During the second term of the vfx course I approached the world of crypto art and in particular the world of NFTs. The reason was simple, being also a photographer in my free time I was looking for ways to show or sell my work. I had tried through digital platforms or galleries but without success, until I discovered the world of nfts. Nfts (non-fungible tokens) are in fact an alternative way to show and monetize your content, digitally, based on blockchain technology. Whether it’s a photograph or a 3D render, it makes no difference, everything can become a non-fungible token.
Having also discussed it extensively in my final thesis, I decided to create nfts as my final major project. The idea is to create two digital art with maya and blender, minting on the blockchain, finally build a 3D virtual space where to exhibit the works, where people can access it from VR Headset or from desktop.
This is my initial presentation, explaining about what an NFT is, explaining references and development:
Initially the idea was to develop the entire nfts on Unreal Engine, but after practicing a lot this year Maya I rather wanted to learn an alternative program to it like Cinema4D or Blender.
First of all, I looked around to identify digital artists and collection, known in the nfts field. Among the many I particularly liked the artworks of:
David McLeod and his “Fuzzy Feelings” NFT collection
Fuzzy feelings is an original series that began several years ago and sparked a massive trend in the digital art world and social medias. What inspired me of this project is the movement loop and the different materiality/tactile quality used, that laid to a new visual language. Abstract and organic shapes made in Cinema 4D, using volumes, rendered in high quality with a unique sound effect.
Scene of the Solverse by Infinity Labs
Scenes from the Solverse is a collection of 8888 NFTs or “scenes” from every corner of the metaverse. There are 1111 unique artworks and 8 copies of each, to represent 8 different possible timelines.
Reference: 3D moving surfaces that overlap each other, Various landscapes and futuristic elements, Colours
Antoni Tudisco: Creative director & 3D visual artist
Reference: Made with Unreal Engine and Cinema4D, Short sequences, Environment research: unreal and unknown universes/oasis
For the development of my project I followed some ideas from some digital artists I found on the internet, many of them used blender as 3D computer graphics software, I found this tutorial on youtube extremely useful:
I had tried using blender earlier this year to create an asset for a compositing task on Nuke. I found blender similar in some aspects to maya, however I was unable to get exactly the desired results, but I’m happy to have learned a new software as I wanted.
After that my classmate Antoni and I decided to collaborate and create a virtual space to exhibit our nfts. Using Maya we have created a 3D model of a room, in a futuristic style following a “Cyber Punk Tokyo” style as a reference. The idea is to make it possible for people to access the virtual space, through a VR headset or through a computer.
We created the virtual room file with our artwork inside, through the virtual 360 camera in unreal it is possible to create an accessible virtual space. However, in order for our digital creations to be real NFTs it is necessary to mint them on the blockchain and show them in some virtual space of the Metaverse, so that our nfts are effectively accessible to people. Coining an NFT is a process called Minting or simply Mint, briefly it is the phase in which the digital asset created is put into the blockchain, thus creating the NFT, a non-fungible token.
The metaverse is a vast virtual world that lives between the blockchain and the internet. The world of NFTs is located in the metaverse, there are many exhibition spaces where you can see and buy nfts, even real art galleries.
We have decided to expose our nfts in a virtual space directly in the metaverse, accessible to everyone directly from the following link:
As a group project we first developed two initial ideas. The first idea is about a short film on the streets of London: two guys steal a powerful artifact and find themselves having to run away from something or someone. The project is based on the creation of portals (created through houdini, maya and rotoscope process) that allow the two protagonists to move freely around the city
We were already convinced of the first project but we still developed a second idea to have more options. Plan B is a completely different project from our first choice: it involves making a series of shots with the green screen, from different points of view and perspectives to show the many “layers” that an object, person or environment could have.
Once we decided that we would continue the road to the initial idea, we began to list all the aspects to be developed: writing the script, deciding how many shots, location scouting, division of tasks, post-production, editing, etc.
As a first step we chose the preferred locations, on the basis of aesthetics and functionality (such as the presence of arches or doors). Then we focused on the creation of the storyboard, to have a common and tangible idea in our minds. The storyboard was a vital aspect to continue with the project
Once the list of locations was written, we analyzed everything that could be needed, in the context of the actual shooting and post-production work. One of the aspects that I learned the most during this project is the organization and trying to see beyond, let me explain: When we shoot in location we always have to think about the fact that we then have to edit and work on the video in postproduction, so the scene must be organized and designed to then be worked smoothly on compositing and cg programs.
If something is missing from the shooting on location, the post-production workload increases or sometimes it is not achievable
LIST FOR LOCATION/SHOTS
Ext. (Maggie Blake’s Cause)
Ext. (Maggie Blake’s Cause)
Ext. (Grafitti Tunnel)
Ext. (Grafitti Tunnel)
Ext. (Grafitti Tunnel)
Ext. (Holborn Viaduct)
Ext. (Chancery Lane Arch)
Ext. (Chancery Lane Arch)
Shooting on location was not easy but with the help of the whole team we succeeded. The problems that arose were caused by the lack of light in the darkest environments, rain and too busy environments. If I could go back, there are a series of shots that we should have taken in the studio with a green screen to get better results … it will be for another time.
The photographs below were taken in the darkest locations we had, we helped each other using the only light resources and an external flashlight.
For this project we have divided the tasks on the basis of the skills and passions we have. I worked on the compositing of the project: doing cleanups, comping the scene and rotoscope.
In this last term I think I understand that compositing is “currently” the job that I enjoy the most.
The location for this shot is my favorite, I really like the perspective you get from this position along with the composition you create.
Obviously there are many elements that spoil the scene, the composition I am talking about is only achieved after a good cleanup job. In this location we are very close to tower bridge, so a very busy area, so we tried to wait until there was no person but this unfortunately never happened.
However I managed to remove severals elements we didn’t want in the scene by creating patches with rotopaint. I also removed the two people in the scene, obviously I’m not talking about the protagonist 😀 ! The woman in the orange jacket and the man who comes out of the darkness at the end of the sequence on the left have been removed by creating a patch of the scene and placing it under the runner, obviously having roto out.
last but not least i added some graffiti on the wall on the right, white balance and color grading helped to make everything more realistic
Shot 7 is the scene that scared me most initially. Basically in this scene I had to recreate a jump inside a hole and make the protagonist disappear from the scene. This shot was the most particular among the others, also because in order to do so we had to speak and ask permission from JP Morgan security, as this space is located exactly in front of the London headquarters.
That said, we did a shot without the protagonist and a second shot with the protagonist simulating a jump in the circle. After that I started working on nuke: first I comp the circle of fire in the scene, adding shadows and white balance, then I roto out myself and make myself disappear once I entered the circle, below the ground.
The biggest problem is that there is a moment in the scene where the runner’s legs / feet are behind and hidden by the flames, after that the initial flames must be seen passing in front, but behind the flames in the front line.
All this was possible with nuke, roto out myself and merge it over the scene and the first flame circle, then create a patch from the portal flame and merge (matte) it with my roto. In addition, the base of the floor is covered with a fake layer that helps the protagonist to disappear more naturally.
Motion blur was found to be a very useful tool, it makes jumping and movement much more realistic and dynamic.
If I could go back, for the realization of this scene I would have used a green screen and I would have simulated further movements for the jump
For shot 8 I had to roto out the protagonist, as she has to pass in front of a CG background. Honestly, it’s the job I’m least proud of. There have been complications due to the fact that in the real environment and therefore in the original video there are very strong lights and highlights that compromise the image of the protagonist. At a certain point in the video we see the face of the protagonist completely illuminated by the light of the original background. Although in the other videos I was able to handle it, in this circumstance it was to use the green screen at 100%.
I tried to limit the “problem” by using node as blur, filter erode, edgleblur but with no actual results
For shot 9, I had to take care of the camera movement to be exported to maya. It took several attempts because apparently the environment was too dark to get a nice 3d tracking. I 3dtracked the scene through camera tracker and then exported the whole sequence as a fbx file with write geometry. After that I imported the file in maya and reduced the size of the locators
This project was my second collaborative project after the second term one. it was all very challenging also because we didn’t initially know how we were going to develop everything. There were many aspects to take into consideration to get the final result but overall we were good as a team at developing a pipeline and respecting it every time. Working in a team is not easy, ideas and opinions often do not match but we have no alternative but to find an agreement and move on.
I am happy with the path we have made and above all because I have learned many new qualities and techniques.
It was not easy to start this project because I wanted to take a path that was probably too complicated according to my current vfx skills and knowledge.
My initial idea was to simulate aerial shots in several virtual environments, trying to combine each environment \ shot through seamless transition. I would have liked to recreate the environments in unreal engine using photorealistic assets from megascan, and then once realized I would have focused on the visual effect of the seamless transition. This below is an example of what I wanted to create.
Having said that, I don’t have the necessary skills and knowledge of unreal engine, I decided then to focus on the compositing aspect trying to recreate seamless transition of drone footage I have shot. In any case, Unreal engine will be a subject of study for my final project, I need more time to learn and be able to create something beautiful.
It may sound silly, but the “seamless transition” I’m talking about are the reason why I decided to embark on my path in vfx. I am a professional drone pilot and I have made many videos, I have always wanted to work on transitions between video and video because in my opinion they make aerial shots unique, dynamic and much more satisfying for the viewer.
Sam kolder is a content creator and youtuber and he is the one who inspired me for this project. The following videos are examples of what I am referring to when I talk about “seamless transition”
Of course sam kolder made these videos with the idea of creating transitions already. He used videos that, despite being different locations, environments and times of day, have elements in common that allow them to create a transition with each other.
Once I understood more or less what my project would be, I began to select and look for aerial videos that could have elements in common so that I could recreate seamless transition between them.
The elements that can work well to create transitions are usually based on: same light, similar elements such as clouds or fog, reflections or mirrors (water), windows, cracks or holes where you can implement the next videos.
After running a series of tests I decided which videos to use and that’s where I wanted to add another element to the project …
I wanted the whole sequence to be a loop, repeating itself in a synchronized and realistic way
So as I was saying, the second video would have potential if and only if I did a lot of compositing. I find the environment very interesting and suggestive, I thought about what could be the elements to add and so I decided to put several layers of fog, both on the ground and in the upper part. Once this was done, however, the element to be implemented in the following video was missing. Since I was working on the flame portals on the collaborative project I thought about using one of these.
The portal opens out of nowhere and the drone flies in the direction of it, crossing it and then finding itself in the next video.
An “impact” element that I had not considered is the shadow of the portal on the ground, once added everything seemed more realistic.
In order to achieve this I had to make a 3dtrack of the video, and then subsequently add all the cards and connect them to scene nodes and recreate the drone’s camera movement.
Once I made the first transition, I started working on the next one. The second transition is completely different from the previous one. I used the space between the two trees to create a seamless roto and add the following video. In the first video you can see a large mountain covered with trees while in the second there is a plateau with me standing, creating a roto and using transfrom node with key frames I aligned the two elements to create harmony in the transition
For the realization of the third and last transitions I created two different versions, in the first version the drone once crossed the two trees and heads towards the mountains climbing into the sky, during the flight a further flame portal appears bringing the drone back to the initial video, this creates the loop sequence I mentioned earlier.
I was not very satisfied with this because I did not want to repeat myself with the use of the same techniques: a portal was already enough.
So I thought about another type of transition, but what are the common elements that can help me create a new seamless transition? Being the drone in the air quite high in the sky I thought I could use the clouds, especially since the next video starts in the fog.
I then recreated a camera movement that mirrored the movement of the drone, I 3d tracked the scene and I added some fog and clouds in the sky. Then I rotate a shape that was symmetrical with the next scene and add key frames in the roto, grade and transform node which slowly turned into the fog of the second video, completing the initial sequence.
For the whole realization I divided the whole process into several steps: I preferred to work individually on each video and then merge with the sequent, then save and export each transition and merge everything at the end.
After all I am happy with the final result although I was unable to do what I had in mind to achieve from the beginning. As I wrote at the beginning this type of transitions is the reason why I decided to learn the techniques of vfx, obviously discovering a world that I did not know at all before.
With this project I increased my skills with nuke, using nodes that I had not used before, such as all timing nodes: time offset, retime, framerange…but above all 3dtracking the scenes and rotoscoping
2nd project: ARMAMENTUM
Together with my classmate Antoni, we decided to create a short sequence using different techniques. The idea is to create a cyberpunk-style 3d environment, where, thanks to the green screen, we will insert one of us inside the scene. The real protagonist of the sequence, however, will not be us, but a sort of arm \ mechanical weapon that, in iron man style, will be raised and applied to the arm of the person shot with the green screen
The mechanical arm must be a real weapon, essential to defend oneself in the dark streets of a cyberpunk Tokyo. For this reason the chosen references are a mixture of ideas: basically the fusion between a sword (katana) and the mechanical armed arm like iron man style.
The scene will be set inside a room, characterized by a futuristic LED lighting and florescent neon that reflects the color tone of the external lights, visible through the large diamond-shaped window. The design is essential and futuristic.
The external environment reflects a futuristic tokyo, with florescent lights, flying cars and looped billboards:
GREEN SCREEN (Lights research and camera movement)
We spent our first day in the green studio using a black magic to reproduce the virtual camera movement of maya. Also, using the lights of the set by applying transparent colored panels (red and blue) and a portable light we tried to reproduce the color of the lighting within the 3d environment.
“The Researcher” is a Sci Fi Thriller/Horror Short Film In which an astronaut researcher arriving at a space colony discovers that her only colleague is not who she appears to be.
Our team was made up of two animation students, two sound design students and Antoni and me who took care of the vfx of this project.
We discussed all together about ideas and how to proceed, we firstly made the storyboard and we followed it step by step.
For the realisation of this project I have practiced on several tutorials in order to achieve some visual effects:
In this scene, I had to recreate a space environment, I used a HDRI image of the milky way as the skydom.I recreated two planets, the main one had to have the appearance of Mars, creating two spheres and applying textures manages to obtain an excellent result for a previs.
Both planets are surrounded by an atmosphere, created with Volume on maya.
Working on this project was very useful and interesting. We worked as a team trying to reach the established goals, even if we had some problems along the way.