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Thread: Proof of concept: bullet + particular

  1. #1
    Motion Design Lead Iaian7's Avatar
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    Proof of concept: bullet + particular

    Quick proof of concept, and thus, pretty rough radiosity.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olh_xDwthQo

    After weeks of using Lightwave 11's instancing and buffer outputs, I realised I hadn't even touched fracture or the bullet engine. Figured it was a good chance to test everything out, especially with more complicated particle compositing in After Effects.

    Lightwave 11: modelling (Fracture), dynamics (Bullet engine), lighting (again, this is just draft quality), camera animation, and rendering (with the latest buffer export options).

    After Effects CS5.5: explosive hits and dust (Trapcode Particular), DOF blur (native Lens Blur), lens effects (VideoCopilot OpticalFlares), volumetric lighting (Trapcode Shine), noise reduction (Magic Bullet Denoiser II) and grading (Magic Bullet Looks).

    The trickiest bit was getting Particular to work well with Lightwave's depth map output...which happens to be inverted and linear. Once that was adjusted to Particular's liking, the particles actually intersected with the geometry pretty reliably, albeit with a lot of unfortunate banding artefacts. Though the depth maps were rendered at 32bpc, more stringent depth limitations (instead of 20m, maybe 10m - the wall is only 9m in length) and a 16bpc format might work better (I have a hard time trusting Adobe with FP renders, for some reason).

    While fully volumetric 3D dust would be significantly more realistic, this was incomparably faster to render! Total Lightwave render time was around 20 minutes, and After Effects was around 10. Like I said, super rough. It's just a proof of concept.
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  2. #2
    Big fan of coffee raw-m's Avatar
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    Hi Iaian7

    that's a really nice test. Can I pick your brains a little about your LW to AE workflow?

    What buffers are you exporting from LW to re-construct in AE? Also, you mention DOF in AE. I don't have 5.5 (only CS5 for now), can you set the native AE camera to work from a depth pass? That would be extremely handy if you could use DOF on your renders natively with the AE camera!

  3. #3
    Excellent test! I would be interested to know too

  4. #4
    Motion Design Lead Iaian7's Avatar
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    Sure, no problem! The buffers I used were pretty basic - depth pass (for Particular compositing and DOF effect) and shadow pass (for quick darkening of the dust and crevice enhancement).

    The depth pass was limited in the render global settings to just 20m, and set to normalised in the render buffer export. Anything else (such as attempting to limit it in the render buffer filter instead) failed miserably. The known limits, however, are absolutely required for Particular to work - you have to manually input the near and far limits of the z buffer, and if you don't know what those are, it won't work at all (having to adjust every frame by hand would be futile!). Also, Lightwave renders white as furthest from the camera, while AE (and more specifically, Particular) assumes white is closest. For some reason that took me longer to figure out than I would have liked. If you're rendering to an FP file format (like 32BPC TIFF) and depending on LW colour settings, you'll also need to convert from linear to 2.2 gamma.

    The depth of field effect was created using the native AE lens blur filter, linked to the depth pass, and applied next-to-last as an effect passthrough layer so the 3D rendering, particle system, and other effects were all blurred simultaneously - the AE camera had no DOF settings at all. Nothing special, and the dust effects were blurry enough it didn't matter that they were blurred by the wrong depth (since they don't contribute anything to the depth pass, they'll be blurred at whatever depth the object behind them is at).

    I agree, being able to use a depth pass within AE to globally affect 3D object intersection would make compositing sooooo much easier!

    Sadly, I don't know of any way to employ external z buffers within the AE render system, outside of special cases like Particular which have created their own implementations, or manually creating mattes with a levels adjustment. Purely for DOF effects, it should be possible to blur the Lightwave assets individually in AE (or even render with DOF in Lightwave), and match the settings with the native AE camera for effects like Particular or other AE 3D layers. Unfortunately, I don't see an easy way around artefacts when creating more pronounced DOF effects...it just doesn't work well without multiple render passes (foreground, midground, etc.). And of course, that doesn't help with actually compositing 3D layers in AE.

    Regarding other render buffers, I often output geometry (for the incidence angle), normals, and other layers such as specular shading, reflection shading, raw RGB and diffuse to help with tweaking the look of the render. In this case, I didn't end up using any of them. I've tried using Normality (http://www.3dcg.net/software/normality/) before to relight renders, but the results seemed awfully inconsistent. Will have to test it out sometime with the revamped normal output from LW 11. Hopefully it works, would be cool to make minor lighting adjustments in post! Unfortunately, the AO pass setup is way too slow to use in most cases (each frame ends up rendering twice), though it makes detail adjustments way easier.

    I'm still messing around with LW to AE camera data procedures - in this case, I just made sure my null/camera setup was simple enough that recreating it in AE took all of 5 minutes (incidentally, the default smooth keyframe interpolation of 33.3333% in AE appears to be equivalent to LW's TCB Spline Tension set to 1.0). The biggest hurdle is the difference in rotation order (LW is ZYX, AE is ZXY or XZY), and even some of the commercial LW<>AE tools never got that right. I'm not anxious to pay for AE Link, even as fantastic as I'm sure it is, so for now I'm still hacking through some RPF and LScript solutions.

    Of course, with 3D camera solving in After Effects CS6, I'll be looking for a reliable system to convert AE camera data back to LW.

  5. #5
    Motion Design Lead Iaian7's Avatar
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    http://help.adobe.com/en_US/aftereff...597-7bd6a.html This is the "depth matte effect" as provided by Adobe, which just creates a non-antialiased mask at a single flat depth. Usable for 2D layers, albeit horribly ugly, and useless for actual 3D.

    Really wish AE had, well, anything as advanced as some of the other compositors out there! If anyone knows of a solution, I'd love to hear it...there was a discussion on CreativeCow regarding this a couple years ago - http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/2/984787#984820 - nothing helpful, though.

  6. #6
    Thanks Iaian7 for sharing this with us. This is very useful

  7. #7
    Big fan of coffee raw-m's Avatar
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    Hi Iaian7

    Many thanks for your detailed answers, very interesting. So basically your buffers are used to enhance the "f9" render, rather than reconstruct. Nice find regarding the 33.3.../TCB!

    I'm not one for throwing plugins at everything unless it's totally necessary but a couple of plugins pay for themselves! Particular and MBL for AE are without doubt two if them, AE Link for LW is another (think there's an update in the pipeline for AE to LW, as well). Haven't got around to using depth maps with Particular yet but you've inspired me to give it a whirl, sounds like a lot of guess work, though! I've found this plugin quite useful for inserting objects into a rendered scene using depth maps (and it's very affordable):
    http://aescripts.com/efx-render-elements-z-depth-tools/

    Also considering this Ambient Occlusion one if it means less LW rendering and I can have more flexibility when comping:
    http://ae3dtools.com/dark_corner/

    Looking forward to seeing CS 6 in action with it's 3d tracking, and especially now you can extrude text/shapes in 3d space, with reflections etc. Hopefully it'll compliment LW (especially with AE Link in the mix) although would love to see a little more work on LWs multipass workflow to make it a one-click (ok, 3 or 4 clicks top!) process.

  8. #8
    Motion Design Lead Iaian7's Avatar
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    Thanks Mark! And yes, I rarely reconstruct renders unless I absolutely have to, I'm far more interested in extra buffers for object information. With Lightwave's limitations, I often end up compiling all my shading via nodes into the Diffuse Shading buffer (including specular, reflection, whatever), then use the RGB channels of the Specular Shading buffer to pass along extra information. Denis' extra buffer nodes would do the same, but I sometimes question the stability and speed...it's usually easier just to repurpose the native Lightwave buffers.

    For example, I used the specular buffer in a recent project to control the heatmap value for each house instanced across a map (piping in a random variable for each instance directly into the Specular Shading nodal input). In After Effects, I used the shaded diffuse buffer as my primary render (the final output was of course useless, since it combines all the buffers), and then used the shaded specular buffer to create a colour ramp heatmap based on each house's value as defined in the nodal shading. Rendering was simple (single render pass), and I ended up with multiple usable pieces in AE (RGBA render, house value, etc.). Hopefully Lightwave will eventually integrate actual custom buffers at some point, so we don't have to deal with crazy workarounds or plugins all the time.

    Agreed on the Magic Bullet / Trapcode plugins, really great tools. Expensive at first (yes, I'm pretty cheap), but the customer service is top notch, and they have regular sales. Good to know about the AE Link update, I'll be keeping an eye on it for sure. It's just expensive enough I didn't exactly jump at the opportunity before!

    Depth maps in Particular are a breeze so long as you've set up depth limits in LW - no guesswork at all, at least not after I made a few silly mistakes first. I seemed to have the best luck with stringent depth limits (contain the desired object, no more) and using the PSD export filter (which allows you to export 16 bit images). Is there a better format in LW that will render out to 16bit without having to process through Photoshop? Seems most of the options are 8bit or full precision 32bit (which mysteriously does not work as well in my brief testing...granted, I rarely work in 32bpc in AE due to speed issues, so maybe it's just a limitation of using 32bpc images in an 8bpc workflow).

    The rest of it just depends on using reliable unit measurements. In this case, I used 1m (LW) == 100px (AE), so when I set the depth limits in the Lightwave render panel to 5m - 15m, I set the Particular z buffer limits to 500 and 1500 (remembering to invert the depth map in a precomp first). Since I knew where I'd placed the collision objects in LW, I just mimicked their position in AE with a null and attached my Particular emitter settings via expressions. Sure, it's not automatic (like an object-attached particle system based on dynamic events), but with realtime feedback it's a lot easier to tune and adjust.

    I've seen some SSAO solutions before, but haven't tried using them in production. Results always seemed a little iffy when dealing with larger areas of depth, no? Stefan Minning developed Occlusionist (http://www.3dcg.net/software/occlusionist/) but never released it. That said, it looks like the controls in DarkCorner will ameliorate a lot of the SSAO issues I've seen in the past (such as limiting object distance to prevent foreground objects from impacting background occlusion). I'll have to try it out on my OSX Lion machine sometime, thanks so much for the recommendation!

  9. #9
    Motion Design Lead Iaian7's Avatar
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    Just uploaded a new version with much better render quality and full 1080p resolution. Significantly easier to critique the Particular results.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OdksgocN88

  10. #10
    Valiant NewTeKnight Matt's Avatar
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    Nice!
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  11. #11
    Living over there... MAUROCOR's Avatar
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    Very interesting, Iaian. I liked!
    Ground control to Major Tom

  12. #12
    Motion Design Lead Iaian7's Avatar
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    Red Giant has published a quicktip video tutorial based on this proof of concept project, detailing how to use the depth map out of Lightwave (or other 3D application) to composite Particular dust effects seamlessly.

    https://vimeo.com/42859813

    I go into a few details regarding the Particular setup too, for replicating the nebulous clouds of dust.

  13. #13
    Explorer souzou's Avatar
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    Nice! Great tip on the depth limits, thanks
    Matt Knott / VERSUS
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  14. #14
    Big fan of coffee raw-m's Avatar
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    Very nice little tutorial, well done. Good to see LW getting some air time, as well!

  15. #15
    RETROGRADER prometheus's Avatar
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    I wasn´t fond of the particle effects in there really, think you actually can get it better with using particles in lightwave and sprites for the dusting.

    Better yet if you can afford it, go with turbulenceFd.

    My first test some time ago with a simple box fall crack and some fluids activated at keyframe impact.

    Way to thick and smokey thou, but some tuning down of it would be great for dusting.

    Havent had time to try anything more thou..we will see later on.

    Michael
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