Friday, April 13, 2012

Making it Real

When watching tutorials or examples of effects on YouTube, I find it useful as an artist to do so from the mindset of: how can this effect look more realistic. Making not just composited actors, but also effects feel like they are in the space of your film is very important. An audience will always be able to tell if an effect is working or not even if they cannot tell why or how.

This is a good example of a hologram tutorial. Something very easy and cool to do. However there are a few small touches that would bring it to the next level.

Thevfxbro here on YouTube did a very good job and had a number of excellent tips for making the hologram feel real, but left out a few simple effects that I think would bring the effect to a close. There are three points that came to my attention right away. Firstly I notice that the glow of the holograms are stationary while the holograms move around and at one point almost leave the glow entirely. In this particular effect it appears the holograms fit each actor and so I would find it much more convincing were to be keyframed a couple of times to to ease back and forth with the movement of the actors. An effect needs to interact with what it is affecting and not feel as though it were merely placed over the subject. In this case the only two hints for me that this is an effect over top of an actor is the lack of movement and the shape and placing on the screen, which brings me to my second point.

The second thing I noticed was that the eye-line of the controllers do not seem to match the location of the holograms in space. This is because of two things: Placement of hologram actors and shape of glow. The hologram actors are supposed to be smaller than their controller counterparts, but if you are to look at the placement of their feet in relation to the feet of the controllers, they are not on the same line. The holograms need to be moved back in space just a foot or so. The angle of the shadow cast by the controller on the left gives the viewer the sense of how the space is oriented and the hologram's distance and glow overlap of that shadow detract from the realism. The glow overlaps uniformly over the surroundings, when if the holograms were in real space, the light would be bouncing off of the floor and unable to complete it's elliptical shape. Simply pulling up the bottom of the glow mask would take care of this problem. However, it brings me to the last point.

Almost any effect is going to have to interact not only with the subject but also the environment. In this case the glow of the hologram does not do this. If in fact the glow is glowing, I would expect to see reflections of the light on the floor and on the controllers. This could also be done very simply by adding another three or four solid layers. One or two on the ground to simulate the glow flicker on the floor, and one roughly masked to fit the front of the controllers. The layers would have low transparency values and match the color of their respective holograms. I think this more than either of my previous points will make the holograms feel 'in the space.' The controllers are the second major focal points in this clip and therefore need to be affected by the effect more than the floor or the position of the hologram.

For animators of any kind, it is vitally important to understand the functionality of the physical world because it is from these insights and innovation for stepping up the art  to greater heights. Any time you are waiting, for a bus, a plane, your lunch, your mother to stop yelling at you...try to notice small things such as the reflection of light or they way a jacket hangs off a chair because it's that stuff that will make your work top notch.

Suffice to say, I do very much like this method of doing the hologram effect and I think thevfxbro did an exceptional job on these two fighters. I certainly learned some useful tips from their tutorial and look forward to an excuse to do a hologram effect on some footage myself!

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