Last half of this week all that I was doing was casually preparing my work for submission. I feel very disappointed about our project. We managed to produce very accurate materials, optimise our render time and do some very complicated work, but despite all of it, we still didn’t manage to finish it as we planned.
Despite everything mentioned, this project have me personally several breakthroughs. Never before I have managed to create such realistic materials and textures that worked properly, I never even heard about linear workflow for renders, I never had any practice with camera and I never worked with such a complicated project and did compositing.
Combination of all these really inspired me for my next personal project and as always, lessons been learned.
Despite me being quite new with Nuke, I had massive success with this software outside of some issues with merging footage, but I managed to fix this by converting footage from .tiff to .png.
The way we were thinking to do it was that I and Morghann composite selected shots and give them to Oleg so he will combine everything and will render the final footage.
Now after few frames rendered we finally started doing post production. For the sake of this project we decided to go with Nuke by Foundry instead of After Effects. While After Effects was much more familiar to us and seamed easier to use, we wanted to use software that professionals use for such tasks.
Oleg really helped me, teaching all the core aspects of Nuke, especially those that were relevant to what we had to do right now, including:
After his lessons I came home and managed to do all compositing.
I have spent a lot of time figuring out how to make my exported textures look almost the same in Arnold as they did in Substance Painter. The official tutorial provided by Arnold’s development team while quite detailed for reasons yet to be known to me, was providing absolutely different results.
Eventually I came across a tutorial that talked about a “linear fork flow” method. This method as I figured out is a standard way that al rendering specialists work and must know about (the reason why it was mentioned in Arnold tutorial). The basic idea of this work flow is to always make sure that at every single moment of your work, except at the final output, all your files and images are at proper gamma. In my case I had to be sure that all images and textures I used, that had any information about colours will be in SRGB mode, while all technical texture must be in RAW mode . So for every object I had, I needed to change image input mode for normal,G0 and roughness to RAW. I did so, and my results were immediately became almost like there were in substance painter.
Unfortunately despite everything looking good, I ran into an issue that the rendering will take forever. Even with all the amazing optimization I managed to achieve through learning all the technical aspects of Arnold, I still managed only to bring render time for one frame down to 8 – 10 minutes(compared to 20-30 minutes per frame in previous project). With 16 shots, each one tacking about 3 days it will take about a month just to render everything.
Despite the fact that we wont be able to render all we wanted before deadline, at least we managed to achieve a very good looking result in those few frames that we had.
After I have spent half of the week texturing spaceship and many other objects, I would say, I became quite comfortable with Substance Painter. Yet all I did before was just a lot of work, I knew the challenge would come with the space suit.
Unlike in the case with the space ship and other objects that will be very far away, there will be many shots extreme close up shots on the space suit. This meant that every part of the spacesuit (helmet, body, backpack) not only had to have a very high resolution texture, but also be very well detailed. That’s exactly what I did.
Again, I used Smart Material from my spaceship to match colour and style, but this time I added a lot of smaller details all over the spacesuit. Quickly this added a level of realism to my spacesuit. I also was not afraid to experiment with new layers. One the key features I used during spacesuit texturing was new smart mask introduced in Substance Painter 2017. Once I learned about this new and very handy smart mask, I immediately updated to newer version.
This mask allowed to use normal maps painted in layers bellow for whatever designer wanted. Before, Substance Painter only recognized the main normal map, that this software generates in the very beginning. This forced artists to always start with painting normal maps, and then exporting this map and replacing the original one, only then Substance Painter reacted to painted normal map. This smart mask on the other side, had no such difficulties.
Texturing space shuttle took a lot longer then I expected, first I wanted to be sure that all assets in our project will have a cohesive style and colour scheme.
My original idea was to do it the straight forward way: texturing everything simultaneously. This proven to be an almost impossible task for my computer, every single brush stroke took several seconds to apply, it was painful to work that way. I quickly assumed (and rightfully so) that this has something to do with how many separate objects where in my scene, each one with its own high resolution texture.
So I split the objects up, which made a drastic difference. Unfortunately now I had another problem: how do I make sure each object diffuse, roughness, colours, normals and so on, match? My first thought was to write down parameters for all layers and duplicate them, but I quickly remembered that in on of the tutorials they showed me a feature called Smart Materials. After some online search I delved deeper into this subject and in two hours I had s smart material that I could apply to every asset and just paint masks to the layers are only seen where needed. This saved me a lot of time, and texturing about 25 separate spaceship parts became much less tedious and in the end, the all had exactly the same colours and materials as well as style.
This smart material was also applied to Oleg’s and Morghann’s models, so these where textured quite quickly as well.
We all managed to finish by the end of this week. It allowed me to go ahead and start texturing everything. First I had look into what Oleg and Morghann modelled, Oleg created a white room and a rocket launch site, while Morghann created parts of the Mars colony and launch site rockets that the main spaceship will use in order to enter Earth higher atmosphere.