Making Of 'Night of May 6th'

I started this project a while ago. It started as a commercial project for an animated TV show and my duty was to create a concept for a small village, focusing on its central square. One of the main spots was a café where the lead characters would gather before they headed off into new adventures in each episode.

Unfortunately the project was cancelled, but I tried to make it live for a while myself. The story was changed accordingly; I went for a slightly darker atmosphere, less cartoony and set in the middle of the night. Here's the story brief:

"On May 6th, a group of young shepherds came across the remains of a once beautiful, old, Mediterranean village. Fire and smoke were rising up into the sky and they could almost hear the screams of the people trapped beneath huge pile of rocks, but they could not find anyone, dead or alive. The sky was dark above the valley for the whole week and on the seventh day rain swept away the last clues of smoke and fire, leaving what happened on that tragic night in Saint George a mystery."

I imagined the whole central square, with small houses, workshops, pubs, water drains etc.  As an inspiration I looked to many small European cities, specifically French and Italian villages with beautiful narrow streets and architecture. After I'd gathered lots of reference photos, I did some sketches and plans that included, among many other things, the positions and sizes of the buildings, street angles ... etc.

The initial sketch of the main square with the café can be seen in Fig.01.

Fig. 01_sketch_illustration

Fig. 01_sketch_illustration

Fig.02 shows the café concept and Fig.03 the interior of the café.

Fig. 02_illustraion_coloured

Fig. 02_illustraion_coloured

Fig. 03_sketch_illustration

Fig. 03_sketch_illustration

After blocking out the image, I modeled the first half of the square, with all of the necessary elements and details, as well as the café interior. Many of these elements I used for the second half to finish the entire set.

It was hard to find the appropriate angle for the single final shot because the entire scene was made for the animated series and eventually most of the elements were going to be visible at some point in time. The director needed the freedom to move the camera anywhere he liked to, and to shoot from any angle he wanted. Finally I picked the most interesting angle that could tell a story, and from that point I developed the image further.

Fig.04 - 05 show clay renders of the left and right sides of the scene, along with some extra details. All of the models were made from polygons and many of them like roof tiles, windows or chimneys were instanced to fill a large expanse of space. The rotation of the roof tiles was randomized as well as the position, but far more discreetly. I even deleted a few of them randomly, as if they'd fallen off.

Fig. 04_models

Fig. 04_models

Fig. 05_model_details

Fig. 05_model_details

The geometry was deformed slightly with Lattice, Displacement and brushes, so I could achieve the natural imperfection and look of an old medieval town.

At the end, the scene had around three million polygons, and was lit with several light sources (Fig.06 - 07):

- A directional light to simulate the moonlight with blueish tint and soft shadows
- A large area light to emphasize the moonlight on the sides of buildings
- An indirect light coming from the HDRI in the background
- Small point lights for the street lamps, as well as spotlights.

Fig. 06_lighting

Fig. 06_lighting

Fig. 07_lighting

Fig. 07_lighting

For the textures I used projections that were mixed and blended, and only basic shaders like Lambert, Blinn etc (Fig.08 - 09).

Fig. 08_textures

Fig. 08_textures

Fig. 09_occlusion

Fig. 09_occlusion

Several elements in the picture, like fog, people or the dragon, were painted in Photoshop. For a more dramatic image I emphasized the moon, and made it larger than it really is. Fog was painted in several layers with a very Soft brush. The same technique was applied to clouds and some smoke trails from chimneys.

The people and dragon were painted with Hard brushes. For better control they were broken up into a few passes: one layer contained just color, the other one just light or specular (Fig.10).

Fig. 10_dragon

Fig. 10_dragon

The final image was composited in Photoshop. I did some color corrections, sharpening, glows and paintovers (Fig.11).

Fig: 11
 

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