Thursday, 9 July 2009

Burning Streets Remix: working with cel shading

Yesterday I posted Burning Streets, a movie showing what you could do with lighting using the burning objects in the new Special Effects pack. Just to see what would happen, I tried it with the cel shading switched on. Some bits worked really well, but others, as you might expect, didn't. I then tried some experiments to see what I had to do to make the scene work properly. Here's the cel-shaded version - watch and see if you can figure out what the differences are. Some of them are quite subtle.

To start with, I had to add in some global light. Without it, the whole scene was too dark. I had an orange ambient light on 11%, and a straw-coloured directional light at about 13%, shining down the street to put extra light on the fronts of the characters. Because of the vagaries of the lighting system and cel-shading, dropping these by even 1% made a lot of things go almost black, so it took a little bit of tweaking to get it where I wanted it.

Next, I moved the fire at the back a bit further away from the walls. The light it cast created strange circular rainbows on the walls when it was close up, and although interesting, they weren't what I wanted. Moving them about two feet reduced this considerably.

And finally, I changed the smoke on the vents from black to white. Black smoke just didn't show up against the background, so I opted for a more contrasting colour.

I'm not 100% pleased with the outcome, but still, it was an interesting experiment, and useful to help understand what you have to shoot differently if you're working with the cel shader. I like some shots, but others don't work as well as I'd hoped. I suspect that the only way to get the results I want would be to light each shot separately, and then edit them together later. Just like a real film, I guess. Fortunately, when you're working with Moviestorm and similar machinima tools, you can see all the visual effects as you shoot - what you see is what you're going to get in your final footage. Now that, my friends, is a luxury other film techniques don't give you!

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