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  • Email: lucas@lucaslafontaine.com

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Putting together this shot was a fast and easy process, taking around two weeks in late March 2016 and pressing a week into early April. One week was spent putting together the 2D elements. The second week was spent modelling and rendering the 3D elements. A third week was allowed for brushing up the final composite, while adding the final levels of polish to the other shots in my reel. The shot served as a sucessor to a earlier shot I had planned for my reel but ultimately decided to cut. I decided to lean heavily on references from my previous project and, with a couple hours of additional searching, had a few hundred images to draw from.

Two of the images I found made an excellent starting point for crafting the idea, but unfortunately one of the images was not quite a high enough resolution. I chose not to abandon the image entirely, as it was the best one I could draw from in my library. Instead, rather than stretching the image across my canvas, I let it sit in the image at its original resolution and began to extend it into the foreground with other photographic elements and some painting.

The initial mock-up of the shot, using only three of the images I gathered.

The scene is extended into the foreground.

I proceeded to adjust the scaling of certain elements in the scene and touch up the perspective. I grabbed a few different images and pieced together some buildings to connect the corridor in the foreground and the industrial structures in the background.

The 2D elements begin to take form.

At this point I felt the shot had been too easy. I was only a few days into the production of the shot and while I had a lot left to do to make it suitable for projection, I felt there was more I could do. I had train tracks in the scene so the logical thing was to add a train to the shot. This offered a fun opportunity to play with some interesting audio cues and create a camera that would complement this.

I shifted over to Maya and modelled three different varieties of train cars and prepared them for texturing and shading. While I had used Mari for previous projects, I had recently been exploring Substance Painter. I was skeptical of its validity for visual effects work but I hadn't allocated too much time to finish the remainder of the shot. Substance offered a great opportunity to quickly Look Dev the shot and texture it nicely. While Substance Painter restricted me to a 4K texture output, I considered that given the speed of the train, any fine detail would be lost to motion blur and decided to continue texturing. The decision paid off and I pulled my textures back over to Maya. The process of shading took a few passes but the results were satisfactory.

Three train car varieties were modelled.

I produced textures in Substance Painter and outputed them at 4K resolution.

After a few passes of shading I decide I have a render that is of a sufficient quality for compositing.

Compositing began with my projection setup. I constructed some basic geometry in Maya and created a few different passes using different camera moves. Once I settled on a camera I did some back and fourth between Maya and Nuke, tesing the more complicated elements (the bushes and the piles of garbage in particular). With my projected elements in place, I added in a few smoke elements that I had gathered online. I then brought in my renders of the train. The uncomposited elements didn't sit too well in the scene. I did some colour correcting on individual passes, added slight atmospheric depth, and motion blur.

The projection setup is created and the camera is finalized.

The train and various smoke elements are merged over top the projection, without any colour correction.

All that was left was to touch up the projection. I had to return to Photoshop to extract certain smaller elements onto cards, such as the pipes sticking out from the walls. The camera move also created issues where the image was being projected onto places that were occluded in the first frame of the projection. Using some techniques I found online, I painted out the problematic areas in Photoshop and reprojected them on a later frame. That left me with the composite you see below.

The final composite.