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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Skeith

SCAD x The Mill: Week Three

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


Week Three Updates:

This week our team spent a lot of time troubleshooting and solving pipeline problems that arose as we began transferring files. Our greatest issue was the size and polygon count of our environment file from Houdini. Once T'Naige imported the environment into Maya, it became clear that the file would not be manageable to work with.

We tried reducing the polygon count significantly and then using Cat-Clark subdivisions to get the displacement we needed, but this was still way too much for our computers to handle. To solve our problem, we decided to split the environment into pieces based on how close the sections are to the camera, and then add the most detail and subdivisions to the foreground pieces of geometry. By doing this we were able to cut down on render times extensively while maintaining detail where necessary.

While Naige and Billy reworked the files and geometry to make these changes, I continued work on look development for the car and began look development for the road.

First Pass of Car Look Development:

I was happy with most of the shaders for this rig, but I really felt I could do much better with the car paint shader. The reflections were far too clear and the specularity needed more roughness. I was not getting the effect that I wanted with aiStandard Surface, and after some research I realized that Arnold had a specific aiCarPaint shader. I had never heard of it before, but with the separate layers and controls (especially for the flakes!) I was able to produce much more accurate results to match the reference. I spent a lot of time this week refining this shader as much as possible, as I knew it was extremely important for the realism of the car.

Billy also exported the uncracked road from Houdini so I could create that shader to include in the rig.

Updated Car Rig (with Road):

Textures from Quixel.

As a group we also decided that it would be helpful to test our shaders for the road on the cracked version as well to see how it would react and hold up. Elyse was able to take a section of the road from Houdini and pass it to me to bring into Maya and incorporate into our look development rig, where I applied the road shader I had created for the car as well as the gravel/soil shader Naige had created for the environment rig.

Cracked Road Look Development Test:

Textures from Quixel.

Since the road is the only asset being rendered out of Houdini with Mantra rather than Arnold, we also wanted to have a reference of what the road would look like out of Maya with Arnold to be able to match for seamless integration in compositing.

Finally, I went back to the HDRI in VUE to render out multiple layers, which will allow T'Naige to isolate elements for more customization in Nuke for our matte paintings and set extensions.

During week four, we aim to finalize the animation, finish the environment lighting rig, begin shot lighting, and each render out first passes of our assets to get our first composites. I am so excited about our progress so far and can't wait to see everything start to come together in our first render passes!

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