06 January 2017

My illustration work from 2016

Well, it's that time again. The year is over and I look back at my work over the last 365 days. It seems like not that many jobs were completed in 2016, but for a couple months, I was employed at ILM and that took practically all my time. So my work during that time is all in Rogue One, spaced out in various increments all throughout the movie. However, it's hard to point out my work; rotoscoping and paint fix are truly an invisible art. If I do my job well, no one will ever know. Therefore, on to art that can be seen.

My first big piece of the year was more of the usual construction imagery that I've done many times. This one was a bit conceptual and built as a 3D scene using some models from previous jobs, as well as new geometry. The final render was painted in Photoshop to give it the final look and the background skyline was painted from scratch.

This illustration began as a 3D model I built in Cinema 4D. It was to depict work done on the Selim Bridge being built over the Bosporus Strait in Turkey. Since it wasn't completed, I had to work from construction site photos and previous animations. I did my best to make it look correct, but work like this usually requires very accurate measurements and all I could do was eyeball images and guess as best as I could. Hopefully, it looks somewhat correct. The final render was finished and painted in Photoshop. Later, as a personal project, I animated a camera going down the road with trains rushing past on the rails in the middle between the lanes of traffic.

This one may not look that exciting, and it really wasn't. Actually, it was based off of a a previous image I did years ago, and this was an updated version of new equipment. The trick here was to make it look nice, but not spend much time on it.

This was one of my major projects of the year: the usual calendar header illustration. I spent much longer on this than I had originally planned, but as you can see, it was quite detailed. Usually, I like to work from a detailed image, but I didn't have much this time. The main photo I was given was low resolution without much detail, and the view didn't show all the bridges I needed, so I had to combine a lot of images and fudge it a bit. But I like the end result.

The same image was actually longer to the left and needed to have an inset illustration of the bridge being worked on. Luckily, the end client took good photos of the job site, so I had my pick of good source material. It just needed a lot of detail.

This image was a redo of an image done by an earlier artist and it needed to look more impactful and realistic. I used some images from previous work I had done for the same client and did my best to jazz it up. The trick was to make it look realistic, but not to spend much time on it.

Yes, it's another version of the same image. But working with Photoshop's layers makes it fairly easy to make adjustments to technical illustrations like this. I also had to do measurements to make the various elements to scale.

Another quick one. An artist I work with did most of the work as a 3D scene and I finished it off in Photoshop to give it that final touch. It didn't take long.

This was for a magazine ad. For a view like this with complex imagery, it's easier to start in 3D. I used some pre-existing models from an earlier project, along with some models provided to me. The background and details were painted in. For some reason, my client thought it looked like an African savanna, but the top area ended up getting covered by content in the ad anyway.

Now this one was quite the challenge. The layout, design, and seemingly the purpose of the image kept changing during during the whole process. I think I made more comps and WIPs on this one than any other job. The primary elements were a 3D model provided by the end client, because that's what their product is. I then had to turn it into an image showing the various stages of design, rendering, construction, and final scene with some important dimensions shown.

I was pretty excited about this one. It was basically a matte painting project, starting with a  daytime photo. I had to add snow, turn it to a nighttime scene, and create Christmas lights. I later animated it with falling snow in After Effects for a holiday video used by the company.

My last big project was a long animation. I used some previous 3D scenes and animations, but I did have to build new parts for it. Much if it was animation in Cinema 4D and After Effects, so I try to implement a new technique for each job. This was a test render of drill bits to see if I could get their textures right.

Here is a final rendered frame from the final animation. The 3D elements were animated and rendered in Cinema 4D and composited with backgrounds I created in Photoshop and animated in After Effects to match the renders and combined in a 2D environment to depict a cutaway of the drilling process.

This was just a quick job to texture and render out a model provided to me. It was build in a CAD program to very exacting specs. When I finally got a file I could open, I had to do a good bit of work to organize all the many pieces for easier application of materials. I have illustrated machinery like this from scratch as 2D images in Photoshop, but if the client has 3D models available, why not use them?

Here is a different type of project. This is mainly a photo editing type of illustration. The idea was to turn the seedling into the client's logo and make it look like the leaves just grew that way. The glowing circle referenced the logo as well. Background elements had to be adjusted and changed to make the foreground plant really stand out. I got this job from a new client near the end of the year and was trying to get it done. Hopefully more jobs will come.

Looking back on it all, it doesn't seem like there were a lot of jobs completed during this year, but I did work on a lot of design and animation projects that aren't really illustrations. And let's not forget my time at ILM. I certainly won't.

18 December 2016

A quick VFX fix

I saw Rogue One this week: once on opening night, but once also a few days earlier at a private company screening. It was quite something to see my name up in the credits for a Star Wars movie. After seeing it on Friday, we came home to watch A New Hope for the continuation of the story. I have a recent Blu-ray release of both trilogies, with all sorts of digital updates, corrections, and additions. But there were some easy fixes that mysteriously were not made. I noticed one glaring problem while watching Luke practice with his lightsaber onboard the Millennium Falcon.

You can see the problem in this comparison image of two sequential frames from the movie. Mark was holding a handle with the blade attached, probably a rotating one covered with a highly reflective material. Then the camera stopped, he tried to remain still, and his lightsaber was switched out for just the handle. But as it's impossible to stay still enough, there is a noticeable jump between the two frames, looking abrupt and unnatural. This is a very old camera trick, practically dating back to the very first moving pictures.

However, with digital technology, the fix here is quite easy. It didn't take me long to figure out that the first good frame with the lightsaber turned off could be used to cover the few frames with the lightsaber on, so that there is no jump in Luke's position. The training ball was matted out so that the rotating version from the original frames would show through. Then some animated noise was added to the single frame to make it match the moving footage. Since the lightsaber's blade is missing, it could easily be added in with a shape layer and a glow effect. The benefit here is that it can be animated going down, instead of just sharply disappearing from one frame to another. You may also notice that even in this new release of the movie, the blade's color is wrong; it looks either colorless or almost green, instead of the blue we all know Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber had.
This correction was quickly done on my laptop using Photoshop and After Effects, although it probably could have been done with either program instead of both. This was just a little project that I did on a whim. In reality, it only takes a few minutes to get the shot mostly there, but as with much of this kind of work, getting that last 5% can take the most time. As an example of that, I wasn't that satisfied with the final result after posting it, so I worked on it some more and even tried putting it a bit of glow on Luke from the saber. 

03 November 2016

New matte painting demo reel

My contract at ILM is almost up and it looks like it won't be extended this time. So I'm getting ready to go back to looking for more projects. Digital matte painting is always my interest, so I have been working on updating my demo reel for this kind of work. Here is the latest version.


09 October 2016

Lucasfilm Sidewalk Festival

On Friday, I participated in Lucasfilm's annual Sidewalk Festival. Teams of four get to sign up for a sidewalk square each and are given chalk to use in creating their design. I thought it would be fun to be a part of it, but I didn't have a team. Luckily, there was a team of two that needed some extra artists and I got hooked up with them. It was only three of us, but we had a good design to work on and together we were able to get a nice representation of it on the sidewalk square. The judging happened after I had left for the day, so I don't know what the final result was, but we got a lot of positive comments from passers by. Does anyone know who this is on our picture?

30 September 2016

Current contract

Earlier this month, I had an interview at Industrial Light & Magic, a studio I've been trying to get into for years now. This kind of work has opportunities that are very hit-and-miss, but this time was different. Instead of another phone interview, I was invited to come on the campus at the Presidio in San Francisco. That's an offer that's hard to refuse.

It sounded very promising this time, and they shortly made me an offer: a 2-month contract working as a digital paint artist on an upcoming movie to be released in December. I don't know if I can say much more than that at the moment. But it's an exciting chance and a fun place to work. The daily commute is not so fun, but it's worth it. Hopefully, this will lead to more of the same. My overall goal is still digital matte painting, so hopefully, this is a step in that direction. I've already done that kind of work professionally. Now I just need to do it for a major motion picture.

01 September 2016

Recent work

Things have been busy these days, so my blog has suffered a bit. As usual, I'm doing digital illustration work, looking for new projects, and seeing what my next big move should be. I'm looking at trying to get some visual effects work on upcoming movies and I actually had an interview at ILM yesterday! Onsite at the Presidio in San Francisco, so that was pretty exciting. We'll see what happens.

Here are some sections from a project I finished recently. If the format or subject matter look familiar, it's for a calendar header like many I've done before. This one was fun, but really took me a long time, painting all those darn buildings. And then all the bridges. And then that inset image of the top of the bridge...

30 June 2016

Back to business as usual

I've recently noticed that it's been a long time since I've posted anything. As you can guess, I've been working on various freelance projects and looking for more work. I've also been checking on full-time employment, especially teaching positions. Recently, I was contacted by Tulsa Community College about a digital media instructor position. I went out there and interviewed. It was a nice facility and I did the best I could, but they ended up going with other candidates. I was disappointed, but the job starts this fall and it would be hard to make a big move like that so quickly. 

So, it's back to business as usual and I'll keep looking. I have been thinking about getting my Masters degree, since that's almost a requirement for a tenured teaching position.