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Making of 'Mules Gold'

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Date Added: 22nd June 2009
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Final Environment Lighting: (Fig.14

Here is the final render for the environment and props. If you look closely you should be able to see all of the above lights' influence and how they each individually contribute to the overall look and feel of the saloon.

Fig. 14

Environment Lighting with Posed Characters: (Fig.15)

Once we had lit and created the environment the next step was to import the characters and pose them up as we had originally intended. We wanted the poses themselves to reflect the characters' personalities and the differences between the cool laid back nature of Smokey Joe and the Quick tempered, impatience of The Rattler. As you can also see from the render, once we placed the characters in the scene we felt that they weren't really standing out as much as we wanted, and as they were the real focus of the image the lighting on them needed to reflect this.

Fig. 15

Hero Lights - Character Only Lighting: (Fig.16)

On closer inspection of the render we felt that, whilst the figure on the left was receiving a really nice rim light from the window, our character on the right was way too flatly lit and really needed picking out from the background. In lighting, as with painting and photography, it's all about getting the audience to look where you want them to look; to have them focus on the important things and not let their attention be drawn to background elements and set dressing.

To achieve this we created a separate lighting rig to affect the characters only, which included both a new key and rim light for the character on the right. A small fill light to help illuminate the cards as well as an old fashioned Hollywood fill light on the villain's eyes to make him look more intense. We also added another global rim/fill light to them both, the table and the props that were on it.

Fig. 16

Final Render: (Fig.17)

Below is the final render from Maya. Whilst in a sequence of frames we would divide things into render layers to make things easier and more manageable; because we were working on just one shot it was easier to have it all in camera. As you can see, the additional lights really helped bring the characters away from the background and focus the viewer's attention on the two of them and their card game.

Fig. 17

Render Passes & Compositing: (Fig.18 - 20)

Whilst we did keep both the characters and the environment in the same render layer, we also rendered out a depth of field pass and a smoke and effects pass. These were both composited in Photoshop along with another layer, including a vignette to add that aged photograph/distressed film look. As we have mentioned before, we wanted the salon to have a real atmosphere and all of these helped greatly in achieving that style.

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

Fig. 20

Final Render Composite & Colour Adjustment: (Fig. 21)

Once we had all of the layers in place the only thing remaining was a slight adjustment of the levels and a shift in the hue and saturation. Whilst from the beginning this was always imagined as a black and white piece, as we felt a shift to sepia would be too stereotypical, at the very end a slight amount of colour we thought helped really tie it together as an image.

Fig. 21 - Final Image

We hope you've found this article useful and that it has given you an insight into the process we went through to achieve the teaser poster for our short film, "Mules Gold". Please check out our blog at and follow the links to both our personal websites to see other projects we have collaborated on, both personally and professionally.

Catch you down the trail!

Lee & Neil

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