Some photos taking back from the Emerald Isle from this past winter. I find it so fascinating to observe the minute details that a single patch of earth provides in rural Ireland, every few feet there is something different to marvel at – a new collection of colours and textures that are only heightened during crisp, dewy winter mornings where the parts of the flora are submerged and stuck in its icy capture. Their tendrils like a miniature kraken raring to pounce or some sort of leggy thing cracking out of a shell and ready to usurp whatever living thing is staring at it.
This weeks kick about prompt over at Reds Kingdom being the art, life and times of the Austrian painter, Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, and with it inspired an experience I had when I returned to the forest this past winter. I happened to come upon a small trench like lagoon deep within the caverns of the forest where the snow above was melting and gently plopping into the lagoon. The lagoon was shallow meaning I could see the dirt, grasses and flowers filtering about in the water with the slightest movement. The glare of the crispy winter sun projecting shadows of the spruces and firs, lighting certain areas of the undergrowth in a vibrant red, the trees and shrubbery being reflected upon the water causing a mandala of colours to be refracted and ripple as snow drops fell from above.
Experiencing this was one of most pleasurable tranquil experiences I have ever had. I sat and watched this private show for a long time and felt as though time had frozen along with my hands. I pressed record on my camera and although I didn’t have a tripod which meant for some shakiness It was an absolute pleasure to edit this film and with it I have attempted to capture that feeling of complete tranquility. The song by Kris Keogh entitled “We Were Gone Further Than Forever” transported me back to that tranquil meditative state again, with sections feeling like time moving, flowing and reversing, correlating full circle to an eco system of nature where everything becomes one with the earth again.
I have been working on trying to achieve a more painterly style with the Oasis world of The Green Glider animated short. To achieve these current renders I collated together many bunches of the 3D trees and plants and rendered them out, I then brought the renders into photoshop and painted over them in three different versions, 1 being the original scratchy and more defined version with clearer visible brush strokes. The second and third iterations blurring them out so they could plop nicely in the background to add more depth. I also made cooler and warmer versions of each painted tree mound and painted some shapes to act as leaves to bulk out areas as seen below.
〰️The Oasis Painted Tress – Clear〰️
〰️The Oasis Painted Tress – Blurry〰️
I then brought those renders back into Maya as alpha maps and situated them accordingly within the scene and added in some of the original 3D trees for the foreground so that it gave more depth of field. To give me more control I used render layers where I added the elements in different collections and rendered them separately – so a render collection for the furthermost elements and a collection for the foregrounds and so on, it means I can have a lot more control in post production if I think something could be blurred further or possibly blend more with the sky colour to give more atmospheric perspective.
There was one caveat – previously all the grass was done with alpha maps which was causing a problem where the scene was so populated with alpha maps that light couldn’t render through them and meant that they were rendering black, I found out I had to dial up the render settings to offset this – the ray depth to be specific which resulted in ridiculous render times! So using what I learned about my Boogie Woogie Jive film and the ongoing Ersilia film, I had a muck about with using Maya’s ancient paint effects which worked wonderfully. Within the many keyframe achievable paint effects parameters there is the possibility to animate a slight breeze to the grass, I will definitely be giving that a whirl and see how to looks. I think with these many trial and errors the Oasis is starting to come to fruition, things can be pushed more but I think I am heading in the right direction.
I have been experimenting with how I want to achieve the flower blooms within the story of The Green Glider. These blooms where animated using a mash up of different methods – mainly blend shapes which really in its name where you can blend from one object to another by duplicating the first original mesh editing it a tad and then repeat for a few more. It was tricky to animate as blending the blend shapes to their full extent made the flowers too large and angular so I had to go in and use deformers to bend the flowers down and not dial the blend shapes all the way up.
To make the flower petals pop and look more organic after animating using the blend shapes I selected each individual petal and key’d them to pop into place, the animation could be refined more but since the world will be populated with many of these blooming plants and much more abundant with flora I think the overall scene will achieve the vivacious life of the Oasis, tests of how the overall effect looks to come!
⌇I have been chipping away at plopping out the worlds for The Green Glider. It has been a bit of a journey to get the Oasis up until this point, in truth I wasn’t a fan of the way the Oasis was sprawling out before me with a previous hodgepodge of attempts, The greenery of the world felt too CG, the treetops resembled blobby forms of plasticine and looked a bit sad. I decided to take a step away and revert back to my kit of tricks and influences, the first being taking a long and thoughtful walk in the crisp Autumn morning, when the air is fresh and the dew sticks to my beard…
I’m fortunate enough living in London that an open tree filled park being that of Gladstone park is a stones throw away from me. As I meandered my way among the many trees I took my time to stop and think about the canopy of trees above me; I noticed where I was going wrong with my previous attempts was that of two things, the first being – Light travels through trees, with the previous renders the greenery was a solid mass of geometry making it so that light couldn’t pass through and the second being… I am a bit baffled that I didn’t realise this, texture! When you really look at untouched nature, flowers, grasses and bark, it is bursting with texture that intertwine and lace to form brush strokes of patterns, Phil Gets it with photographs of his many excursions where the photographs end up looking like a painting filled with brush strokes of pure unfiltered texture.
〰️ Gladstone park 〰️
This can sometimes be something that happens with me and my work, I get so in the zone and have this pin precise tunnel vision of getting stuff done that I don’t take a step back, look and see if I am answering the question that this world is asking. When I was in uni I was modelling a car, I remember distinctly Alan Postings coming up to me and saying “the way that you are thinking is a problem” I needed to hear it because it was, the car was looking like shit because I was clouded by just getting it done. I always think it’s good to remind yourself if this piece is doing it’s job by asking those questions and using everything in your kit of tricks to get it that way – it is something I am getting used of catching and making the necessary steps to remedy, I think intuition gets better with age.
With this in mind I used another trick up my sleeve, my tried and true – alpha maps. I love alpha maps because they are like smoke and mirrors, a magic trick to the eye. Old school video games would use alpha maps to bulk out the background of a scene where the player isn’t supposed to go, so why use resource heavy plethoras of polygons when you can do the same job with just one piece of geometry? Thats the mentality I like to use when making these ambitions worlds in my head a reality, reeling them back to smoke and mirrors to make it look right but at a fraction of the time and when it comes to it – cost.
Making these alpha maps is simple, I used a single continuous line brush stroke painted in photoshop – 1 with colour and 1 with just back and white, then apply that to the geometry of the Trees and what’s lovely is because the geometry is a mound the alpha map wraps around it, it is always a pleasant surprise to see how it turns out! What it gave me was a lot of texture – a single brush stroke that looks imperfect, less CG and more true to nature. It also aloud other flora to peep through and behind it which rings true for my own excursion to Gladstone park.
Because I like that this world is teetering more into the illustrative side I am going to have to dial up the same illustrative style with the other worlds – The Metropolis and The Wasteland so that it all feels cohesive and that they do belong on one single planet – more on how that plays out later…
I was also really inspired by two artists that are also apart of my kit for this project (And many more that is on my ever growing Pinterest board) – Eyvind Earle and Marie-Laure Cruschi, Earles pieces are these stunning whimsical landscapes with a vivid, palpable colour palette, Cruschi’s pieces are these gorgeous illustrations with the plant life in these universes having chunks missing to show a lot of shapely charm.
Now that I understand how the Oasis will look I just need to continue to place the plant life on a shot by shot basis, and finally getting onto opening excel and planning out those shots. ONWARDS 〰️