The process behind Rocket Dog
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.