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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Skeith

SCAD x The Mill: Week Seven

Updated: May 11, 2021

Process Blog for SDGM 560, a 10 week collaboration with The Mill at SCAD.


Week Seven Updates:

Our main focus this week has been adding detail to our terrain and environment to make it more realistic. We really felt like we made a huge jump forward last week, and wanted to add as much detail as possible! To do this, I started by continuing to make tweaks and changes to our terrain.

First, I tested out adding a bit of sheen to the moss shader to try to achieve a slightly more saturated and fuzzy look. We wanted the effect to be subtle, and we happy with the extra detail it added.

We also really wanted to work on breaking up the visible repetitions in our terrain. In order to do this we decided to add another shader to our layered terrain shader.

I chose a texture that was a mix of moss and rock, so that the large rocks could help break up the green terrain we already had.

Shot 1 Test (Textures from Quixel).

Test from above (Textures from Quixel).

We also wanted more detail on the left in Shot 1 because the camera is so close. I went back and added more grass scattered throughout, as well as boulder assets to blend into the rock displacement we already had. We will also have Billy's scattered plants coming from Houdini to be added in compositing with the actual road and cracking effect.

Note: The sky is the HDRI from Maya, but will be replaced with Naige's matte painting.

Boulder shader attributes and network. Textures from

I then went back to take another look at subdivisions for shot 1. I felt like I could try to push the number of subdivisions more in order to get as much detail as possible, especially for the rocks right in front of the camera. However, I also felt like the terrain in the background was lacking some detail. Since I had split the terrain for shot 1 into separate pieces, I was able increase subdivisions for these sections without a substantial increase in render time.

Before (above) and after added detail and 1080p (below) - Note: the trees are placeholders for more detailed trees that will be used to help blend the edge of the terrain into the trees of the matte painting.

I then went and implemented the updated terrain shader in Shot 2, and moved on to Shot 3. For Shot 3, our biggest issue was how visible the repetitions were. The terrain also sloped down towards the road in the center, and was making the road seem unusually small. Overall it needed a lot more detail and irregularity. I started with assigning it the new terrain shader with the rocks mixed in, and then began moving vertices using soft select to create more ridges and hills. In this iteration I also added more direct light to the mountains.

Shot 3 before (above) vs after new changes and 1080p (below).

This week we also really began thinking about how we were going to implement atmospheric perspective into our shots. We originally wanted to use the depth pass in Nuke, but after some experimentation Naige realized it was not going to work the way we wanted it to. Instead, I added a new layer for Shots 1 and 3 (Shot 2 does not really show any distant terrain) where I assigned a surface shader connected to a projected ramp. Naige will be able to use this pass as a mask for grading in Nuke to fake atmospheric perspective in our environment.

Atmospheric perspective mask example for Shot 3.

The greatest challenge we faced this week was rendering our Houdini passes. While we were able to update and render out all of our Maya passes, towards the end of the week our renderfarm was extremely backed up with jobs and we were working on troubleshooting unusually high render times for Mantra. Billy was able to figure out that it was the AOVs we were rendering causing the high render times, so this upcoming week our primary focus will be on rendering.

Most Recent Composite:

As we near the end of the quarter we will be finishing up small details and really pulling the project all together. I am so proud of all the hard work all the teams are putting in and can't wait to see the final results!

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