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Working on my first CGI animated short film - require feedback


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#1 James Bergmann

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:18 PM

Hello everyone,

 

Im currently working on my first fully CGI animated short film. Its a project that is very dear to me and that I have already worked on for quite a while, though Im just really getting started on the creation of the shots.

 

I know that CGI cinematography might be something thats abit unusual for this forum, however, I considere it every bit as valuable as live-action cinematography (especially seeing how basically every big movie production makes use of it) and I am a filmmaker first and a CGI artist second, meaning if anything I am more interested in the critique of the overall cinematography and not just the CGI quality - which is why I would like to get feedback from this forum.

 

---------------

 

In this thread, I will post screenshots and maybe even sometimes the entire animated shots (Rendering takes a LONG time though) and I would really appreciate it if you guys could give me a suggestions how they could be improved. This is my first fully CGI animated movie, so the shots are not necessarily perfect and they surely could use to be looked at by a more experienced CGI artist/cinematographer than me.

 

What I would like you to give me feedback on specifically:

Overall Cinematography - Lighting - Compositing - Overall CGI quality

 

The more indepth, the better!

 

Short info on the movie:

The movie will be a rather abstract sci-fi short film that will be driven by a consistent music piece and will feel similar to a montage, even though it is not by definition. I wont go into too much detail of what exactly the movie will be in order to not spoil anything. However, I do have a very strong vision for it. I do know that its usefull for proper critique of work if you know the whole context, though I do feel it would be alittle excessive in this case and again, I dont want to spoil too much.

 

With all that said, I hope you can give me some feedback! It would be very much appreciated!

 

Shot 1:

The first shot of the movie. A space scene. Glowing cubes will be floating in until they completely cover the screen, as the camera starts to rapidly move backwards.

 

My questions:

- Does the overall space background feel "right"? It is supposed to feel abit more fantastical than normal space.

- Do the cubes feel properly integrated into the shot? Do they have a proper presence?

- What do you think of the color grading?

 

FPRSf1a.png

 

W5bTgu8.png

 

lM7tFZN.png

 

Shot 2:

A continuation of the last shot (basically Shot 1 and 2 are one long tracking shot). The camera follows the cubes until they form into this female-like beeing. Again, the camera moves backwards,

meaning initially the beeing is more in the foreground, as it gets formed.

 

Notes:
The color-grading and VFX work (like particles) in this shot arent necessarily finished yet, though the coming tweaks to those should be relatively minor.

 

My questions:

- How is the lighting, especially of the female beeing? Does it properly convey drama and is it interesting?

- Does the composition of the shot properly draw the female beeing into focus or does she sort of get lost in the background?

- What do you think of the light fog/smoke surrounding the beeing?

- Again, what do you think of the color grading?

- Does the pose of the beeing look good?

- Does it come across that the beeing is slightly smiling? (In screenshot 2?)

- Please judge the overall composition and cinematography of this shot.

 

JYPwQDQ.png

 

2jbP85N.png

---------------

 

My inspiration:

My cinematography style is very much inspired by the likes of Michael Bay and Zack Snyder and very much adhering to the principle that through the cinematography each shot should strongly express emotions and support the themes and atmosphere of the movie. The cinematography alone should imbue the movie with value, meaning and substance. I like to call it "substance through style" - atleast thats what im striving towards when it comes to my cinematography.

 

Heres a good piece and a big inspiration and reference for my current CGI work and reading it should help those that want to give me the most valuable of feedback understand better with what Im striving for with this movie (though I dont expect anyone to put that much effort into giving feedback and thats ok). Though I think everyone that is interested in cinematography or CGI, and especially CGI cinematography, should read this article, as its one of the best on the topic I have ever found:

http://www.expandedc...-guardians.html

 

---------------

 

Thanks alot for reading and I hope to get some usefull feedback! I do very much appreciate it! I will post updates when I have more to show!


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#2 dan kessler

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 02:13 PM

Well, compare your stuff to what you yourself have referenced in the link you provided.

Before a single frame of cg ever gets rendered there is an enormous amount of planning and design that has to be done.  Composition, perspective, line, depth, contrast, color, lighting, tonality, texture,  are all meticulously developed for every single shot, and then the flow of these elements from one scene to the next is hammered out.  They create hundreds, if not thousands, of individual drawings and paintings in the process.  

Do you draw?  Are you a painter?  Can you work in pencil, charcoal, acrylics, oils or pastels, or create a scene in photoshop?  That's where a cg movie, or any kind of movie, really begins.  The storyboard artists, the lookdev artists, the art directors all do their work before anything else proceeds.  You have to do those things, too, even if it's just you working alone, and no cg software can do any of it for you.

At the moment, your sample frames don't really show very much beyond the software default settings.



    


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#3 James Bergmann

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 08:34 PM

Well, compare your stuff to what you yourself have referenced in the link you provided.

Before a single frame of cg ever gets rendered there is an enormous amount of planning and design that has to be done.  Composition, perspective, line, depth, contrast, color, lighting, tonality, texture,  are all meticulously developed for every single shot, and then the flow of these elements from one scene to the next is hammered out.  They create hundreds, if not thousands, of individual drawings and paintings in the process.  

Do you draw?  Are you a painter?  Can you work in pencil, charcoal, acrylics, oils or pastels, or create a scene in photoshop?  That's where a cg movie, or any kind of movie, really begins.  The storyboard artists, the lookdev artists, the art directors all do their work before anything else proceeds.  You have to do those things, too, even if it's just you working alone, and no cg software can do any of it for you.

At the moment, your sample frames don't really show very much beyond the software default settings.



    

 

Hi! First of all, I appreciate your honesty.

 

However, please take into account that this sort of feedback isnt necessarily all that helpful, especially for this kind of production.

 

Stuff like concept art and painting visualisations of shots is very helpfull when a team of multiple people (or maybe even hundreds of people) are involved in a project to not only nail a creative vision that every important party is happy with, but to also get everyone to understand that vision. This kind of work-process is less important and just excessive in a project like this where just a single person is working on the entire movie, seeing how I have every shot and how I want it to look in my head. This includes lighting, camera-movement, character movement and so on. I dont need to convey it to someone else beforehand so theres no need for this type of concept art.

 

Additionally to that, filmmakers need to work with what they are comfortable with - for example, Michael Bay is well known for beeing someone that isnt goog with story-boards to plan out his scenes and instead often prefers pre-viz animations. Just an example though. Its all just a means to an end.

 

I dont paint, and I have no need or desire to do so. However, I do of course plan out lighting, camera-movement and character movement in pre-visualisation animation in order to really get a feel for how the shot can work before I start to really make the shot come together in proper CGI. You dont HAVE to do anything in any specific way, an artist needs to work in the way they are comfortable with and that they can achieve the results they want with.

 

Lastly though, when critiquing work, the process of HOW the end result was achieved doesnt matter - ONLY the end result does.

 

This rings especially true if you dont know the process of how it was created. In your post you made alot of assumptions about how I work, but you didnt actually go in-depth about what I presented, which is the most important part. And even there you made an assumption, specifically that I am using "software default settings".

 

Again, this

 

A. Doesnt matter, because if the software default settings give good results for these shots, why not use them?

 

And B. Is just plain wrong actually, the shots you see here actually push the software that I am using to create this movie to its limits, there is no trace of software default settings here.

 

Still, I appreciate that you took the time to look at my stuff, however, I fear your post wasnt all that helpful. I would be all ears if you actually tell me what you think about the shots I provided though.

 

And I would like to again point out that this is my first CGI animated movie. I think it can be forgiven that its not holding up that well when directly compared to an industry leading company, which are perhaps the best in the industry. However, Im all ears for suggestions for how it could get closer to that level.

 

Lastly, heres another screen I rendered (with motion blur partially off because render time) of shot 2 that I rendered to contribute to a discussion in another forum regarding the glowing cubes. This screenshot hints at the transition between shot 1 and 2 just alittlebit better, so I might aswell post it here aswell:

6vIElw3.png


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#4 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 09:11 PM

I've collaborated as the DoP on a few 3D animations with a guy who uses Source Filmmaker a lot. I apply my cinematography knowledge and get likable results. We only run into issues when the engine itself limits the looks of our creativity.

 

Solely going off of the shots you're posting, it seems they could use basic visual touch ups to improve. The first two which come to mind are re-framing your digital person whatever thing to give them more lead room on the left. Settles my mind for simple scene composition.

 

Also deleting all your lights and hitting the figure with a key light screen left would give it a bit more depth. Build the contours of the figure from there. As of right now is doesn't really POP from the background for impact. Maybe spreading and suppressing your background light as well.

 

Post-disclaimer I have no idea how whatever software you're using works, I'm going off of my experiences with the software my animators have used.


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#5 dan kessler

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 03:24 AM

Yes, I know and appreciate that this is your first cg animated movie.  There are a lot of professionals on this forum, so it's a good place to post images and ask for feedback, which is what you did, and that's what you're getting.

Rest assured that many here do understand exactly how you created your images.  When you say you have no need to learn how to paint, you're quite mistaken.  The principles of painting are EXACTLY what you need to learn.  That was my point before.  That's one thing that's missing in your work right now.  Do that and your work will improve.
 


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#6 James Bergmann

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 06:21 PM

I've collaborated as the DoP on a few 3D animations with a guy who uses Source Filmmaker a lot. I apply my cinematography knowledge and get likable results. We only run into issues when the engine itself limits the looks of our creativity.

 

Solely going off of the shots you're posting, it seems they could use basic visual touch ups to improve. The first two which come to mind are re-framing your digital person whatever thing to give them more lead room on the left. Settles my mind for simple scene composition.

 

Also deleting all your lights and hitting the figure with a key light screen left would give it a bit more depth. Build the contours of the figure from there. As of right now is doesn't really POP from the background for impact. Maybe spreading and suppressing your background light as well.

 

Post-disclaimer I have no idea how whatever software you're using works, I'm going off of my experiences with the software my animators have used.

 

This is exactly the kind of feedback that Im looking for. Thanks!

 

While I have decided that I will not work on the lighting of shot 2 any further as I really want to move on to the next shot, I will keep your advice in mind for the coming shots. Ive had a feeling that the lighting of the beeing in shot 2 could be improved in some way, however, Ive already spend a large amout of time revising the lighting of shot 2 and I feel like I should keep it the way it is now, as Im mostly satisified with it. What I might still do is to add a depth layer later on and darken the background that way to make the beeing pop more, as you suggested, as I do feel like that would be a great tweak to the shot.

 

As for the framing, I also would agree I think, though shot 2 does have incredibly intricate camera movement though (which obv doesnt come across in the stills, but its basically a pretty long tracking shot), making the framing alot more difficult. The framing in the coming shots, which will have less intricate camera movement, will definately improve.

 

Basically, shot 2 beeing a very intricate tracking shot makes it very unwieldy to work with, which makes me strongly consider before making any changes to it as it would take alot more effort and time than it would in other shots.

 

I hope to hear more from you!


Edited by James Bergmann, 12 January 2017 - 06:29 PM.

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#7 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 12:15 PM

Hi there.

Been days since i've red your post and didn't get the time to post.

 

 

My comments for your shot #1:

 

I don't feel them being integrated that well.  Something missing... 
I'll suggest using a backlight for the cubes as being lit from the bright nebula/cloud in the distance.
Let that light skim/reflect on the surfaces.

I find the cube surfaces too bright.  If you suggest high specularity it also means high reflectivity so where are the reflections of the nebula?

The motion blur on the cubes could use more samples. 

I can count ~7, clearly visible on the top left corner cube.

I know it's render intensive.  Maybe exporting motion vectors and then applying and tweaking the motion blur in post.
I know it is possible and in my opinion more flexible thing but don't have much experience with it so can't tell you more specifics.


...

Shot #2:

I thing the poses could benefit some more adjustments. 
Somehow they feel stiff to me...

I can't tell that the being is slightly smiling.  Needs to be more clearly presented.

The silhouette of the head could be more pronounced - the top of the head is lost in the background.
That is for the first shots of the being.

Now I'm watching the later shot where the cubes are assembled

into the being.  Since it is a closer shot, the final assembly might look more readable meaning the smile.
Maybe some backlight/kicker on the head or lift up the background behind it.


I have the impression you render it all in your 3d Software. 
I'll recommend doing it in various passes as separate elements and then combine in post.
Easier to "re-lit" or change colors, balance ambient/fill/key/Specular/reflectivity...

...

I am with Dan Kessler on the benefits of knowing how to paint.

Render time is expensive (time vise).
Jotting down couple of thumbnails and experimenting till you've got clear READABLE image of the keys,

where pose, silhouette (beings/objects), space is clearly recognizable through values (grayscale),
and then maybe working it out color wise and then doing the 3d thing could be a time saver.


Best

Igor


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