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Making Of 'Play'

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Date Added: 29th December 2009
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I tend to get a bit carried away with the pre-compositing at this stage, testing what can be made of the early render adjusting curves, color balance etc. It's a good way to see if you're going in the right direction with the image, but can easily double the work if you get too carried away with a low res image. Although adjustment layers are easily copied, save the masking etc. for the high-res images to save time.
Now a few people have asked me about the fur. Because the fur of bears is pretty matte, I turned down the specular and glossiness values really low and also tweaked the Frizz and Kink parameters to get a tousled effect. The Occluded Ambient value had to be cranked up as it gave a softer feel to the hair (Fig.05a & Fig.05b).

Fig. 05a                               Fig. 05b

All the bear parts had their individual Hair & Fur modifiers. The look of the fur doesn't come from one render only, but a good base is a must so you can start building upon it. Now the initial render looks a bit bland doesn't it? It was good enough for the hair base, but the overall image definitely needed a bit of tweaking. This is where render passes and compositing came in (Fig.06).


To make the hair more believable, an ambient pass is a must. Mind you, an ambient occlusion pass works wonders on almost any image. For hair you have two ways to create the pass: either with VRay or mental ray. In VRay you turn all the specular and glossiness values, as well as hue and value variations, off. You keep the occluded Ambient value to around 80-100 and set the root and tip color to white.

Alternatively you can set the root color to from middle grey to black depending on the effect you want. I also made a pass with mental ray by putting an Ambient Occlusion material in the mr Parameters slot. The results differ a lot. VRay gives a softer feeling whereas mental ray really separates the strands of hair and both are very useful when compositing (Fig.07).


Like I said before the separate shadow pass was something that really added to the image mood. I multiplied it underneath the bear and over the floor and the wall. Here are the passes that I feel were the most useful in creating the mood in the image (Fig.08).


The volume light pass, which I created in Photoshop, was a last minute addition as a result of critique. Here's a list of passes that were separately rendered:

  • Masks for everything
  • Base for the fur and environment

  • Cloth patches on the feet to mask overlapping hair
  • Eyes, so I could dig them out from underneath the fur
  • Ambients for the fur and the ladybug
  • A B&W worn mask of the skirting board composited with a low value of multiply
  • Some reflection on the floor (barely visible)
  • A shadow pass for the lighting
  • The ladybug toy (composited with the ambient to blend in the image)

For the image as a whole I began by applying adjustment layers of Levels, Color Balance and Brightness/Contrast. I had a mask for the fur so it was easy to tweak it separately. I composited the ambients in Photoshop with low values of around 15%, with multiply and even Hard Light duplicating the passes and I experimented until I was happy with the outcome.

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