working title: MOLD

working title: MOLD

production blog

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techniques behind the prototype #2 “lookdev, forever ever”

March 24, 2015 , ,


Hi everybody!

We are going to continue from Part #1 and cover the next phase of our set creation process, before we move on to the characters. In hindsight this post feels a bit negative ;) but I’m sure optimizations will be found, and efficiency will rise eventually. (it’ll have to ;) )


fighting the darkness

Even after constructing and sculpting masses of polygons, we are far from being able to add it to the game. The next step is texturing, shading and of course lighting. You can see a wireframe and gray-material rendering of the lighting setup below. (Softimage, Arnold)




Eventually it took about 50 shaders, 20 area lights and one HDRI (mostly for reflections) – and months of spare time work ;) to get the look and atmosphere we wanted. Image composition, color corrections and other fixes, were done simultaneously at Babettes company after working hours. Thanks for the opportunity, Optix Hamburg!

The highres set was split into several layers before rendering (to avoid occlusions between them). To continue our example from last time, this is how the toy ship got layered. (don’t mind the green background, it’s just better to show these dark elements on a brighter background (it’s not used to key the footage ;) ))




The 3D lookdev phase was heavily coupled with 2D compositing, meaning we had to handle massive 10K resolution comp trees as well. And yes, they got big, real big… which brings me to the last point of this part.


worst workflow i could think of

Seriously… but still, I can’t think of any better way to do it, but this doesn’t make this workflow any good ;)  Small “mistakes” added to the problem, naturally.

One example: during the lookdev phase, I decided to add a separate rim light pass for compositing (like i do most of the time..) …which doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all, but after we split the set into over 20 passes/layer we now had to manage over 40……. a bad idea after all.

Every pass got rendered in 10000×3000 resolution, some with multiple states. The frog had around 400 frames alone (and took 2 weeks to finish on 3 PCs). The big passes took about 5 days to complete (on an up-to-date i7) for one frame i might add, so you can imagine how painful previews were (even at lower samplings and resolutions).


thai massaging pixels

But the true fun is just about to begin ;) Every pass was rendered with AOVs (separated diffuse, reflection, indirect diffuse, etc. layers) and needed to be pre-combined before it could be used and passed through the lookdev comp. (it would have been way to slow and memory demanding to have all AOVs in the final comp, so we seperated both tasks).

The reason to output AOVs in the first place was the possibility to apply post noise-reduction to some of the channels. (like indirect diffuse, or indirect reflections which tend to get pretty noisy in Arnold)

150320_comp_precombine(the AOV pre-combine comps)


Working in this high resolution is never fun, but requiring to render 40 precombine comps and 20 lookdev comps everytime you change something, is even worse. Especially because this tedious procedure isn’t done yet. (we even added a checklist about it to the comp trees ;) to avoid errors)

150320_comp_lookdev(the fairly small lookdev comp)


Before we could output the final textures used on the projection mapping geometry, the images had to be test-combined, tweaked (again…) and eventually baked to a square UV space, but this part will be covered in the next post.


have a good one!


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