Grain Management 101

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Most compositors know that the first thing they should do to a shot is de-grain it.  They also know that they have to add back grain at the end before delivery.  A shot delivered without grain is unacceptable work.  And it needs to match what was given.

As a result, there are a myriad of grain management tools out there.  In my experience however, they’re often used completely incorrectly.

A good VFX supervisor has a particular kind of check that they do.  It drives compositors crazy.  Especially the ones that don’t know how to handle grain well.

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Basic Color Science for Cinema

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If you like math and really want to the skinny on it, I give you:  Bruce Linbloom.  In particular, I’d recommend the section on XYZ to RGB to XYZ transformations.

If those really huge square brackets seem scary, it’s all too tempting to cast off the math and fall back on statements such as:

  • It looks digital.
  • It isn’t organic.
  • It’s too clean.
  • It feels dead.  Not alive, like film.
  • Those are candy colors.
  • It looks too much like video.

It’s extremely tempting to speak from behind the opaque veil of divine-artistic-intuition.  But it’s not good to hide from the truth.  If one tries to pierce the veil of divine-artistic-intuition, one is often labeled a heretic and their opinion is cast away by the bourgeois (gab gab gossip gossip gasp glare).  As such, many attempts at straightening the path and getting proper color-science into the mix, tend to fail.  If someone with enough creative credentials steps into the conversation and makes an observation of divine-artistic-intuition, they win (golf clap).  Data, math and science don’t override invalid conclusions in modern Hollywood.

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How to actually put VFX and animation into your film

The Visual Effects Society (of which I am a member) recently re-tweeted this article titled: “How to put VFX and animation into your film.”

Go ahead.  Read it.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.  Its’ wrong.  Wrong wrong wrong.  If you are a filmmaker, low-budget or otherwise, don’t even start thinking in the terms suggested by that article/post.

So why am I picking on some blogger?  Well firstly, Farhan has published a book and seems to feel authoritative on the subject.  Second, the VFX Society is retweeting it.  But we in the VFX industry are already under assault.  And it’s time we started taking this all more seriously.  That got me thinking.

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Separating Shading From Texturing

Texturing and modeling are now very much intertwined.  One only needs to look at zBrush or Mudbox to see the reality of high density asset generation.

The secret to good photo-real rendering is in the math and science of the shader and how it renders.

The problem, is that most of the time, the person you want doing the modeling, is not the person you want doing the shading.

It makes no sense to disqualify an extremely talented asset artist because he/she doesn’t understand the intricacies of color gamut mapping, or the proper definition of a bi-directional reflectance distribution function (BRDF).

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