I wanted the final look to be something like old footage, perhaps from a handy cam that someone possibly found somewhere. So I wanted that amateur hand-held feel to the camera work. I asked my sister to stand in for the elf and took my digital camera and made a video of the camera move I wanted, and then imported the footage into Maya and used Maya Live to track the shot. I then cleaned it up and applied the tracked animation to the camera.
Once I had the camera move locked, I started animating the elf to the camera, acting it out and using myself as reference. I'm by no means a great animator so I apologize to professional animators out there for my shabby work. Here's one of the rough early animation tests (Fig.12 - click for movie).
After a couple of tests and revisions I did some quick polishing of the animation curves and moved onto rendering.
Fig. 12 - Click to Download Movie
Rendering & Compositing
I split up the renders into different passes: Beauty, Depth, Hair, Occlusion and Background. The background was made from a series of photos I took at a nature reserve here in Trinidad and stitched together. I then projected it onto a cylinder behind the elf and rendered it out as a separate pass to be composited in.
I brought these into XSI's built in compositor to put together the final composite of the elf. Here's my render tree (Fig.13).
Once I had that done I took it into After Effects for some post effects, such as lens flares, scratches, flickers and dust on the footage, as well as some more camera shake and blur effects and some final colour correction. The background was also composited in After Effects.
Here's the final composited image that I created for print (Fig.14).
You can check out the final footage of the elf on my 2008 Demoreel or on my website: http://www.thechindian.com
I hope this tutorial has been helpful and not too boring for you. I am currently working as a freelance character artist - my contact details are on my site. Thanks for taking the time to view my tutorial and thanks to 3DTotal.com for the great opportunity!