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Contract VFX Tutoring Help & Maybe VFX Contract Work...

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:41 am
by Mike Aesoph
Dear All:

I am a mechanical engineer and reasonably adept at most things technical, but I would like to learn how to do VFX relatively quickly. Yes, I know how to run Google, but instead of watching 2 hour tutorials for things I don't need to do and downloading demo programs I don't need, I would prefer to have direct tutoring to get started and get the project done sometime over the summer / early fall of this year. It's not a lot of special effects and nothing overly complex but again, I have been overwhelmed with information using Google and haven't gotten very far. First discussion would be which tools do I need and which can I get free or reasonably low cost (lease per month?). Anyway, please PM if interested or can direct me to the right place. I am looking to make the sequel to this:

There's a budget for all of this and it's not huge. My guess so far is that I can lease Maya LT for $50 a month and do what I need to know, but I am not sure about this.


Re: Contract VFX Tutoring Help & Maybe VFX Contract Work...

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 6:46 pm
by Bryan Ray
Please expand on what you mean by "do VFX." Are you planning a fully CG animated piece? Compositing CG into footage? I assume you're looking at doing some level of CG work since you're talking about Maya. Has the footage been shot, or are you looking for guidance in how to shoot for VFX?

The question is akin to asking "How do I do mechanical engineering? I'd like to build a machine this summer." :D Visual Effects is quite a large field in terms of the various different disciplines involved, and it's pretty rare to find a single person who is qualified to teach everything. Let's narrow down your needs to see if we can connect you with the resources you need.

I would like to (self-servingly) suggest starting with Blackmagic's Fusion software—it will have everything you need for things like greenscreen compositing, optical effects, titling, and simple effects like smoke, heat ripples, lens flares, and the like. And I say self-servingly because I happen to be in the process of writing a textbook for an introduction to compositing course. The first draft is currently available free of charge (that will change when I publish the real thing, so get it while it's hot!) at ... -contents/

Fusion has the added benefit of having a free version that contains all of the functionality you're likely to need for a project of this kind. The only likely exception would be 3d tracking, but if you do happen to need that ability, the Studio version is only $300 for a permanent license.

On the 3D side, I'd recommend Blender before spending any money on a subscription product. It's free, open source, and very powerful. It's main downside is that the interface can be clunky. Still, it's fully capable of producing professional-quality results. If using free software means you have budget burning a hole in your pocket, the best place to spend it is on lighting your shoots.

Re: Contract VFX Tutoring Help & Maybe VFX Contract Work...

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:24 pm
by Mike Aesoph
Well, I do understand that my question was a weeee bit vague... To be honest, I am so new to this that I don't even understand some of the terms in your questions. Again, would rather have a conversation / tutor and get things answered directly and quickly vs. hours of googling and watching 40 minute tutorials for the 4 minutes answer I need.

I just need to do a tie fighter and the millennium falcon cruising through space along with the Death Star. Typical space flight stuff I am sure. The 3D models are available from a couple of sources for $10 or so. I just need to make them fly around a bit. Whether I make green screens and sew together in Movavi or make an entire scene digitally (doubtful, unless space flight stuff is easy) doesn't really matter.

Could also use some "Light saber" stuff in the opening scene and if things work out, terminator effects - both face and hands. I envision maybe 2 minutes total of VFX, give or take.

I've tinkered with Fusion a bit already and was just starting to get the concept with green screen cleanup, but had to punt due to time constraints. I think I did start reading your article previously. Anyway, my desktop PC is broken right now, but when it's back maybe I'll install Fusion and give it another go. The Terminator stuff may not be a go, but......

Re: Contract VFX Tutoring Help & Maybe VFX Contract Work...

PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:46 am
by Bryan Ray
Yeah, CG prosthetics are pretty advanced. Humanoid robots also require quite a bit of work and expertise, although there are plenty of pre-built rigs (animation controls) that could make it easier. I'd steer clear of that concept for a beginner project.

Spaceships swooping through space is an excellent place to start, though! Lightsabers are also a nice entry-level project, although they benefit from some practical, physical effects—notably the light cast from the saber onto the actors. The saber effects can be done in Fusion, but if you're going to be cutting pieces of scenery, that will probably need to be built in 3D.

I'll confirm my advice of Blender for the 3D work. That's where you're going to start for the spaceships. The topics you'll need to cover first will be how to import the models, and how to do some simple animation along a path. The virtual camera work and animation with simple gray models should be nailed down before you start trying to make things look great.

You'll probably also want to have some inside-the-cockpit shots. Typically, the cockpit would be constructed as a set with greenscreen behind it, and the starfield/planet/whatever would be composited using Fusion. If you lack the skills and resources for the set building, though, you could also do the cockpit as a virtual set, building it in Blender and doing the entire thing on green. Just keep in mind that the closer the CGI is to the camera, the harder it is to make it look real.

Preproduction will help you determine how much you can do and how much it will cost, both in money and time. Presumably you have a script, or at least scene descriptions of some kind.

Make some quick storyboards—they don't have to be great art, just use them to clarify what you want to see on the screen. Then start making lists of what assets you'll need. For instance:

Two TIEs chase an X-Wing through open space with the Death Star in the background (pencil sketches
of how the ships will move)—I'll need the TIE model, the X-Wing, some way of making laser blasts, and the Death Star. But since DS is just in the background, it could just be a 2d still image.

We'll cut in to the X-Wing pilot talking to the other Rebels while green lasers shoot by outside—I'll need the interior of the X-Wing from the side, some green light to throw on the actor when the lasers go by, a greenscreen for the background, an actor, key light, fill light, and a camera.

The X-Wing will blast one of the TIEs at the end of the sequence, so I'll need the pieces of the destroyed TIE and an explosion, either a CG simulation or a stock video asset.

It's tempting to just dive in and start making things, but the planning stage is critical to success. When you start, the show will look like an absolute mountain of work and you'll have no idea how you should begin. By breaking things down into small, achievable pieces, you can turn it into something that can be done within the limitations you have.

I don't have the time to do any intensive personal tutoring, but I'm happy to answer questions in between renders at work. My specialties are in compositing, which creates the finished image; pipeline and workflow development—building the systems that help the work get done; and CG layout, which is the process of getting the assets prepared and in place so the actual real work can begin. You should also put your call for help in at, where you may find some help with Blender and animation in general. They have a jobs board there, which might be a place where you can find a tutor. Caveat emptor, though—it's probably very easy to find people willing to teach you poorly!