BB-8 and Dalek rigs and realistic materials?



  • @ZachAlan_Productions

    re the shadows thing: that is one thing (and at this point, just about the only thing) that doesn't look as good as the real thing. You can see in the pictures Triem posted that this is the case, even the 2005 CGI daleks have more shadow. Sorry if  it seems like I'm nitpicking but it's just so close already, I think with more work it could look better than the CG daleks from the show in 2005

    re the volumetrics:

    I didn't actually notice that you had used volumetric lighting on the other lights at all the first time round, so mostly it's the dalek

    a) the light coming off of the dalek's lights is somehow reflecting off of the air way more than the light from the lamp or the windows, despite being not-as-bright, so it looks weird. 

    b) there doesn't really seem to be anything (e.g. smoke, steam, dust..) physically in the room that should be reflecting the light like that at all, so it looks fake. 

    The main thing is those super-clean edges to the light coming off of the dalek's head-lights, it's almost like it's got two opaque yellow planes coming out of its head.

    also the fact that when the window goes out of frame, the volumetric lighting that was previously coming from the window just disappears, but as I said I didn't notice that until you pointed it out. So it's probably not too important

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @JMcAllister The volumetrics on the flashers is actually something I rigged up (I think Zach is modifying a copy of the Dalek I sent him). And I think he's just got them on as a test. In a "Real" animation, I'm sure he'd tone those down, but sometimes in a test you will leave a thing you know isn't quite correct.

    Zach, just double check the model layer's material settings and make certain cast and receive shadows are on as well as cast/receive ambient occlusion. Remember, in a layer's material settings you can adjust the self-shadow bias and the depth of the ambient occlusion. A few minutes of tweaking should fix it. Those are settings that often need to be tweaked on every shot, depending...

    Last note--Are you using Light Wrap on the Dalek? I'm guessing you probably are, because that would have been in the effects stack on the model when I zipped it up, but don't forget to assign a source layer for the light wrap.

  • Oh, ok. I'll shut up about that then, since it's not a "real" animation.

    Anyway, still better than anything I've done with 3d models.

  • If I can chip in on the whole looking real or not, yes it is important that it works in the context of the shot and quality of the scene. However one thing that keeps getting said by industry experts (people with XP in the business) is if it looks good and works then go with it. The main reason is the shot is most likely only on screen for a few seconds, the viewer is caught up in the moment and unlike us lot on a VFX forum is not looking at every little flaw. Sure if it does not match up to the expectations of the viewer it won't feel right. So I guess I am saying show it to you non VFX mates see what they think.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @Andy001z raises good points. I did notice the tracking drift. I did notice the volumetrics on the flashers, but I probably watched the shot 10 times before I thought to ask about Light Wrap. 

  • @Triem23 do you know why the track drifted? Mocha said it had a solve quality of 98%, so I'm wondering if it gets a little confused with grainy/noisy footage?

    @JMcAllister I agree about the Dalek's lights being brighter than the scene. I'll continue this shot by animating the Dalek, adding a voice line, and making the lights flash to the voice. Maybe some sort of fall off setting will help with the Dalek's volumetrics?

    @Andy001z that's true, especially with fast pace intense vfx shots where people are drawn in to the moment. Then they don't have time to notice the flaws. 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Tough to tell. Tracking is an art AND a science.

    Now, remember mocha has no idea what it's looking at. It basically tracks a defined noise pattern. The surface you define is treated as a rectangle. Mocha then looks at these angled surfaces, tries to "deperspective" them, and generate a solution based on how these rectangles move relevant to each other. Mocha does know what's a floor or a wall, it has no idea about size and distance. Ultimately it's just watching some rectangles move and making an educated guess. There are multiple mathematical solutions to every solve.

    So... even a "98%" solve quality ain't 100%. There's still room for jitter. Mocha might THINK it has a good track, but doesn't. Did you track the floor? The floor is glossy and mocha might interpret a shifting reflection as movement. it might TRACK that "movement" correctly, but that reflection just messed up the actual track?

    So it's tough to say. Sometimes it's possible to fix a wonky track just by moving the surface a little bit. Sometimes you need to retrack.

    Good tracking advice from Axel--Mocha wants the LARGEST track spline you can give it, and a SMALLER surface.

  • edited October 2017

    @Triem23 good to know!

    Would it look good to add a couple layers of glow to the lights instead of the volumetric lighting? I think it would look more natural compared to the lamps in the original video (before I added the volumetrics)...

  • Here is the latest version:

    I removed the volumetrics, adjusted a few materials, and turned on shadows for the one light. The shadow seems to match the one of the couch. I also added a slight lens blur and film grain to the Dalek.

    Any thoughts?

  • Stargazer54Stargazer54 Moderator
    edited October 2017

     @ZachAlan_Productions ; You've really carved out a tough row to hoe with the lighting.  What I see are actually  two key lights in the scene.  The incandescent from the left (which will primarily be yellow) and the light from the window (which will primarily be blue).  And yet the lighting on the object looks to be even all the way around.  Remember,  your key lights are really backlights.

    Personally I would light proportionally and in the same color space as the physical lights.  Make the object a little yellow on the Left and a little blue on the Right.  But make sure your virtual lights are coming from behind the object.

    Then it should fall off at the front.  So the front is slightly darker. 

    You may also want to add a little blur to the 3D object so that it looks to be the same camera focus as the the surrounding objects.  To my eye the Dalek is just a little too sharp compared to the couch.   After touching up the object layer, you might want to add a grade layer over the entire scene to pull all the elements together.

    That said, you have done a fantastic job with the scene.   It's just that last 10% that takes the most time.  You're getting there.  But don't overthink it either.  You'll drive yourself crazy.  After while, you've looked at your scene so long you can't even tell the difference from one take to the next.

    Time to take a break.  Walk in the woods.  Meet past presidential candidates.  Anything to get your mind off what you've been doing.  Then look with fresh eyes.

  • @Stargazer54 thanks for the comment!

    Many of the things you mentioned I have sort of already done. There is a yellow light and a blue light, and a little blur on the Dalek. The blur amount could be increased...

    If you look at the floor, there is a bright spot near the Dalek, which is why I have the light shifted forward, so it is lit at that spot. There's a big window on the right just out of frame, which is why the light is more from the side than the back. I'll try moving the back and see how it looks.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Yeah, Lens Flares also look good on the flashers--but you've already tried it and see for yourself.

    @Stargazer54 already hit the last couple observations, although I might disagree with him on lighting. Yes, some of the lighting on the Dalek is technically too far forward based on the lamp and window we see, but there could be lamp behind and right of the camera out of frame that my brain accepts. You've really been doing a fantastic job tweaking this sucker out, and I wouldn't mind you sending a project file back to me so I can swipe your hours of materials tweaking, because you've got the material settings pretty dead on. Again, if you compare just the video thumbnail to the reference photos I posted above the Dalek itself now has the materials show-perfect. All you're doing now is perfecting the compositing.

    Like Stargazer says, the last 10% is the real pain. That's all about getting exact lighting matches and camera blur. Also lens distortion, but, with your current shot the lens doesn't have enough distortion to be noticeable.

    The cast shadow on your Key light really helps. Yes, you matched the angle of the couches, so that Dalek is now planted firmly in the room.

    For softening the Dalek it might be as easy as dropping a Blur on with a radius of 1 and 1 iteration. That's an old Simon Jones trick. Maybe radius at 0.5 if Hitfilm lets you? 

  • @Triem23 @Stargazer54

    Here's another version. Both lights are slightly shifted back. Might move the lamp one up again to match the shadow better?

    I added more blur and grain. To me it seems to match the footage. What about grading? I have already done a grade, so I'm curious as to what you are thinking would work for a specific grade for this shot?

    I'd be glad to send the project when I'm done :)

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    I think *I* need to step back from this shot overnight an look at it again tomorrow.

  • @ZachAlan_Productions

    I did a double-take when I saw the thumbnail for the latest test, because it looked real, at least to my only-just-woken-up eyes.

    On closer inspection I still think some of the shadows are not dark enough, an maybe also some of the highlights (especially on the left side) should be slightly brighter and less saturated? Might be a lightness/luminance thing

    But I think that is good enough. Great work!

  • I would say you are there!   Looking very, very good.

    It all becomes subjective now.  5 art directors will give you 5 different notes at this point. 

    Once you give your Dalek a little motion that will really sell the shot.  He's certainly grounded in the scene now.


  • @Stargazer54 is 110% correct.  There will always be something that another CG artist, compositor  or enthusiast would do differently.  Sometimes when you ask, what do you think?  Some, including myself interpret this as asking  "what can I do to improve this piece of work?".  However if you export a still (because the video does have a wee bit of slippage) and show it to a friend or post on Social Media and tell them look what I got.  Their first thought won't be "Dude that's CGI" they will believe it is real.

  • @Stargazer54 thank you! I agree, time for animating!

    @BobDiMarzio glad you think it looks real! I might retry the camera solve and see if I can reduce the slippage. It definitely gives away that it's CGI. 

    I appreciate everyone's help in getting this to where it is. When I ask what do you think, I am asking as BobDiMarzio said for what could be improved. I enjoy hearing your different opinions for improvement as it really helps me get things looking really good!

    I'll probably start animating soon, so I'll probably ask for help with that too. :)

  • Coming into this late, but I'm really impressed with how your test renders are progressing.  Do you have a reflection of the Dalek on the floor? If not, I suggest adding it.  Something really subtle, but it should definitely be there, especially reflections of the Dalek's top lights.  They're nearly at the same vertical level as the main light source in the left corner and the window on the right, both of which are reflected on the floor, so I kinda expect to see those lights reflected as well near the end of the shot when the camera has the widest view of the room.
  • edited October 2017

    @jsbarrett there were reflections, but they weren't really visible. I fixed that now.

    But, I can't get the lights to reflect. When I check cast reflections, my main Dalek goes really dark and receives the reflections, but the floor doesn't receive any reflections from the lights...

  • I'm in Express, so I can't test this with a 3D model, but you might try messing with the specular controls on the floor plane.  It might be more of a specular highlight than a true reflection for the lights.

  • edited October 2017

    @jsbarrett I think it's because the lights are more on top of the Dalek. The floor's reflections reflect it sort of straight down, so the lights aren't really in view to be reflected. Maybe @Triem23 has an idea of what to do there, or I'll just keep the  body reflection and move on for now :)

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited October 2017

    I would probably not worry about flasher reflections. They are basically atop the head dome, and, with the body getting wider and the skirt flaring out, the flashers might not actually have visible reflection.

    Besides, the flashers wouldn't normally just be on--only when the Dalek speaks, and the actual flashing would tend to draw the viewers eye up to the head dome.


    Found a screencap of a Dalek mid-speech. The flashers on an actual prop aren't bright enough to really cast any highlights on the Dalek base or skirt, much less the ground. Don't worry about a floor reflection, but, maybe turn the light flares down a bit to match this reference photo.

  • @Triem23 thanks for that clarification. That's what I was trying to say above with how the body is wider than the head. Maybe I'll add the glows to the light bulb instead of the plastic casing part. That would make more sense....

  • I'm back! This time with better Dalek lights and  some animation!

    This was a quick animation I did. Feel free to let me know if anything could be improved!

    I might add a light flare on the gun stick when it aims at the camera with an animated intensity to fill the frame like the camera man was exterminated...

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Yup, animation rig works. Now, just to fix that wonky track...

    (Side Note: My wife is watching Netflix's "Marco Polo." I'm not, but I walked through the room as some guy was being tortured for some reason and the torturer placed his red hot branding iron in the bucket of water--and the stock footage smoke element they were trying to pass off as steam was SOOOO badly tracked in it was painful. Even big budget productions sometimes let a bad shot shot through....)

  • @Triem23 I tried again but can't seem to fix the slippage when I track the floor... Any ideas? Maybe I could send you the footage to try and see if you can get it?

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited October 2017

    Instead of tracking the floor, try a top surface of a couch cushion. It's more-or-less parallel to the floor, and it doesn't have reflections.

    Delete the track keyframes for your floor and link the floor track to the couch track. This should hopefully remove the jitter while leaving your floor plane position accurate for Dalek placement. 

    Hold this concept as a general mocha tip--if surface A isn't tracking well is there something else in the footage that's parallel to try?

  • love it 

    looking great 

  • This thread is a lurkers delight.

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