3D Character, 2D World
EXAMPLE SHOT: DH_EPOC -> Opening Cinematic -> Scene 3, Shot 3 (03_03)
PROGRAMS: 3DS MAX 2011 64bit, ADOBE AFTER EFFECTS CS6 64bit
PART 2: Merging the Worlds
In the last blog I wrote about our first test merging 3D character animation into a 2D world. After a relatively positive result compositing the two components in After Effects, Ned and I polished up the background painting and animation respectively.
When both assets were finished, I replaced the drafts in After Effects with the finals and got to work on merging the two elements together. This is the process I took:
STEP 1: Believable interaction
The world of Pharos is dank, dark and murky. Justin (Director) wanted the ground interactivity to reflect this. When Streezle hits the ground, the impact needs to be believable. Not necessarily realistic; but the audience needs to accept that he has contacted the ground.
I create a shadow using a black solid and a heavily blurred mask. I manually track this “shadow” under Streezle; changing the shape, opacity and blur depending on his position/distance away from the ground. This was eventually replaced in the final render with a proper shadow.
For the ground deformation, I used the standard ‘Particle World’ plug-in found in After Effects. This uses a matrix floor grid, and I can position this where it would actually be in 3D space. I now have the ground “burst” into pieces when Streezle lands.
You’ll notice that there’s no typical dust cloud pooling up when Streezle hits the ground. Remember, Pharos is not a desert; the ground is claggy, muddy clay.
For the ground indentation formed from Streezle sliding over the hill, I drew a jaggy mask over a dark purple solid and applied a dark inner glow and a lighter outer glow. I applied another mask over the top that I animated to “reveal” the trench as Streezle moved along.
I then copied the ‘Particle World’ effect all along the trench and had the ground “explode” as Streezle slid by.
STEP 2: Animating the “Camera”
As mentioned in the previous blog post; any camera move required was to be done in After Effects with both 2D and 3D elements. Matching a 3D camera move in 2D is time consuming, so it’s just easier to do it all in post. To animate the “camera”, I do the following:
– Camera movement and shakes
– Motion blur to the background art that matches the 3D rendered blur
– Depth of field (DOF) to enhance the Z-Depth to the 2D background art
– Colour overlays and glows
All of this is faked; there’s no camera being used. There’s no depth of field. Just by moving the oversized composition and using shifting blurred masks I can create the illusion of camera shake and Z-Depth.
STEP 3: Blending the Elements
The final step is using effects that visually blend the two animation styles together; colour overlays, vignettes, blurs and glows are applied to both the 2D and 3D assets. It’s these final touches that bring the whole thing together.
As the art direction shifted (note the ground plane change in video 4), many of these elements had to be altered. In other shots, we even introduced 3D rendered plant life to further help ground Streezle and closely match the game’s art direction.