Category: Independent Practice OUDF 301

The line up

As part of my brief i said i would compare a still render against other photographs of real dragonflies to see how it compare and measures up.

Hagenius_headon4873_largeINDIA dragonflyrendersubmition1.1common_darter1

Well as far as i can tell, it doesnt stick out like a sore thumb, but you can tell which is CG. I think its because of the positioning of the shot, it seems to central, to planned. Also the angle of the wings lets it down slightly and the eyes could do with being a little more glassy. It might be because I know it has no fur, but I think that also takes away from it also. If you havent seen the rest of my blog you might not guess at a glance. Maybe i could have your comments? I still have a lot to learn.


Here it is! My finished dragonfly. As far as looking realistic, I would say I’m close and although it may fool at a glance i dont think trained eyes would have a hared time spotting it as CGI. But I am please with my first attempt at a level of realism and have learnt so much that can take my creations to a higher level of finished quality.

Mudbox allowed me to paint on those subtle nuances that make up the real world and Mayas Mental ray allowed some fantastic lighting.

Considering I painted the textures with realism in mind constantly, I think i did well, I just kept ‘ imperfection’ in mind and remembered to take off the mirror attribute every now and again as nothing is perfectly symmetric. I’m disappointed i wasn’t able to add some fur, I just found the amount i was learning was a bit overwhelming an constrains ment aspects needed the chop. But i didn’t think it hinders it much and I would like to continue developing this model at a later date. Perhaps add the fur and animate it. But for this project stopping at this stage was enough for my learning and skill level and 10 weeks worth of work.


Depth of field always adds a realism to film or a photograph and i wanted to give it a got in Maya. I started to regret it, i’m finding it really difficult to get it correct. I think i need a bit more practice with a camera to fully understand it. But i gave it a go and managed to get a few nice images with it.


Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 20.15.13


Im still not 100 percent about the settings and some times i couldn’t get it right at all.

The 3 values are-

Focus Distance is the area of the image that is in focus.

F stop is applied to the relationship between the size of the aperture and focal length of the lens. (the amount of blur in the image) The lower the value the more blurred the image beyond the focal point.

Focus Region scale allow you to adjust the area of the scene you want to stay in focus.

Even though I have read what they do several times, I am really struggling to get any positive results.

Image Based lighting means capturing real world light through a photographand the software interpreting the image and projecting the simulated light into a 3D scene. This is mostly used as  sphere around the scene or object to project the light onto and around.

Screen shot 2012-12-05 at 19.44.02

IBL allows real world light to be used in a simulated scene instead of trying to do it manually.

Final Gathering works hand in hand with IBL. It sends out final gather rays in random direction and when it intersects a surface bounces off and you can set the number of times the light bounces off the object. I’m not 100 percent clued up on final gather, but i am trying to get my head around it, there are a lot of technical terms and assets that are new to me and i’m finding its taking me a bit longer to grasp.

I chose I woodland image because I wanted to use it as the backdrop for my turnaround as well. It had soft lighting and similar colours to my dragonfly and twig, so it wouldn’t look out of place.

When it came to rendering, I clearly underestimated how long it would take. I think this is because it had a lot of information to process. It would have taken three maybe four times longer if i had rendered the 360 out with depth of field enabled. So this was the first thing i tackled as I desperatly wanted the background blurred. To save render time I rendered out the background separately to add the blur in AfterEffects. The background was the actual IMB node and when i batch rendered out a single frame for a test as a tiff , it wasn’t visible on the render. But this problem was quickly fix by exporting it as a Jpeg. It was then very quick to render out the 300 backplate frames (25fps).

The dragonfly was rendered out with an alpha and as a tiff so I could layer the two in Aftereffects and add any effects separately to each layers.

But something I didn’t realise until after I had rendered out the dragonfly layer over night and for several hours during the day forced me to re-render.

To enable the image based lighting you need to tick final gather in the render settings. But, when you change the quality from custom to production it overrides it and un ticks it, something I was totally unaware off. But luckily, I was about to get the new render going on three computers over night and it did it in about 10hours. I left the quality on custom and the IBL rendered out fine.

Comparing the two turnarounds, there was a significant difference in the lighting quality and the realistic look of the model within the environment.




Before I started rigging my displacement map looked fine, I had used the Approximation editor to adjust it till I has happy. But… once it was rigged and bound ready for positioning I got a shock.

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 11.34.02

Somewhere along the rigging process the displacement map got screwed up! After I got it looking great too! Luckily I save scene files at different stages of the process and re opened each file from boning to binding, test rendering the model to find out the point at which it changed. I thought it might have something to do with the weight painting but it was at the moment of binding the rig to the mesh.


Ah! ok so i thought would be able to sort it out in the approximation editor… It had no effect on the displacement map at all this time.

But no panic, I had recently purchased the book ‘Maya studio Projects, texturing and lighting. Through this book I discovered that the displacement strength could be edited in the displacement attribute editor, under the color balance tab by editing the alpha Gain value.

Screen shot 2012-12-05 at 11.44.52

This was the first time i had used dissplacment maps and I would never have thought to look in the colour section of the displacement map attribute editor. I thought that maybe i should know to look there, so i took a moment to under stand why it was this section.

i know Gain is noise and noise with color is vibrance, taking a look at the displacement map, my map is red and from what i can deduce, maya reads the color vibrance and interprets that as the displacement dependent on the levels of vibrancy. so therefor the higher the ‘Gain’ the more noisy the red sections become and the level of displacement it hight and less ‘gain’ the lower the displacement. Don’t quote me on it I maybe wrong, I am just connecting the dots of what knowledge I have learnt.


So back to my problem, I did have a bit of a giggle while trying to determined which way the value needed to go.

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 11.33.14

I put the Gain quite high, and my dragonfly looked like a balloon! I just continually decrease the value until it looked like how I had it before.

I have encountered an issue when working with the ‘send to Maya’ and ‘update to Mudbox’ feature. I started to notice deformations appearing in the sculpt when the mesh was sent back to Mud box.

Screen shot 2012-11-26 at 15.16.46

Screen shot 2012-11-26 at 19.47.54

The feet were the worst. I managed to smooth the mesh back into place, but when it was re imported it would just do it again. I downloaded Mayas hotfix’s to see if it made a difference but unfortunately not, nor an explanation online, so I lived with it. What concerned me the most was, will it show up in the displacement map when I render?

Luckily it was barely noticeable and I can’t even see it on my final renders, possibly because I edited the mental ray approximation editor.





After I had finished the the twig i did a quick 360 camera around the top of the twig, to to get a feel of what its going to look like and what seed I sound do it at.

10 seconds seem a bit to fast to get a good look at the model.

15 seconds seemed much better but maybe a little to slow, so I think I will have it 12 seconds long and meet in the middle.

Before I rigged it I imported the basic model into the scene to get a basic idea of what its going to look like at 12 seconds long.

I think 12 seconds is quite adequate.



I’m glad i rigged my model because I was able to take my time and position my dragonlfy. I made sure when I was positioning, that I had my background reference moodboard up and a few more images i sourced.

dragonfly backgrounds

Common Darter Dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum) male sunning on a dead twig6178361857_6a1d05037e

Observing things like the perches, they are all on an angle, not straight up, like my model twig. It was only a quick adjustment on the rotation axis to amend that.

I decided I wanted my dragonfly on top of the twig, rather that clinging to the side like some of the one’s in the picture. Mainly because I was thinking about how it would look in my 360, I didn’t want anything obstructing the view of the model.

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 16.10.33

I was really happy with the rig, it really allowed me to move each of the digits to make it look like it was clinging to the twig with its claw and using its back leg to prop its back body wait up. One thing that I keep reading about realism is imperfection! So each leg is individually placed, offset from each other and set at slightly different angles from the hip.

I’m starting to think I hadn’t really thought enough about how much this project was going to involve. Once the model was textured and ready for placement, I hadn’t really anticipated rigging it. I’m my statement I mention I will make my model riggable but not necessarily rigged. But I need a way to pose it. I had a very brief look at the Mudbox posing tool and I mean brief. From what I did look at in Mudbox it seems very similar to Maya but I think I panicked about how long it would take me to bone, add controls and weight paint, so I thought it was best to stick at what I know to save me a few hours trying to learn how to rig using Mudbox. It took me a day and a half to do, considerably faster than the last time I rigged, but it was a day and a half that I had planned for rendering. I found I remembered a lot more than I thought. I only kept it simple and rigged the legs to make them easy to position however I want. I was surprised that I quite easily applied the skills I had learn to an insect with 6 legs as apposed to the bipedal characters I had done before. It seems I have got the hang of order of parenting, naming well and constraints, its not quite second nature at the moment.

I made some simple controls and changed the colour for easy visual reading. I also discovered why I have problems changing the colour of the controls in the VFX model. It was because I had put the controls on their own layer, that stops you from changing thee colour of them. So note to self, change the colour of the controls first and then put them on a layer.

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 12.45.11Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 14.45.19Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 11.20.03


After I had positioned the legs and angled the body I found myself wishing I had rigged the wings as they appear very geometrically flat, but I have all the files saved at different stages to there is no reason I cant go back a few stages and add more to the rig.

I could have saved modeled it pre posed so I wouldn’t have had to rig it, but it was nice to tweak it in the scene to my liking when it was ready for render.