January 06, 2016

Ember Process 2

I knew very early on that I wanted to create a large multiplane environment in which I could use multiple camera angles.  I looked a lot at Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends to see how the levels were put together.  I would literally enter a level, find a particular area with water and move left, right, up and down on the spot for some hours.  Man, they really are gorgeous games.  Anyway, I discovered they created some sort of horizontal water-plane that had vertical planes with artwork that intersected it.  That is what I wanted to do for Ember.

It sounded simple enough, but actually executing it was very, very difficult.  Anyway, here is the first After Effects test that I did in August 2014, where I was discovering camera settings like "Depth of Field".  It's all fun and games when working with three small layers like here, but when there are 200+ levels of high resolution artwork to be processed, After Effects gets a little grumpy.

People kept on mentioning that I needed to add reflections.  I kept looking around on the world wide web to see if there was a way to make the water plane reflective.  Alas, I just couldn't find a way.  I ended up doing exactly what I was trying to avoid: duplicating all those layers so that I could flip them upside down under the water level.  After Effects will keep up.  Right?

Nope.  I ran into a LOT of technical problems.  One thing that I just couldn't solve was the water level randomly popping up and down during camera movements and depth of field changes, resulting in the reflections partially showing up above the water levels:

In the end, I decided to just render the final credits without the reflections.  Partially through that render I decided to export the After Effects file to try it one more time on another computer and... it... worked?!  I don't know how, but I immediately cancelled the first render and started rendering the credits with the reflections this time.  Rendering those credits in HD took two full days on nine computers.  Yup...

So now onto some dragonfly stuff.  I wasn't quite sure how I was going to tackle the four wings.  Animating them by hand would have been fun, but I really wanted to create a particular blurry look for them when they were in flight.  Early on, I tried creating a basic 3D-wing rig in Toon Boom.  Blurs were not being helpful at first, but after a lot of tweaking, I was able to get the desired effect.

The dragonfly has four wings, but whenever it flies, each wing multiplies by three for a total of twelve wings in every flight frame.  All of the wings have different blurs applied to them and all together they were able to get the look I was after.  The inner tips of the wings all come together at one point, which became the point of attachment on the dragonfly.

And to end this post, here's quick 1.5 hour animation test done to see if the whole idea would work.  Thankfully, it did :)

Previous Ember posts can be found here:

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