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Visual Effects Society Handbook

Book Description

Wisdom from the best and the brightest in the industry, this visual effects bible belongs on the shelf of anyone working in or aspiring to work in VFX. The book covers techniques and solutions all VFX artists/producers/supervisors need to know, from breaking down a script and initial bidding, to digital character creation and compositing of both live-action and CG elements.

In-depth lessons on stereoscopic moviemaking, color management and digital intermediates are included, as well as chapters on interactive games and full animation authored by artists from EA and Dreamworks respectively. From predproduction to acquisition to postproduction, every aspect of the VFX production workflow is given prominent coverage. VFX legends such as John Knoll, Mike Fink, and John Erland provide you with invaluable insight and lessons from the set, equipping you with everything you need to know about the entire visual effects workflow.

Simply a must-have book for anyone working in or wanting to work in the VFX industry.

Table of Contents

  1. Front Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright
  5. Contents
  6. About the VES
  7. Foreword
  8. Chapter 1 Introduction
    1. Visual Effects and Special Effects
      1. Visual Effects
      2. Special Effects
    2. Why Use Visual Effects?
    3. The Creation of Visual Effects
    4. A Bit of Visual Effects History
      1. Optical Printers
      2. Electronics for Camera Control
      3. The Digital Age
    5. Unintended Consequences: Where Does Creativity End?
  9. Chapter 2 Pre-Production/Preparation
    1. Overview
    2. Breaking Down a Script—Budgeting
      1. Ballpark Budget
      2. More Detailed Budgets
      3. Bidding
      4. Plate Photography
      5. Temp Screenings
      6. Reviewing Bids
      7. Contracts
      8. Rebidding during Shooting
      9. Rebidding in Post
      10. Monitoring the Budget and Schedule
      11. Keeping the Budget Down
    3. Working with the Director and Producer
      1. Demo Reel
      2. The Meeting
      3. Moving Forward
    4. Production Departments
      1. Production Design
      2. Camera
      3. Special Effects
      4. Stunts
      5. Wardrobe
      6. Makeup
      7. Production
      8. Visual Effects
      9. Editorial
      10. Locations
      11. Production Meeting
    5. Designing Visual Effects Shots
      1. Guidelines for Directors
      2. Storyboards
      3. Previs
      4. Objective of the Shot
      5. Concept Art
      6. Continuity
      7. Photorealism
      8. Original Concepts
      9. Budget
      10. Reality and Magic
      11. Camera Angles
      12. Framing
      13. Scale
      14. Detail
      15. Speed
      16. Scaled Images
      17. Depth of Field
      18. Sequence of Shots
      19. Camera Motion
      20. Less Is More
      21. Action Pacing
      22. CG Characters
      23. Creatures and Character Design
      24. Powers of 10 Shots
    6. Visual Effects Techniques
      1. Technique Considerations
      2. Additional Suggestions for Determining Techniques
    7. What is Previs?
    8. Development of Previs Techniques
      1. History and Background
    9. The Applications of Previs: Who Benefits From it and How?
    10. Postvis
    11. Cautions and Suggestions for Good Practice
      1. The Perils of Previs!
      2. Passing the Work On
      3. The Role of the VFX Supervisor in Previs
    12. The Future of Previs: Advanced Techniques
      1. Environment Input
      2. Character Input
      3. Camera Input
      4. Gaming Techniques
      5. On-Set Previs
      6. Lighting Previs
      7. 3D Stereo Previs
      8. Virtual Production
    13. Camera Angle Projection
      1. Drawing What the Lens Sees
  10. Chapter 3 Acquisition/Shooting
    1. Working on Set
    2. Common Types of Special Effects
      1. What Are Special Effects?
      2. A Brief History of Special Effects
      3. The Special Effects Supervisor
      4. Working with the Visual Effects
      5. Visual Effects in Service to SFX
      6. Special Effects Design and Planning
      7. Storyboards and Previs
      8. The Elements: Rain, Wind, and Snow and Ice
      9. Smoke, Fire, and Pyrotechnics
      10. Mechanical Effects
      11. Flying Wire Rigs and Stunts
      12. Safety
    3. Front and Rear Projection Systems for Visual Effects
      1. Rear Projection
      2. Front Projection (Blue or Green Screens and Picture Imagery)
      3. Rear Projection Equipment
      4. Front Projection Equipment
      5. Large-Area Emissive Displays (LCD, Plasma, and Jumbotron Screens)
    4. Greenscreen and Bluescreen Photography
      1. Function of the Backing—Green, Blue, or Red
      2. Fabric and Paint
      3. Backing Uniformity and Screen Correction
      4. How to Expose a Greenscreen Shot and Why
      5. Setting Screen Brightness
      6. Floor Shots, Virtual Sets
      7. Foreground Lighting
      8. Controlling Spill Light
      9. Lighting Virtual Sets
      10. Tracking Marks on the Screen
      11. On-Set Preview
      12. Camera for Bluescreen or Greenscreen Photography
      13. Negative Scanning and Digital Conversion
      14. The Processed Foreground
      15. Underwater Photography
      16. Working with the Cinematographer
      17. The Alpha Channel
      18. Compositing Software
    5. On-Set Data Acquisition
      1. Camera Report
      2. Tracking Markers
      3. Props for the Actors
      4. Cyberscanning
      5. Digital Photos
      6. Lidar/Laser Scanning
      7. Lens Distortion Charts
      8. HDRI and Chrome Balls
    6. Lidar Scanning and Acquisition
    7. On-Set 3D Scanning Systems
      1. On-Set Data Acquisition
      2. 3D Scanning Systems
      3. Prepping the Actors for Scanning
      4. Scanning Props or Cars
      5. Review All That Has Been Scanned
      6. 3D Scanning Post-Production
    8. Lighting Data
      1. Gathering Lighting Data
      2. Beware of False Savings!
      3. Goals
      4. Using Conventional Still Cameras
      5. Shooting Considerations
    9. Clean Plates
      1. Shooting the Clean Plate
      2. Locked-Off Camera
      3. Moving Camera
      4. Other Issues
      5. Postprocess
      6. Alternates without Clean Plates
      7. Other Uses for Clean Plates
    10. Monster Sticks
    11. On-Set Animation Capture: Witness Cam
      1. Wireless Nonvideo Motion Capture
      2. Factors Affecting Witness Cameras
      3. Dealing with the Data in Post-Production
    12. Real-Time Matchmoving and Camera-Tracking Data
    13. Triangulation as a Method of Recording Camera Data
    14. Camera/Subject Positional Information
      1. Basics: The Tool Kit
      2. Basics: Nodal Point
    15. Photographic Reference
      1. Shooting Video as a Reference
    16. Rules, Setup, and Testing
    17. Digital Cinematography
      1. The Viewing System
      2. The Recording System
    18. Filming Live-Action Plates to be Used in VFX
      1. Camera Position (Station Point)
      2. Angle of View
      3. Lighting Considerations
      4. Camera Tilt
      5. Background Quality
      6. Moving Plates
      7. Scouting the Camera Positions
      8. A Case Study
      9. Camera Cars
      10. Camera Car Safety Issues
      11. Purpose-Built Crane Cars
      12. Vibration and Camera Stabilization
      13. Road Speed
      14. Precautions
      15. Panoramic Rigs
      16. On the Water
      17. Air to Air
      18. Cable Systems
    19. Shooting Elements for Compositing
      1. What Is an Element?
      2. Stock Footage
      3. Types of Elements
      4. Generic versus Shot-Specific Elements
      5. Determining Element Needs
      6. Cheating
      7. Backgrounds
      8. Black Backgrounds
      9. Line-Up
      10. Camera Format Considerations
      11. Assorted Methods for Shooting Elements
    20. High-Speed Photography and Filming Elements
      1. High-Speed Photography
      2. Cameras
      3. Technicians
      4. Director of Photography
      5. Lighting
      6. Application
      7. Locking Down the Camera
      8. Video Assist
      9. Post
    21. Supervising Motion Control
      1. What Is Motion Control?
      2. Performance Choreography
      3. Multiple-Pass Photography
      4. Scaling
      5. Import and Export of Camera Move Data
      6. The Data
      7. Types of Motion Control Systems
      8. Motion Control Software
      9. Camera Types
      10. Sync and Phase
      11. Dealing with Production
    22. Acquisition of Motion/Still Photographic Textures for Mapping onto CG
      1. Panoramic Backgrounds
      2. Tiled Stills
      3. Motion Tiling and Synchronous Plates
      4. Practical Considerations
      5. Stills for Textures and Lighting
    23. Stop-Motion
      1. Evolution of Stop-Motion Photography
      2. The Time Required to Shoot in Stop-Motion
      3. Preparation before Shooting
      4. Setting Up a Shooting Space for Stop-Motion
      5. Use of Motion Control in Stop-Motion
      6. Useful Caveats
      7. Evolution of a Shot
      8. Use of Stop-Motion in Visual Effects
    24. What are Miniatures?
      1. What Are Miniatures and Why Are They Used?
      2. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Miniature Effects
      3. Execution of Planning
      4. Design and Integration within the Film
      5. Photographic Continuity
      6. Miniature Categories
      7. Scale Determinations
    25. Forced Perspective Miniatures
      1. In-Camera Compositing of Miniatures with Full-Scale Live-Action Actors
      2. Nodal Pans and Tilts
      3. Forced Perspective
      4. Mixed Scales
    26. The Fabrication of Miniature Effects
      1. Scale and Purpose Requirements of a Miniature
      2. Construction Materials
      3. The Paint Process
      4. Previsualization and Miniatures
      5. The Basic Standard Tools
    27. The Incorporation of Mechanical, Practical, and Pyrotechnic Effects with Miniatures
      1. Water Effects
      2. Fire, Explosives, and Collapsing
      3. Shooting Locations and Conditions
    28. Photography of Miniature Effects: Motion Control
      1. What Is Motion Control and What Are Its Benefits to Miniature Photography?
      2. Execution and Technique Using Previs
      3. Photography
    29. Photography of Miniature Effects: High-Speed Photography
      1. Depth of Field
      2. Pyrotechnics
      3. Smoke, Fire, and Water
    30. The Use of Miniatures in the Digital World
    31. Special Effects for Miniatures
      1. Shrinking Reality
      2. Scale Considerations
      3. Camera
      4. Water
      5. Rain
      6. Fire
      7. Smoke
      8. Explosions
      9. Breakaways
  11. Chapter 4 Performance and Motion Capture
    1. What is Motion Capture?
    2. Other Types of Motion Capture
      1. Resistance-Based Technologies
      2. Electromechanical-Based Technologies
      3. Computer Vision
      4. Time-of-Flight Technologies
    3. Is Motion Capture Right for a Project?
    4. Preparing for Motion Capture
      1. What Can Be Captured
      2. What Cannot Be Captured
      3. Technology Considerations
      4. Marker Placement
      5. Marker Placement on Faces
      6. Marker Masks
    5. Hardware
      1. The Strobe
      2. Markers
      3. Lenses
      4. Filter
      5. Charge-Coupled Device
      6. Onboard Processor
      7. Inputs/Outputs
      8. Setup
      9. Balance
    6. Software
      1. Acquisition
      2. Post-Processing
      3. Reconstruction
      4. Labeling
      5. Rigid Bodies
      6. Cleaning
      7. Solving Motion Capture
    7. Facial Capture
      1. Capture Techniques
      2. Markerless Motion Capture
      3. Stabilization
      4. The Face Model
      5. Facial Rigging
      6. Facial Action Coding System
    8. Real-Time Motion Capture
      1. Limitations
      2. Line of Sight
      3. Markers
      4. Solving
      5. Visualization
      6. Alternate Technologies
  12. Chapter 5 Stereoscopic 3D
    1. How 3D Works
      1. Accommodation and Convergence
      2. Interaxial Separation
      3. Toe-in versus Horizontal Image Translation
      4. Parallax or Depth Budget
      5. Positive and Negative Parallax
      6. Floating Windows
      7. Fix It in Post
    2. Stereoscopic Design
      1. The Emerging Grammar of 3D
      2. Creative Use of Depth
      3. Previsualization
      4. Avoiding Painful 3D
      5. The Aesthetic of Scale
      6. Cutting for 3D
      7. Designing for Multiple Release Formats
      8. Immersion-Based versus Convergence-Based Stereo
    3. Virtual 3D Photography
      1. Pros and Cons of Virtual 3D Photography
      2. Multiple Camera Rigs
    4. The 3D Camera Rig
      1. Implementing Convergence
      2. Manipulating the Screen Surround
      3. Special Cases for Virtual 3D Photography
    5. 2D to 3D Conversion
      1. Depth Creation Preparation
      2. Visual Analysis of 2D Depth Cues
      3. Main Artistic Stages of 2D-to-3D Conversion
      4. Major 2D-to-3D Conversion Workflows
      5. Special Cases
      6. Transparencies
      7. Reflections
      8. Re-Projection Mapping Method Workflow
      9. Pixel Displacement or Pixel Shifting
      10. Minor 2D-to-3D Conversion Workflows
      11. Automatic Conversion
      12. Temporal Offset
      13. Dynamic Temporal Offset
      14. Is “Real” Always Right?
    6. 3D Stereoscopic Visual Effects
      1. Prepping for the Third Dimension
      2. Shooting the Third Dimension
      3. Visual Effects in the Third Dimension
      4. Photographed Elements
      5. Accuracy and Attention to Detail
      6. Artistic Skill Level
      7. Data Management
    7. 3D Stereo Digital Intermediate Workflow
      1. Stereoscopic 3D Process Milestones
      2. Viewing 3D Dailies
      3. Projection Screens for 3D Stereoscopic Viewing
      4. 3D Editorial Processes
      5. 3D Stereoscopic Conforming
      6. Data Workflow
      7. 2D versus 3D Grading
      8. 3D Stereo RealD Mastering Considerations
      9. Geometry and Correction of Undesirable Binocular Disparity
      10. 3D Stereo Deliverables
    8. Stereoscopic Window
      1. The Stereoscopic Window
      2. Placement of the Window in Relation to the 3D Scene
      3. Window Violations
      4. Window Placement Logic
      5. How to Create a Stereoscopic Window
    9. Producing Movies in Three Dimensions
      1. Development—Getting the Greenlight
      2. Production—What to Look Out For
  13. Chapter 6 Post-Production/Image Manipulation
    1. Resolution and Image Format Considerations
      1. Formats
      2. Transport
      3. Resolution
    2. Image Compression/File Formats for Post-Production
      1. Image Encoding
      2. Still Image Compression
      3. File Formats
    3. 4k+ Systems Theory Basics for Motion Picture Imaging
      1. Part 1: Resolution and Sharpness
      2. Part 2: Into the Digital Realm
      3. Part 3: Does 4k Look Better Than 2k?
      4. Part 4: Visual Perception Limitations for Large Screens
    4. Film Scanning and Recording
      1. Scanning
      2. Recording
    5. Color Management
      1. The Three Guidelines
      2. Digital Color Image Encodings and Digital Cameras
      3. Color Management at the Desktop
      4. Bringing Color Management to Film Workflows
    6. Digital Intermediate
    7. VFX Editorial
      1. Editing within a Shot: The Art of Pre-Compositing
      2. How It Came to Be
      3. Modern Day Tracking and Disseminating of Information
      4. As the Shot Changes
      5. Wrapping It Up
    8. Communication with Artists
      1. Starting
      2. Working with Teams
      3. Reference and Perspective
      4. Shot Production
      5. Communicating with Artists in Other Departments
      6. Completion
    9. The History of Compositing
      1. The History of Optical Technique
      2. Traveling Matte Technique and the Digital Age
      3. Historical Notes on Blue Screen
      4. Film versus Digital
    10. Compositing of Live-Action Elements
      1. Modern Digital Compositing
      2. Capturing the Image to Composite
      3. After the Shoot
      4. Extractions and the Magic Bullet
      5. Starting the Composite
      6. Compositing Screen Elements in Stereoscopic 3D
      7. Rotoscoping
      8. Digital Painting and Plate Reconstruction
      9. Scene Tracking
    11. Matte Paintings/Creative Environments
      1. Matte Paintings: Art of the Digital Realm
      2. What Is a Matte Painting?
      3. Matte Painting Pioneers and History
      4. Visualizing the Matte Painting Shot in Pre-Production
      5. On-Set Supervision for Matte Painting Shots
      6. Basic Skills and Tricks of the Trade
      7. Miniatures and Computer-Generated Sets
      8. Finding the Best Frame
      9. Re-Projected Photo Survey
      10. The Need for Creative Compositing
  14. Chapter 7 Digital Element Creation
    1. Digital Modeling
      1. Overview: The Importance of Modeling
      2. Types of Modeling
      3. Model Data Types
      4. Development of Models
      5. Modeling for a Production Pipeline
      6. Engineering Aspects for Polygons
      7. Engineering Aspects for NURBS
    2. Rigging and Animation Rigging
      1. Rigging: What Is It?
      2. Animation Rigging
      3. Deformation Rigging
    3. Texturing and Surfacing
      1. The Importance of Texture Painting
      2. Hard Surface Models
      3. Creature Models
      4. Types of Geometry: Their Problems and Benefits
      5. Prepping the Model to Be Painted
      6. Texture Creation
      7. Various Other Map-Driven Effects
      8. Texture Painting in Production
      9. Model Editing
    4. Digital Hair/Fur
      1. Hair Generation Process
      2. General Issues and Solutions
    5. Digital Feathers
      1. Morphology of Real Feathers
      2. Modeling Digital Feathers
      3. Similarities between Hair and Feathers
      4. Differences between Hair and Feathers
    6. Dynamics and Simulation
      1. How Is a Simulation Created?
      2. When Is Simulation Appropriate?
      3. Tricks and Cheats
      4. Important Considerations
      5. Planning and Preparation
      6. Software Solutions: A Broad Overview of Current Options
    7. Particles
      1. What Are Particle Systems?
      2. The Next Step
      3. The Birth of Particles
      4. Creating Effects
    8. Rigid-Body Dynamics
      1. How Rigid-Body Dynamics Are Created
      2. Potential Problems
      3. Other Issues
      4. Tricks for Getting It Done
    9. Digital Lighting
      1. Light in Reality and in Computer Graphics
      2. Case Study of Reality Compared with Simple CG Simulation
      3. Visual Sophistication through Texture Mapping
      4. Physically Derived Shading Models
      5. Beneath the Surface
      6. Goals of Lighting in Visual Effects
      7. Work Flow for Successful Creative Digital Lighting
      8. The Technologies of Lights in Computer Graphics
      9. Direct Lighting: Source to Surface to Camera
      10. Negative Lights
      11. Reflections
      12. Photographed Reflections
      13. Shadows
      14. Image-Based Lighting
      15. Rendering Occlusion
      16. Ambient Occlusion
      17. Reflection Occlusion
      18. Average Light Direction Vectors: Bent Normals
      19. Creating Light Sources from Environment Maps
      20. Physically Based Rendering
      21. Volumetric Lighting Effects
    10. Shader Basics
      1. What Are Shaders?
      2. Shading Models
      3. Bump and Displacement
      4. Map-Based Shaders
      5. Procedural Shaders
      6. Shader Design
      7. Antialiasing Considerations
    11. 3D Compositing
      1. Color Representation
      2. Bit Depth and Dynamic Range
      3. Mattes
      4. Compositing CG
      5. 2.5D Compositing
    12. Crowd Generation and Simulation Techniques
      1. Live-Action Replication
      2. Sprites
      3. Computer-Generated Crowds
      4. Modeling for Replication
      5. Variation
      6. Mesh Density
      7. Animation Cycles for Replication
      8. Motion Capture
      9. Keyframe Animation
      10. Dynamic Motion Synthesis
      11. Behaviors and Crowd Control
    13. CG Prosthetics and Actor Enhancements
      1. On-Set Tracking and Capture Considerations
      2. Eye Enhancements
      3. 3D Techniques
      4. 2D Techniques
      5. 2.5D Techniques
      6. Silhouette Changes
      7. Re-Projection
    14. 3D Products, Systems, and Software
      1. Digital Element Creation Process
      2. 3D Graphics Software
      3. 3D Tracking
      4. Special Effects
      5. Rendering
      6. Texturing
  15. Chapter 8 Interactive Games
    1. Films versus Games
      1. Basic Differences
      2. Most Important Aspect
      3. Narrative Storytelling
      4. Differences in Limitations
      5. Cost of Iterations and Changes during Production
      6. Category Types
      7. Format Types
      8. Transmedia Production Design Techniques
    2. Games and Platforms
      1. Game Types
      2. Game Platforms
    3. What Are Game Engines and How Do They Function?
      1. Working with a Game Engine
    4. What Are the Production Steps in Creating a Game?
      1. Marketing to an Audience
      2. Visuals
      3. Phases of Development
    5. Game Cinematic Sequences
      1. Noninteractive Scenes
      2. Game Engine–Rendered NIS Scenes
      3. The Design and Production Process
  16. Chapter 9 Complete Animation
    1. What is an Animation Project?
      1. Full Animation versus Visual Effects
    2. Difference Between Visual Effects and Animation
      1. Production Pipelines
      2. Production
    3. A Survey and History of Animation Techniques
      1. Traditional Animation
      2. Stop-Motion
      3. Computer Graphic Technology
    4. Considerations for a Full CG-Animated Feature Pipeline
      1. CG Feature Animation Pipeline
    5. Managing an Animated Film
      1. Film Management and Personal Style
      2. Building Brain Trusts
      3. Building the Core Creative Team
      4. Writing and Visual Development
      5. Working with a Studio
      6. Facilities and Environment
      7. Managing the Event
    6. The Production Process: An Animator’s Perspective
      1. Working on CG-Animated Content in Live-Action Features
      2. Planning the Process
      3. Production
      4. Character and Environment Interaction
  17. Chapter 10 Other Workflow Considerations
    1. Virtual Studio Technology
    2. Analysis of a Production Workflow
      1. From Workflow to Pipeline
      2. Service Bureau versus In-House Requirements
    3. Design of a Production Workflow
      1. From Analysis to Design
    4. Deploying a Production Workflow
      1. From Design to Implementation
    5. Infrastructure
    6. Tracking Assets
      1. What Is Task and Asset Tracking?
      2. Commercial Task and Asset Tracking Systems
      3. Building Task and Asset Tracking Systems
    7. Scene Assembly
      1. 3D Scene Assembly
      2. 2D Scene Assembly (Compositing)
    8. Working across Multiple Facilities
      1. Images
      2. Models
      3. Texturing
      4. Animation
      5. Compositing
      6. R&D
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. Appendix A: Charts and Formulas
  20. Appendix B: Credits/Titles to Be Submitted in Accordance with VES Guidelines
  21. Appendix C: Glossary
  22. Index
  23. 2 Pre-Production/Preparation
  24. 3 Acquisition/Shooting
  25. 5 Stereoscopic 3D
  26. 6 Post-Production/Image Manipulation
  27. 7 Digital Element Creation