Star Wars 9 VFX (Zach Alan's Productions: Nov/17/2019)



  • @Triem23

    To clarify, when you said:

    "Because cubic particle forces can't be parented to points for the main cloud you turn emitter attachment up to 100% and move the cloud past the ship. You can do this by parenting the emitter to a point and moving the point.

    Voyager and the deflector/forces rigs are static. The second and third emitters (green particles and mobile emitters "breakup") are also static."

    Did you mean that everything is static except for the big field of clouds which "blows" towards the ship? 

    In my version voyager is animated to move across the screen. The camera follows, aligning toward the voyager control point with some position and rotation key frames to correct the framing. I have a static quad emitter field of particles with a deflector animated to move through at the same time as the ship. This pushes the particles aside. 

    I also have another particle sim layer, with a cone emitter firing particles at a deflector rotated by 45 degrees. There is a large attraction cube force that pulls particles to the back, and then a direction force and turbulence that pull them back from there.

    What I can't figure out is this: 

    1) The particles in my shot are being fired towards the ship. How would I create the appearance that they are being pushed aside, and later caught in the wake caused by the ship, rather than being shot at the ship and flung down the sides?

    2)The wake caused by the ship in the original is very swirly and dynamic. Using turbulence just makes the particles shoot off in a random direction. How can this effect be achieved?



  • @ZachAlan_Productions Hey man it's looking pretty ace! I can tell you that Xanders version used Turbulence FD 

    He had the ship static and used the camera to dolly around the target, however this would work for you so much better if HF used the model as a deflector/ low poly version for optimization, I've mentioned this years ago,

    On another note you could pull the effect off using the slitscan method and using the lifetime panel to shape the organic/physical behavior to the ship (Big Hint there) 

    Good luck!

  • @NXVisualStudio

    On another note you could pull the effect off using the slitscan method and using the lifetime panel to shape the organic/physical behavior to the ship (Big Hint there)

    More hints please? :)

  • Here's another test:

    I played with the center of mass in the lifetime panel to try to get that swirling turbulence motion. Still not quite happy with it. At least now the particles are pushed aside and not fired back.

    I don't know what else to try. @NXVisualStudio mentioned his slit-scan method, but I'm not sure how that would be set up either...

  • edited July 2018

    @ZachAlan_Productions ; I went to my model archive and found this model of the Voyager for free download use with credit of author (He has a lot of Trek models in his folio) at:

    It is an OBJ file but I imported it into Blender Cycles and it was fully textured and had nodes set up.  This is a static Blender render with transparency composite with a Hitfilm starfield that @Triem23 put into an asteroid file to show me how to set it up.  I figured a starfield was generic enough he wouldn't mind me sharing here. I'm fixing to try and export it out of Blender as a 3ds to see if it will import into Hitfilm as easily.

  • @tddavis ;

    I did happen to stumble across that model during my searches as well. The link you gave is broken. I believe this is the correct one?

    It seemed to lag quite a bit in HitFilm, but I'd be interested to hear how your Blender conversion turns out...

  • @ZachAlan_Productions Sorry for the late reply, I think this will require a one to one, if I get some free time around the week end will you be up for a chat on discord? 

  • @ZachAlan_Productions ; Yes, that's it.  I don't know where I screwed up the link I posted.  It went to the same page...Oh, wait!  I see it.  It accidentally added a period at the end. D'oh! Face Palm... Fixed it now.  I have it working fine in Blender and it imported in Hitfilm even.  I can link you to either if you'd like.

  • @NXVIsualStudio a discord chat sounds great! Let me know when you are free and hopefully I will be as well.

    @tddavis if you could tell me what you did to get from Blender to HitFilm I could probably follow along. Otherwise if you could link to the HitFilm model that would be great. Thanks!

  • @ZachAlan_Productions ; I wish I could remember!  I have been trying to recreate the steps but I went through so many trial and errors and two different computers and several old, old programs I can't recreate it.  I think I might have used a 10 year old program call Deep Exploration on an ancient computer from a son-in-law to convert it to 3ds and preserve the textures then I imported that into Hitfilm.  Here is a zip file with the Hitfilm project I made and what I hope are all the files to relink things.  If anything is missing let me know and I'll post them for you. Import of

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @tddavis please leave tgat dropbox link up for at least 24 hours. On phone now, but I'd grab that myself tomorrow... 

  • @Triem23 ; Done!  Actually, it probably will be there until. or if,  I get pressed for space :)

  • @ZachAlan_Productions I just replied on Discord, I'll be on for a few hours :) 

  • edited July 2018

    After giving @ZachAlan_Productions a 4/12 hour tutorial on slitscan and HitFilms magic I can say he's going to have a Belter of an intro coming your way! Top student :) 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @NxVisualStudio Zach's a sharp guy. With some tutorial in some of your special tricks he'll be making some amazing stuff in no time. I'm sure you've come up with more slit-scan type tricks I haven't thought of myself. My last real slit-scan thing was the Tom Baker tunnel back in Hitfilm 3!

    Gotta remember to grab that project file Terry uploaded. 

  • @Triem23 ; it's there at your convenience.  No plans to delete it anytime...soon or reasonably long term :)  There are screen caps loaded up to illustrate points in the Hitfilm UI that I am reluctant to take down cause it will bust a link somewhere...

  • Here's the first test render after the live tutorial from @NXVisualStudio!

    I decided to go for a more creative approach with the camera angle instead of following the intro exactly. ;) Might do more little modifications like this along the way. 

  • Dude! That's really looking sweet!

  • Awesome previz. :)

  •  Good stuff!

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Nicely done! @NxVisualStudio may be the Hitfilm particle master. And I say that as the other guy considered by many to be the Hitfilm particle master! 

  • @jsbarrett @spydurhank @stargazer54 @Triem23 @NXVisualStudio

    Thanks everyone! Here's another version:

    Not many changes to the particles, but mostly to the Voyager model.

    I simplified the materials list, so now there is only one material for each color instead of many with very slight variations. I also grouped the model so the nacelles can be animated. In HitFilm all the materials are set to cook-torrence. 

     My question now is: What can be improved?

    The main thing that stands out to me is the Voyager itself, but I'm not sure how to make it more realistic. It seems like the main hull at least is UV unwrapped (not the greatest), so maybe textures would help give it a metallic look? Any ideas on where to get textures (diffuse, specular, etc) to get the right look?

  • @ZachAlan_Productions Hey dude, this is looking seriously impressive! the new shots/angles are really refreshing, the colors and organic behaviors are on point, all I suggest here is dial back on the light streaks as they bloom out too much, as for realistic metals I went through this with @GrayMotion ; on his space station shot so if I have some time on the weekend we can have another one to one? 

    @Triem23 He is very sharp indeed! asks many questions and soaks up the answers :D I might refine a really tight tutorial for the official HF YouTube channel as it's such a powerful tool, we still have that time tunnel tutorial to finish so maybe we can get to that at some point for HFU channel? 


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @ZachAlan_Productions NxVisualStudio is also a master of the materials settings in Hitfilm. Taking him up on the offer for some more one-on-one is a smart idea.

    BTW, which model did you end up using? I've got the one @tddavis linked open in Hitfilm right now because it's a good looking model and I've started adjusting it's materials. That said, while I'm crap in Blender, it might be worth my trying to group materials together (too many duplicates) and rig the nacelles for animation.

    I'll type up some notes on materials to start you off. Voyager is "metal" so you'll want to using the "Cook-Torrace" Illumination Model, which is a physically-based shader optimized for metals.

    Also, I'll just drop this here:

    I suggest loading in a simple plane object and a simple sphere object into Hitfilm with 128, 128, 128 mid gray Diffuse and Specular colors. These will give you a couple of simple objects to play with as you experiment with settings. This will give you a head start on understanding what the values do - then Tony can guide you into specifics. In fact, make the Sphere and Plane part of the "same object" before import to Hitfilm so you only have a single Material to tweak.

    Fresnel: This deals with the way colors change when reflected from different angles off a metallic surface. The three values are RGB (from 0 to 1). Set a Fresnel value of 0,0,1 (pure blue). Let's look at this plane/Sphere from above at a 45 degree angle and place one light in the scene. In short, when the light, plane and camera line up in such a way that the angle of reflection of a light ray is basically straight you'll see pure gray. As you move the light around, the more extreme of a bounce between the light and the camera, the more blue you'll see. This is easier to understand in a diagram or picture, so...

    This image shows how the front of the object has no Fresnel effect. You just have the base color of the ball and it's reflections. At the edges you'll see some green. The green edges are caused by the Fresnel value.

    Now, Voyager's hull is made up of "magic metals," or things that don't really exist. But the two real metals mentioned are maganese and Titanium. Hitfilm already has Fresnel settings for Titanium in the drop down menu, so that's your starting point for Voyager.

    Roughness: Picture a golf ball. We have a sphere covered by a lot of little divots. This is kind of what roughness does. Cook-Torrance assumes your object is covered by "microfacets," like the divots in the golf ball. These divots catch and scatter light. Deeper divots scatter more light, spreading out and softening a specular highlight. Roughness effectively sets the depth of the divots. Default in Hitfilm is 5%, which is pretty glossy and shiny. For Voyager, I'm gonna guess values of around 15-25% will be better. Try playing with the Roughness values on the Sphere/Plane and you'll instantly see what it's doing.

    Specular Reflectance: This is "how deep" a light ray penetrates into the surface of a material before it bounces. This value effects the strength of specular highlights and the strength of the Fresnel effect. After half an hour of trying to find a simple diagram for this I'm giving up. We'll just note that this covers a bit of subsurface scattering and that changing this will effect strength of spec highlights and fresnel. So important I said it twice!

    Diffuse Reflectivity: Technically this deals with how light scatters from a rough surface, but, in Hitfilm this functions in a way similar to HDRI lighting. For a model in space where the background is mostly dark this is a value to might be able to mostly ignore. What this does in Hitfilm is apply lighting to a model based on the color values of it's assigned environment map. I'm just going to turn this one over to Hitfilm guru Simon Jones.

    So, in short, the more this is cranked up the more your model's color takes from it's environment map. Again, for space this does nothing, but if you were going to put Voyager over your house, this would be useful indeed. I would argue that Diffuse Reflectivity might be the value that requires the most adjustment between shots! Diffuse and Specular colors won't change, neither will Roughness, Refraction, Reflection or Transparency, but Diffuse Reflectivity will vary wildly depending on the shot. For now, set it 25% and don't worry about it. It will give you a bit of a boost in shots where you have a strong sun or nebula baked into an environment.

    Specular Reflectivity: This is your "mirror" reflections. The higher this value, the more reflections. For Voyager this is going to be a very low value - like 0 to 1%. For Voyager's WINDOWS, this should be about 90%

    Index of Refraction: This value covers how much a light ray bends when crossing a material interface. In short, vaccum is 1, air is ROUGHLY 1.  while water is about 1.33. This is why we have the optical illusion of the straw bending in a glass of water. Hitfilm isn't doing "raytraced" refractions (see below), but setting a correct IOR is important. There are a couple of other filters in Hitfilm with an IOR. Caustics, for example.

    The great thing about IOR is you don't have to think about it. Other wonderful people already figured out these values, so all you have to do is Google an IOR table, find the correct value and plug it in. Here's two to start you off.

    Refraction Amount: How much light bends with the material. An important thing to note is Hitfilm isn't doing "Volume refractions," but only "Surface Refractions." What does this mean? Let's say the sphere model was 60% transparent and in front of a simple plane with a grid effect on it with an IOR of 1.5 (a typical value for glass). In a raytracing model with "volume refractions" we'd see the grid distorted through the sphere like a lens. Hitfilm isn't doing that. With the "Surface refractions." you'll see changes to the specular reflections and fresnel effects on the model. The light is being bent correctly, but only for the "skin" of the relevant model.

    One final note: Technically "metals" have almost zero diffuse color at all. Metals are largely defined by specular highlights, fresnel equations and reflection/refraction. That said, the studio model of Voyager was painted plastics and the show's CG model of Voyager was textured based on the paint job. You'll still be using a diffuse color on Voyager, because she's REALLY reflecting her paint job.

    Up at the top I posted that quick diagram with the spheres? Try just playing with a sphere for an hour or so, changing the Cook-Torrance values and trying to get a nice realistic gold, copper and silver version. That will cement the faders in your brain.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @NxVisualStudio I'm not certain if the Tom Baker tunnel is a good fit for the official Hitfilm Youtube channel. There's so many principles to cover I don't know if I'd do it justice in the 15-minute time limit. I feel that's a 30-40 minute tutorial to do it correctly.

    I suppose in 15 minutes I could cover just the "TARDIS TUNNEL" shot, but that would leave a lot of blanks for the viewer to fill in.

  • @Triem23 ; Hey, thanks for those material setting instructions.  I snagged them and your secret of secrets post from a couple of days ago and archived them into the Hitfilm Uni folder with your tutorials.  You never know...

  • @ZachAlan_Productions Hey man that looks pretty awesome. @Triem23 just gave you everything you need to know about hard surface materials and @NxVisualStudio also did very well with your one on one session. Also you did great paying attention... it shows in your previz. Excellent job dude. :) 

    Play with your materials a bit more because although the HitFilm presets are a great start, you should definitely change them per background or whatever you use as an environment map because it depends on your shot and lights. 

    As far as realism, I can't give anything away just yet, possibly sometime today or tomorrow at the latest, I'll begin posting how I create models or tweak materials and all that other stuff over on my new website. I will not do that here because I feel it would contradict most of what you've learned from everyone else and you're doing very well but I can say that how I do it is so simple you'd be like... What the F!? Really!?.

    A good tip though is that HitFilm can't do everything to make your model look realistic but you can help HitFilm  immensely if you provide it with the correct textures and do some clever compositing.

    If you have the choice and can help it, don't ever use .jpegs or even 16bit .pngs because they just don't have the range you need for realism, they scale terribly and you need to paint huge textures to not have the artifacts that are common with the jpeg and png. Any textures in those formats are complete and honest crap and will keep your renders in the previz phase for as long as you use them. Anyone that says different is not being honest with themselves. All my older stuff, I built and painted textures in png and jpeg as per whatever the popular standard was at the time and I'll say this, my textures although they were pretty and all that, they were still crap because of the format. I started painting textures in 16bit exr a while back and everything changed.

    Pick a format that you can afford because for realism you've got to go big or go home and the textures need to fit in your gpu vram. 16bit exr scales the best in my experience so go with that if you have a good gpu. 8K color and normal textures in .exr are big but they will work just fine if you let HitFilm scale them to 4k, they still look good as well at 2K for midground or background shots, just remember, let HitFilm scale your textures.     

  • @NXVisualStudio glad you like it! :) Another one to one would be great. I was actually considering asking to do another one in regards to models instead of particles this time.

    @Triem23 thank you for that in depth text-tutorial! Those images really help as well. I'll play around with it today. Might be good to make some materials with the sphere and plane like you said and save the comps or take screenshots for future reference...

    I'll have to retry the Tom Baker tunnel effect. Awhile back @Triem23 you sent me your tutorial and I attempted it but failed. Now after my session with @NXVisualStudio I think I discovered many things I was doing wrong.

  • @spydurhank ;

    I'd be interested to see how you deal with materials when you post it on your website. It won't hurt me to know multiple methods. :) Will you also post on your website how you go about making your textures?

    My issue with textures is that I don't know how to make them and it is tricky to find good free ones...


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @ZachAlan_Productions yeah that Dr. Who tutorial is "part three." it really requires @NxVisualStudio 's two parter as a prerequisite.

    In the same way, playing with what I typed up will let you figure out the basics on your own, and you'll be able to really learn from Tony. I gave you the book learnin, he's spent a lot more time tuning materials in Hitfilm than I.

    Considering the way you suck up knowledge, you're going to end up with an incredible shot. You've already got a great angle, the general lighting and color feels like a Voyager shot, the speed is right.

    Oh, check this out.

    Simon uses two copies of a model here, one with an "all black, but lights" material. This is a good trick I use often on space ships. On Voyager I'd probably do alternate materials for windows, impulse engines and nacelle glow. This separates them out from other elements for fx. For example, with a "Windows" pass, I could add a Light Rays effect parented to Voyager (offset the origin a few hundred units left) which would give a bit of an effect like the light from Voyager's windows diffusing in shafts against the nebula gasses... 

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