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Working on the lighting for Rocket Dog was a huge challenge, since prior to it I'd only done bits and pieces of lighting and rendering smaller things. I'd never worked on anything where I was being given animated models or textured environments from other people. I spent some time learning how to make sure I connected all the maps properly when I was given them from Haowen. This guide on moving maps from Substance into Maya for Arnold maps has saved me many times over. After that, I learnt about lookdev more. How sometimes light would hit things in certain ways that wouldn't work well, and sometimes you'd need to go into the Hypershade and tweak certain materials to get things working how they should be. From here I had to actually work out how to light an entire narrative piece. I decided based on my earlier test that I'd done, and youtube videos I'd watched regarding lighting nighttime scenes, specifically moonlight, that having the stars in the sky emit light would work out really well for having something consistent throughout the story. If the logo emits light, then it's distant at first, then gets closer in shot 5 where he's heading straight towards it, then when he reaches his goal we can backlight him with the bright logo behind him.

Then I was met with the challenge of having to light a night time scene as if it were daytime, so that comp wouldn't run into issues with renders being too dark to work with. This was super challenging as well. I used 3 point lighting to help me along with this.

For shot 5, He's lit from the front. I think with more time I could've lit this shot nicer that it ended up being. I did include a rim on his right side to try and make him less flat, but I think I'd just need to sit there and tweak it more. He had a challenging head shape that was different from the bust that I'd lit before. I spoke to Lipin about this shot and he showed me some animation footage where the light on a shot like this gets warmer as the character approaches their goal. I liked this idea and brought a little bit into the shot, but I worried that because of how neutral he is at the start of the animation, it felt like he was an actor warming up under a spotlight!

Shot 6 and 7 I had an easier time with. Ideally, I'd have loved to get some volumetric shadows going with the logo like this example I saw in the Arnold documentation, but I couldn't get it to work and we were pushed for time. I'm still happy overall with how the shots turned out. I did run into issues with the logo- the mesh had a bit of 'crunch' to it which meant it had holes in the render. I fixed this by simply making the entire logo emissive.

The visible holes in the mesh:

Optimising renders was an interesting challenge and one I actually really enjoyed. I think with more practice I could improve my workflow to use fewer lights and speed up the whole process as I become more experienced using AOVs and working out exactly what needs a sample boost. The glass was really challenging - I ran into a lot of issues with it, and it's not as consistent as I'd like across the whole piece due to a few wrong settings. I also had to think about how it would work with the background - we couldn't do any massive tweaks to the dogs colouration because the background/logo inside the helmet would also be affected.

Updated: May 27, 2022

I've spent a lot of time this semester sitting in the studio. Most times it's fairly empty, with usually a couple others appearing slightly later on and sitting well into the evening. I find it really helpful just to be able to call someone over (usually Lipin!) and ask what he thinks of whatever I'm working on. Getting that instant feedback is amazing, and being able to see what other people are working on and give advice on things like retopology or character design has really helped me with communicating feedback to others as well. I feel that in undergrad I really struggled with asking others for help, and this class as a whole is great because people will just ask each other for feedback or how they did something all the time, I feel a lot better about just asking someone something now.

The other person I've communicated a lot with this semester outside of group project work is Kelly. We have spent the semester messaging away at each other about whatever it is we're currently working on, and give feedback as we go. I feel like I wouldn't have progressed as much as I have in 3D without having someone to fire a quick question to who's got more years in the software. But now I've learnt so much of Arnold, I get asked questions too!

Of course, not all problems are this straightforward in 3D.

I spent some time creating a shot list for Rocket Dog based on a great one I found online on an animation graduate's website (which has since vaporised!). I found that this was really helpful for breaking down exactly what we needed to get through as a group and what sort of things I would have to think about come lighting/rendering/compositing stage.

I also worked hard on bringing everything that was ready to be lit and rendered into clean Maya files. It ended up being a ton of work, time consuming and frustrating at points, and Lipin helped a lot with things like the rocket textures refusing to work properly (UDIMs... I'm not a fan). Lipin copied the keyframes over from the animated rocket to the one that was already textured in scene, and that's how we worked around it. I also ran into some trouble with the kennel not working properly with textures, which I remedied by following this guide in the Maya documentation.

Our scenes folder started looking pretty wild, and I made a clean new folder with everything I needed for the scenes. Things like cameras, lights (Shot 1 and Shot 4a, 4b, and 4c all have very similar/the same lighting), shader networks (which were a godsend to just be able to cleanly import and apply), and cached animation or FX could all be found and pulled into the new files. I composited a lot on my film in undergrad, and knew that by the time files hit me or Atharva in the compositing stage, everything needed to be as clean as they could get. I felt quite torn about this whole ordeal because it took a long time and I was tempted to ask other people in the group to help, but I was also worried that things might just end up a bit messy or things would break across people's Maya softwares. Having Lipin's help was super beneficial because we were messaging back and forth a ton on Teams as soon as we spotted a problem.

The scenes folder:

The clean folder for lighting! Even it got a little messy towards the end:

The files ready for compositing:

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