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Drimagine birds from Light suspended on Vimeo.
This is an animation made for Drimagine contest. It had very tight deadline and a scene setup in mental ray had to be quite cheap.
Model of a bird was modelled in Maya and sculpted in Mudbox for vector displacement and normal map. Color textures were developed also in Mudbox using few bird photos and projection brush, later imported to Photoshop for tweaks and broken to diffuse and sss map with different kind of additional noise.
I spend a little more time on specular setup because I just couldn't decide about the final 'wetness' of a birds. Maps for specularity were made with my color textures and some additional feather texture on top. That made them really slimmy and created desired contrast of general atmosphere and creatures.
I used mia_material_x (specularity) combined with misss_fast_simple (color) for bird look.
I wanted to created foggy atmosphere with volume lights and mental ray volume shaders, but render time was to large for this project. After several tests I set three spot lights and a volume box with fog, which gave whole scene some ambient light and distant fog look, because its not lighten in mental ray. What I mean is that all not-lighten-objects have flat fog color instead of being black in darkness. As I mentioned three standard spot lightes were used, key light, very weak fill light and some stronger "ray" light with small cone radius, giving some harder shadows and distinguish some places in scene (like contouring back of one bird and heavily lighting head of the other). I used no global illumination whatsoever so rendering single frame with production quality to HD720 took 3-4 minutes top.
Background, moving mists and vignette effects were later added in compositing.