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    • RWBY Chibi Shot Breakdown - Mysterious Red Button

      8 months ago

      Triple_Bee Chibi VisPost Supervisor

      Hello again Chibi friends!  Now that RWBY Chibi Season 3 is back for more wacky hijinks, it seemed like a good opportunity to take another look behind the scenes into what goes into developing a shot for our little show!

      This week I'll be going over Ruby's big sun-busting moment (the actual BIG sun, not the Junior Detective) from Season 3 Episode 7: Mysterious Red Button.  Though it's not as overtly stylized or filled with blazing effects as some of the other shots I've gone over, the one has some subtle complications and considerations that make it worth a look!

      As always we start off with this segment of the script by Tom Alvarado:

      CUT TO:

      Ruby walks along and sees THE BUTTON. She shrugs and pushes it.  The sun blinks out like a light bulb.


      Huh, I did not expect that.

      She pushes it again and it turns on.

      Lights on.


      Lights off.

      Lights on.


      Lights off.

      Push - the SUN POPS like a burned-out bulb.  Yang walks out.

      What's up with the flippin' sun-

      I didn't do it!

      Ruby runs off in a panic


      Next Animator Nicole Moellner digs in, creating hand drawn thumbnails of the action to establish the rough timing, stage direction, framing and a number of other rough factors.  These help bring up conversations about poses, expression and everything else that she'll be dealing with next.


      Once Nicole gets approval from Chibi Director Paula Decanini, she continues on by loading the the characters, set, props and setting the scene's camera to capture it all!  From there she'll set about animating everything, which will involve several reviewed stages from rough pose placement through to final approval. One change you can see from the script is Ruby pushes the button many more times and has her devilish grin worked in.  These sort of modest changes happen organically during the animation process when the Director and/or Animators realize a funny or important moment can be further enhanced!

      The final product of this stage is a completed animation playblast, which is movie quickly produced by our 3D Package (Maya) using a low quality, generic light and textures that allows for visibility but not much else!  As you can see things like skin tone, reflective surfaces and even some basic surface colors aren't present.



      Now it's time to start lighting!  We've got a general established look for the Forest set for consistency, so there's not lot of fine tuning or review needed on that front other than to position the sun's lighting direction in a camera-friendly place.  However...


      ...because Ruby is interacting directly with the button and the tree it's attached to, it will be far easier to render those as separate elements from the backdrop itself.  That way we can chose to render only the background frames where the camera moves and then freeze the image the rest of the time.  This reduces our computation time on the render farm and makes us far more efficient!


      This is one of the other big reasons for separating the tree out.  Because Ruby's shadow will cross over that of the tree and button repeatedly, it makes more sense to produce them in one pass.  Otherwise you risk having the shadows overlap and double-up which, given the strong single light source of the sun, would look incorrect and require a lot more effort to fake.



      Now it's time to start layering things on top of our backdrop.  These are going to be lit with the exact same lights as the Forest.  First up is the tree and button, which get their own pass as a joint object.  The button has it's own special light to give it the internal glow that it always sports when active, though note terribly noticeable here in the daylight (more on that soon though!)


      Next up is Ruby, who has a few extra lights herself.  Generally we add a fill light or two to the Chibi characters to help with the shadow shaping on them. Because their heads are so big and round, most overhead lights tend to cast a lot of unwelcome shadow on their mouths and chins. We also give her eyes and teeth some attention to help them pop and increase her expression readability.

      Last we add a final beauty treatment which adds a subtle glow and vignette to draw the eye to the center and give everything a slightly soft, warm feel.


      All done right? NOPE!

      Ruby breaks the dang sun!

      That means we've actually got to light this shot twice, and the second one is a time of day we don't usually see in the Forest, so we're starting from scratch!


      We're actually going to set this up fairly similar to the day lighting in terms of direction since we don't want to make the audience dizzy with something DRASTICALLY different when it starts rapidly flipping back and forth.  It'll be hard to tell until we add the objects back in, but there are some differences to help it stand out however.  We also have to replace the skydome providing the background sky.  Luckily I made one for the Mystery Bunch sketch last season, so I can just drop that in back there!



      Because the Forest dirt clearing is SO distinctly bright yellow, once we're in our compositing tool (After Effects) we opt to de-saturate and color shift the ground to a paler, blueish hue that helps imply 'moonlight' rather than just 'dim sun.'  Attempting to do with by coloring the actual light would be possible but would have proven less effective, and would also have colored everything in the scene excessively in the process.  That said, I provide a similar adjustment to the rest of the backdrop as well to help it blend, it's just far more subtle.


      Just like before we have the tree and Ruby as separate elements sharing a shadow pass.  Here you can finally see the other main difference from the sun light, the moon provides a much less crisp shadow.  It stays somewhat sharp near the contact points on the ground but grows much more blurred as the tree (and Ruby to a lesser extent) rises into the air.


      Another little enhancement we're going to make (and one applied to the daytime set as well) is to have the backdrop become blurred the farther it gets from the camera.  We do this by using a Depth Pass, one of a number of hidden utility layers that we have included INSIDE of the background and character passes.  This treatment is fairly common to the Forest and most other outdoor settings to help them feel even more expansive.

      Depth passes are visualized as below. They generally look pure black at first glance, but we're able to adjust them in After Effects to set a near point (black) and a far point (white) with the grey in-between allowing for a partially blurred transition between the two.


      Time to add the tree to the shot in this version too.  As you can see, the button's internal glow is much more obvious in the darker night lighting.  One problem that becomes apparent however is that since the tree is in a separate layer, the glow from it isn't having an effect on the ground below!

      Not to worry though!  We can add an extra pass that hits the environment and then layer that on top too.  Since we'll want it to land on Ruby AND have the her shadow from the button light hit the ground too we'll include her in the pass at the same time.  Adding it to the composition now creates a SpOoKy GhOsT RuBy! 

      Time to bring Ruby into the scene properly!  Because she naturally has a lot of dark colors that might get lost in the shadowy undersides of the trees behind her, we add a pair of gentle rim lights behind her that add definition to those spots.  You can see those here as the slightly blue light lines on the left side of her hair.  All this serves to help her silhouette pop off the backdrop even better. Depending on where she's standing the button light from above also provides this!

      Finally we add the same glow and vignette enhancements, though fittingly they're less prominent in this darker lighting except around high contrast points!


      Now that both of those lighting variations are set up, we can toggle between them with a quick adjustment in After Effects!  That comes in handy for the end when the sun finally bursts, flaring and fading out in an uneven fashion. 

      That's it for now, thanks for checking out another making-of RWBY Chibi!  I've got a few more of these planned, especially as we get deeper into the second half of Season 3 so keep an eye out!

    • RWBY Chibi Shot Breakdown - Teenage Faunus Ninja Catgirl

      1 year ago

      Triple_Bee Chibi VisPost Supervisor

      Hey there RT Community!  Welcome back to another Chibi Shot Breakdown!  This week I'm taking a quick look at the opening shot for Season 3 Episode 6: Teenage Faunus Ninja Catgirl.  A name just barely tongue-twistery enough that some of us started referring to it as "The NinjaCat One" until we'd had enough morning coffee.  The proposed acronym shorthand of TFNC never quite rolled off the tongue the way it does for sewer turtles.

      Anyway, Chibi Script Maestro Tom Alvarado's script for this sketch sets the scene as such:


      Blake kneels meditating in the middle of the room.  She's surrounded by lit candles.


      Since he'll be animating this sequence, Chibi Lead Animator Ian Kedward starts by loading the set and roughly placing a camera before blocking in the sequence with quick drawn sketches of the action. This way he and the Director can quickly revise and refine the rough timing and positioning. There's a fair amount of action in this sequence as a whole, but since Blake is meditating this opening shot is fairly static.  Thus they decide to add a moving camera to give it some flair.



      Next Ian animates the shot with characters and props placed.  He sets up the camera to have a slow downward motion, so we'll need to render the backdrop for the full frame range, unlike in the Breakdown from Episode 5 where we could make a single still frame work for the whole shot length.


      Chibi Director Paula Decanini requested the scene have a bit of an old-school samurai/martial arts movie feeling to it, with blue light shining through the window and a dramatic underlighting from the candles surrounding Blake. A pretty great starting point that gives me an opportunity to go look at some similar scenes in other films for style reference in narrowing down the look and not at all because I want an excuse to watch old action movies for official business...

      The Beacon Dorm Rooms don't really have a dedicated night lighting setup for situations where the room lights are also off.  In those rare cases we generally add custom lighting dependent on the needs of the script.  I had done a vaguely similar setup in Season 2: Episode 6 - Super Besties but that wasn't quite as dramatic as called for here and the action took place in a different part of the room. Still it gave me some pointers on where to set lights this time around and what settings to apply to them for ideal render times.

      First step is the exterior light which provides the main source in this shot, with Paula's requested blue moonlight shining through and making a striking reflection on the floor!  We normally don't get to see the floorboards from this camera angle so the uncommon light reflection makes them look neat as things progress!  I also tweak the Subsurface Scattering on the candles at this point to give them a more prominent waxy appearance with the backlight; in short SSS simulates light striking an object, entering it, scattering within and exiting at a different point as opposed to simply bouncing off of it. This helps give the object a softer appearance in things like skin and wax.  The addition of Subsurface influence has been a huge boon to the cute look of the show in my personal opinion.

      If you look close you can also see Blake's shadow is in the shot already too!  Normally I would handle this as a separate layer to be added in during Compositing, but in this instance the shot is fairly brief, she's reflecting in the floor, and is behind AND in front of candles that are in the set layer which are also casting shadows.  Thus is makes a little sense to keep it simple and just bake her shadows in for the sake of Compositing ease. That means of course if I have to make adjustments to her shadow I'll need to re-render the whole thing, so it's a shortcut best done sparingly and with purpose.

      Now that we're out of lighting and into Compositing we can work in some early drama!  Here I've adjusted the lighting renders to be a little darker, especially around the far edges of the frame, and added a Depth of Field blur to push the background out of focus a bit as it gets further from the camera.  This will help Blake stand out when she's added to the shot.  

      Speaking of which...


      Seems like time for our stealthy Faunus to step out of the shadows.  Blake has much of the same lighting as the set, in addition to a rim light on the back of her head that helps her hair and bow stand out from the darker window frame.  Things are still pretty dark and muddled right now, but our next few steps should fix that!


      Step one is some dramatic light fog streaming from the direction of our moonlight.  The frame of the window is going to add some neat streak patterns as it blocks the fog beams and all of it together creates a nice frame around Blake to contrast her dark core against it's brighter shape.  The shape of the fog is cheated a little here to be less wide and more angled than it should be so that it reads better to camera and seems to align with the candle circle and highlight that as well.



      Now it's time to light our candles. This is what led me to leave Blake so dark until now without much in the way of light fills.  Now the dramatic underlights will have a stronger influence on her.  I've previously placed a small light near the wick of each candle object and tailored their settings so they each provide a tiny bit of the whole candle ring contribution.  To help sell their natural flame flickering, I separate the candle lights into three groups that will let me independently shift their brightness at the Comp stage, though they are perfectly steady in the original light renders.

      I also take this opportunity to tint the fire color a richer orange/red, having intentionally left them somewhat neutral up until now.  In general it's helpful to add richer colors to your lights in Compositing, since it can be tricky to shift deeply saturated lights when they are already influencing local colors.

      All of this also really helps the floor stand out again, since the candles are so close and at a perfect angle to really resonate against the dark floorboards.  Almost everybody thought I'd artificially upped the reflection levels of the floor, but this is their normal state!  Saved me the trouble. :)


      Finally it's time for the flames themselves. Using a Compositing tool developed for RWBY I'm able to quickly place flames on the tip of each candle thanks to some exported camera data and invisible locators on each wick. This way I don't need to manually create and track each flame, it's mostly handled for me and I can just fine-tune the placement, size and look.

      Lastly I add some subtle glows to our scene and candles and a vignette to the whole image to really push the eye to Blake!


      I had a lot of fun with this sequence, personally handling the first half and then splitting comp duties with the talented Alan Matthewman for the second half of Blake's smoke bomb stalker adventure. His creepy ceiling-cat Blake comp still cracks me up and also caused many a cry of terror around the office!

      For the Pun Record, I really wanted Blake's unnamed Taxi App to be "RWBR" but there were a few too many hurdles in the way to make that Easter Egg happen!

    • RWBY Chibi Shot Breakdown - Girl's Night Out

      1 year ago

      Triple_Bee Chibi VisPost Supervisor

      Hey there everybody!  For volume 3 of RWBY Chibi I had the opportunity to step into the dual role of Lighting AND Compositing, which in past volumes have generally been separated between our two Animation Post teams. Thankfully I've had the talents of Eric Tello and Alan Matthewman to work along with in our streamlined Chibi Post team, letting the three of us help make the show look better than ever along with the rest of the Chibi crew!

      With a fuller hand in bringing shots to the finish line, I thought it might be fun to detail the Post process in some of my favorite shots!  They'll be auto-resized on this journal, but you should be able to expand the images with a right click, open image in new tab.

      For the punchline of Episode 5: Girl's Night Out our Chibi Director Paula Decanini asked (half jokingly, I think) if I could get the girl's fiery handiwork to be a little reminiscent of the opening moments from The Crow.  Obviously our color palette is more cartoonishly vibrant, but it did help me get a sense of where to start on the look and flame effects.

      To walk it back a bit, we start with our script, this one written by the fantastic Tom Alvarado describing the shot as:

      The girls stand outside a nightclub as the building BURNS.
      They look at the flames with accomplishment.

      Next the animator (in this case, Chibi Lead Animator Ian Kedward) works up a drawn animatic timed to the character dialogue for the entire sequence including our shot in question.



      After going over the rough details of timing, staging, and action with the director, Ian will block out the shot and then animate it in full. In this particular instance there isn't a great deal of character animation going on since the comedy beat focus is on the burning building itself.  As such Ian going to be more concerned about camera framing and character placement:

      With that approved the shots finally move on over to Post for Lighting and Rendering. In many of the outdoor environments we have already set up simple, reusable lights in advance to get a good quick starting point approximating the sun/moon and some ambient light from the atmosphere. Vale has some of that in place for night from previous episodes, but it needs customization and thoughtful use for our shot specifics.

      Keeping in mind this shot AND the following (one which is at a reverse angle) I position the moonlight on the girl's backs and give it a cold, cyan/blue tint. That way there will be some light shaping on all the buildings that will also provide a color fill for the fire lights to come. In addition the contrasting blue light on the girls here will help them stand out later and establishes a logical reason to add a nice sharp rim light in the next shot, which will help them against the background there too!

      I test all of this together during lighting setup, but now that we're ready to render we'll produce the environment separately from the characters. In many instances this saves render computation time, since the backdrop won't move but the characters will. Generally speaking characters will render much quicker than the larger, more complex background, so saving time here is always a good step!


      Next up I'll add a bit of red/orange fill to the soon to be crispy buildings and the far city backdrop. This helps to pop the intended center of focus from the rest of the frame. In this case I'm doing this in both Post phases since I can set up rough light direction in Lighting and better fine tune the colors in Compositing.  The two steps intertwine with one another, and it's not uncommon to need to go back to lighting to make some subtle, needed tweaks now and again.

      It's also high time to add the girls back in now that we're Comping! As you can see they're present, but not very prominent at all with just the moon on their backs. We're well past ready to start heating this town up!

      I have a series of lights at key areas I'd like to be prominently emanating fire, mostly the front of the building and around the top.  The lights all blend with one another but I've actually got them in three separate layers so that they can flicker interdependently to keep things looking random and chaotic. We're still just rendering single frames for these backdrop elements, but in Compositing I'll be able to make those single frames simulate full motion along with the fire effects.

      The girls also finally get their fire rim light which really helps them stand out much better without being TOO attention hogging from the building itself!  Now that the street is picking up an orange tinted light bounce, their moonlit backs are also contrasting nicely as planned.

      Fire time! I started with the rim of the building to get our shape and fire look established.  Originally I was just going to have it on the balcony and a bit on the roof but Paula wanted me to go BIG so things spread from there to get some real property damage going!  The fire itself is mostly a particle effect I've created within After Effects using a few different techniques to get a cartoon flame moving at an appropriate speed. I also have a few hints of actual flame footage mixed in both for comedic effect and to help sell the look a little further.


      Backdraft!  Here's the part I was really preparing for; getting the interior ablaze!  Using masks for the windows and balcony I work in similar effects to the exterior which will go hand-in-hand with my flickering lights to really get things in sync. Next I add some thick, black smoke behind the blaze, and a subtle smoggy haze on the streets in front of the main building. I also enhance the girl's shadow for a little more contrast and to have it flicker unevenly to simulate the larger fire light source.  Lastly we have some subtle cinders floating around the building that will be much more prominent in the shot to follow!

      I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the lighting and rendering process for Girl's Night Out!  I'll try to do a few more of these as time goes on, since Chibi provides lots of fun new lighting challenges from time to time.

    • RWBY Chibi Volume 3!

      1 year ago

      Triple_Bee Chibi VisPost Supervisor

      RWBY Chibi is back for more starting today!
      RWBY Chibi - Season 3 - Episode 1

      I've always really enjoyed working on Chibi, in no small part because it's the one show I've had the opportunity to continuously work on since the first season. Seeing it grow and get better every year is a really fun and gratifying experience. Plus this time around I'm tackling both lighting and compositing, something I've been eager to do again for quite a while!

      All I can say is our 'little' team is hard at work making some really funny stuff that I can't wait to render for everyone to see!

    • A spooky Chibi thing!

      1 year ago

      Triple_Bee Chibi VisPost Supervisor

      I've been meaning to use this space to make note of the unique events that tend to happen working at Rooster Teeth. This seems like a prime time to start! 

      Thanks to the whims of scheduling I ended up as the main/only active lighting artist on the final two episodes of RWBY Chibi Season 2. What luck then that it included the Halloween-themed episode in which I happened to have co-written and directed a sketch!

      Getting to be so wholly hands on with a bit from start to finish is a rare opportunity and I'm pretty happy with the results, in no small part thanks to my fellow ChibiCrwby. The camera, animation, compositing, V/O and audio artists all came together to make things excellent indeed!

      I also unleashed a little DIsturbia inspired spooky & colorful alternative lighting through the episode, all of which was fun to craft.

      RWBY CHIBI - Episode 21  nora

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