Creating a Student Short Film: From Concept, Storyboarding to Compositing and Beyond
Antoine, alongside fellow classmates Lochlann Guedj and Carlos Barao Alberto, dedicated two months to craft a short film, showcased in their Rookies portfolios. They tackled all facets, from concept art and storyboarding to final compositing, leveraging their production pipeline knowledge.
Antoine Rabarot is a second year student at the VFX-Workshop. Along with two fellow classmates, Lochlann Guedj and Carlos Barao Alberto, Antoine spent two months creating a short film that also features in their Rookies portfolios. Armed with the knowledge a production pipeline, the team got to work on all aspects including concept art, storyboarding and final compositing.
First, we got to organising: design brief, retroplanning and finding of the references.
In terms of task division: Lochlann Guedj took care of every aspect of the crab. Carlos Barao Alberto took over the concept art, rigging and animation. I took charge of the environment, rendering and compositing.
Before going into production, we had to agree on which type of crab we wanted to recreate. We ended up choosing the phantom crab. Concerning the concept art, Carlos presented us with a few options and we chose the one that spoke to us the most and seemed more appropriate.
Now, let’s get to work! Lochlann modeled the crab in ZBrush. Thanks to nanomeshes, he managed to enrich the model quickly. Once he had a good base in dynamesh, he duplicated his model, zremeshed it, corrected the topology and projected the high poly onto the retepology.
This way, Carlos was able to start rigging simultaneously. The rig was done within Maya. The model was in a different scene so we would only have to replace the asset once the UVs were done without damaging the rig.
In the meantime, I took care of the rock. Because of its strong presence in the shot, this was an important part. The rock was done in a procedural way in Houdini via a succession of noises. I imported it in ZBrush to remesh it and project the high poly.
The environment was also done in Houdini because it’s a software I wanted to go further into and it seemed well adapted for the project. I used a noise and a mask to make the basic shape. Thanks to the masks generated by the height field noises, I tried to give a better rockery aspect to the side of the cliffs. Those same masks were used for the shading. At least four versions of the mountain were done because it looked too close to the camera, not clear enough and too big.
Once the field was approved, I took care of the objects to scatter. Because the scene was rendered within Solaris, every asset was scattered in a procedural way thanks to the height field generated masks I talked about earlier. I was able to make adjustments thanks to a node paint.
To make the animated water, I opted for an ocean spectrum because of its lightweight and the fact that there wouldn’t be any visible contact with the sand.
The light work was quite simple. I used an HDRI as a base, a distant light to lighten up the scene and a small area light to unclog the darker areas of the crab.
The rendering was done via Redshift but since there were too many assets within the scene, it wouldn’t launch. Because I couldn't find a real solution for this problem and mostly because of the deadline approaching, I rendered the foreground of the group separately. then, the still background and finally the animated elements (water and a few trees).
At last comes the compositing! I first merged the three renders and added a few birds within the defocus. The focus was applied on each plate separately to prevent artifacts. Then, I added some motion blur, color correction, a glow, a lens dirt, some chromatic aberration and finally some texture.
In conclusion, our project was a valuable learning experience. We communicated within our group very well, offering constructive criticism to improve the project.
We successfully met the deadline despite a few retakes, both self-initiated and from our teachers' feedback. Throughout the project, we had weekly feedback sessions, and while we needed to make some compromises, we were pleased with our overall progress and the positive response from our teachers.
Thank you for reading about the behind-the-scenes of our CRABINI project; we hope you enjoyed it!