VFX Test Film - Super Hero vs Mech Warrior

Here's an extended edit of the final project for my advanced Maya class with the ITP 3D wizard, Prof. Lance Winkel. The objective was to model, texture, rig and animate a 3D character from scratch. I had already been looking to do a CG + live action test using Image Based Lighting (IBL) so I thought I'd spice things up by making the project a live-action short. 

Lighting the CG model: I captured an HDRI probe (read: cheap reflective garden dome) on location and utilized Image Based Lighting (IBL) to light all the CG elements to match the live action footage. IBL is extremely useful, especailly in low-light scenarios as was the case in my footage. Sure, additional light sources and tweaking is required based on the specific angle/scene, but the HDRI map creates a solid starting point and does most of the work for you. 

mechwarrior_HDR_unwrapped_8bit.png

3D Camera Mapping: As is the case with most short notice video shoots (done in two hours over finals week), some of the footage I went home with was less than optimal for vfx work. Most notably, the video I shot for the mech running down the tracks sequence had too much motion blur to be tracked in Boujou. To salvage the shot, I took a good clean frame of the train tracks footage and recreated the set using 3D camera mapping (also called photogrammetery). After some photoshop clean up work to fill holes that the perspective shift would cause I had the flexibility to do a lot of different camera moves. This made the the zoom in and out on the mech running towards the camera at a very easy task and gave me flexibility to create the exact camera move I wanted in the comfort of post-production, without sacrificing realism or quality. 

Even very basic geometry sells the trick. The key is to lock in on objects close to the camera that will experience a significant shift in perspective and ensure you fill in any holes that'll become visible. In this case, it's primarily the street light pole on the left and the platform divider on the right. 

Even very basic geometry sells the trick. The key is to lock in on objects close to the camera that will experience a significant shift in perspective and ensure you fill in any holes that'll become visible. In this case, it's primarily the street light pole on the left and the platform divider on the right. 

test composite mech.jpg

Learning Resources: Paul Debevec, AD and professor at the USC ICT  is a pioneer in the areas of HDRI, IBL and Photogrammetry. He also happens to have a plethora of resources about these areas online, including research papers and HDRI probe images: http://ict.debevec.org/~debevec/