Archive for May, 2010


aQtree: What Is It?

via David’s Really Interesting Pages comes news of, well, I guess David’s big project: aQtree. This is some kind of non-photorealistic rendering tool or, as it is described on the site, “a dedicated non-photorealistic environment.” What is meant by “environment” I’m not sure, but I look forward to finding out. The sample movies on the site are lovely; go check ‘em out.

Crater Face

Crater Face from Skyler Page on Vimeo.

Rotoscope and Humility

Last week, without fanfare or explanation, I had a shot taken away from me and given to a more senior artist, and in one day he made the shot look finished when I had been struggling for a week to make it look presentable. This upset me, because my pride was wounded and my vanity shown up, but also because there wasn’t any warning, any notes that the shot wasn’t up to snuff. I mean, I knew it wasn’t looking right, but nobody said anything and I was scared by the thought that I wouldn’t have warning when I was failing, ┬áthat nobody would be catching me here, and that I might not be good enough. This was a frightening realization.

And the next task didn’t make me feel any better: roto mattes for moving foliage and foreground characters. In a grainy night-for-night shot. As a long-term career choice, becoming the best matte puller in the shop is not where I want to put my focus.┬áRotoscoping mattes (and painting plate fixes) is the sort of high-skill, low-creativity labor that won’t be done by high-paid domestic labor for long. It’s too easy to outsource and software may even make it trivial before long. But it is something that a VFX artist needs to know how to do competently.

So I had work for my hands while my mind reflected. Rotoscope can be a meditative process, especially when lots of hand-roto is required. Something in the nature of this straight-forward work, where the goal is clear and progress can be marked, is good for the lost spirit. I worked through it fairly fast and focused, too. Even though I’d rather be lighting and comping shots, I think I needed the humility of this task to remind me not to be too prideful, and its utility to the larger project to feel that I was contributing. Finishing it quickly and well helped me regain confidence. At the end I was ready to accept the situation and work with it.

So no-one is holding my hand here (or indeed anywhere in life), and I will need to take the knowledge that I need. I looked over what the other artist had done to see what he had done that made the shot look so much better. Different choices in lighting, changes to the texture artist’s choices, and lots and lots of real-world elements in the comp, for starters. An understanding of the Nuke lens flare tool. In general, he uses an improvisational approach that seems to be hunting out the better image, as opposed to my head-directed attempt to fulfill what I think should be the right approach. I think it’s a good example of letting the hands do the work instead of listening to the head. That, and quite a lot of knowledge and skill built over years and years of finishing shots. There is a wealth of knowledge to be learned here, if I can keep my eyes open.

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