previously mentioned particle sim as a source
 - Added pyro FX on the Hydra, namely on the eyes and from the breath. Some of this won't be rendered as smoke but rather used for heat distortion in comp.

Left to go, hopefully, is just one or two more pyro layers, dynamically sourcing smaller rocks from the current RBD sim, redoing the lighting and materials to emphasize my theme of light vs. darkness and finally, if I have time before the end of the weekend, add some slimey liquids on the hydra. Planning 3-4 days next week for comp work.

I'll have to prioritize this list and possibly cut some smaller details. I was hoping to have more time to work on the challenge but, such is life. We will see how far I get the coming 4-5 days.

Update - 16 Jan 2021

For the first few days working on the project I've managed to convert everything for rendering in Redshift, setup some basic procedural materials and lighting, and I started making a basic ground destruction sim.

I'm not happy with the fracturing yet, the pieces are too large for one, but I also hit the limit for my 32gb of ram using a hybrid workflow between boolean fracturing and the material fracture node. I have some ideas for a more custom solution here to hopefully push the amount of geo in the scene a bit further, and also keep things nice and quick for iterating later on. I'll experiment more with that and once I'm happy with the fracturing I'll get to adding dust and particles.

As a bonus thing I started working on a shield concept around the cyborg too. I'm not happy with the animation on it right now, but the general look (with some more layers) will probably be really nice. I'll keep working on it.

Update - 10 Jan 2021


I will be creating visually interesting FX by playing with the contrast between light, and darkness. To start off the planning, I wanted to set the stage. Where does the scene take place? I instantly thought of the map Aberration from the game Ark: Survival Evolved, and I will be drawing a lot of inspiration from that. A hot, scorching alien planet, the surface being nearly completely unprotected from the hot radiation of outer space, and dark, radiated, looming creatures living below the surface:


Like stated previously, I want the FX in my shots to represent light vs. darkness. Darkness, in this case, will be represented by the monster, and the underground. I will draw heavy inspiration from darker creatures of World of Warcraft, since I love the contrast in those designs. The FX here will also be very organic in nature:


I want the Humanoid character, and the FX from that character in this case, representing light. I will be drawing inspiration from the design in Star Craft's Protoss, and some designs from Warcraft's Alliance. I want this character, in contrast to the heavily organic monster, to be bright and distinctly fabricated/structured, with lots of shiny, reflective metal/plastic surfaces:


I'm starting on this challenge late. 1,5 months late, to be exact. And all the work will take place on a fairly slow 4-core cpu and an old GTX 1080, so I have to limit myself to 1-2 shots maximum, and any environment work will have to be secondary to the character work. Hard work ahead. Because of this limitation I will do all of my work in Houdini and Fusion exclusively and, most likely, I will have to take some shortcuts in compositing to sell the final result. A blend of 2D/3D will be the answer.