Hullo everybody !
I know all of you were waiting for it, here we are, the Lighting Club #03 is online !
This month I had the opportunity to talk with my friends from Hybrids team, they will explain us a bit more about their lighting and compositing processes 🙂
Hybrids Short in the Lighting Club !
‘‘ When marine wildlife suffer the pollution surrounding it, the rules of survival change. ’’
I am sure you already heard about this short called Hybrids ! This is an eco-responsible full CG short film directed in 2017 by 5 French 3D artists during their studies at MoPA, animation school in France. They created an awesome world and gave life to incredible creatures, surrounded by a world wide understandable ecologic and planet care message.
Indeed they won prestigious awards in the most prestigious festival such as the VES, Annecy Festival, ITFS (and many more…), but they also won the Best In Show Siggraph award and the Best Anima’t award at Sitges Festival, which are both Oscars Qualifying Awards. Then they decided to start a USA trip around the biggest studio of the world to show Hybrids. Pixar, Google, Disney, Blur, Dreamworks, Laika, Blizzard (and more) were glad to receive our frenchies in their studios and discovered their incredible work. I had the chance to talk with a part of the team at the Siggraph Talk in London and learn a lot about their process/workflow/ideas.
Hybrids Team with Joe Letteri (director of WETA Digital) at the VES
Strong artistic direction and incredible technical ways has been taken to co-directed this thriller/adventure short, and I get the opportunity to interview the lighting TD : Kim Tailhades.
Here is the short, enjoy it 🙂
Hello Kim ! How are you ? Thanks for answering our questions and share with us a bit of your incredible adventure around Hybrids ! First, how do you live all this experiences such as your world wide trip, festivals, encounters, awards..?
Hello Amaury, we are a bit jet lagged but really happy to answering your questions ! Indeed it was an incredible adventure ! We didn’t expect a simple graduation short could make so much noise and received so much awards. We get the opportunity to be invited in a few festivals, it was totally new for us and awesome to meet spectators, get their feedback and feelings about Hybrids. Each time it was a huge happiness to be selected or to get an award, each moment was intense. In October we made this crazy ‘‘USA studios trip’’, meeting the giants of the industry, we learned a lot during this trip, about studios operations, biggest and smallest studios, about artists roles in a studio or how they create a long or a short movie. We had been touched by the warm welcome, the simplicity and the kindness from all the studios.
In terms of lighting, we can see there are a lot of different moods, how did you proceed to not be lost with all this work to do ?
First, we established some moods we wanted in the short, thus I worked on concept art, environment, lighting direction and colors. I proposed ideas to the team and we discussed together about what could be relevant for each sequence. Even if we didn’t know every shots and every actions in the film yet, we knew what kind of render and lighting we wanted. Early, we already knew we wanted an evolutionary lighting as well, from realistic to something more theatrical. Then we decided what shots will be master/key shots, I focused my work on them and when we get the result we wanted we tried to apply these moods on all others child shots with the keyshots as reference. The most complicated was basically the transition scenes between each sequence, as for example the reveal scene in the ship’s graveyard.
Which renderer software did you used and why this one specifically ?
At the beginning we decided to render the short with Maya and Arnold. In terms of lighting and rendering it was the software which I was the most comfortable. The Maya render layer’s system and the possibility to work each passes easily (for example work on the reflection pass only if there is noise instead of re-render every passes) confirmed our choice. As we get a huge number of polygons in our Maya scene, Arnold was a good solution. The bridge between Arnold and Houdini with the .ASS files allows us to work easily and efficiently.
I heard during the SIGGRAPH talk in London you had many issues to render the ”underwater turtle money shot” with the fog/lights/depth of field/motion blur etc… Could you tell us more about this shot ? What was the challenges, issues, and solutions ?
Indeed, this shot had the longest render time. Everything has been calculated in CG, we get 3D motion blur, 3D depth of field, 3D fog, the lighting was not faked, each luminescent plankton visible was emitting light… And as we get a dark closed environment, the render time was around 4h by frame instead of 15min-1h30 for the others shots. We had to make some anisotropic tests as well, and few sample tests to know what was the most efficient and what was the best, artistically and technically speaking.
As we can see in your making of you took underwater references. Hybrids takes a photo-realistic artistic direction in term of lighting/lookdev and I guess it was a bit tricky to take HDRI underwater, thus, how did you proceed to create those awesome atmospheres ?
Funny fact is, make an underwater lighting is not really different as an outdoor lighting. Obviously we had to create underwater caustics with animated textures in our lightriggs, but apart from that, we had a simple HDRI with a gradient, a directional, and a few additional lights to get fill, rim etc… I worked a lot with the FX artist – Mathieu – to get this atmosphere. The smoke, plankton, particles.. help to create the right mood, and the compositing as well. We knew underwater the fog is really important, the chromatic aberration is visible enough, the water movement distort the lighting and the red color is not too much visible. Thus we had to work a lot with Romain, the digital compositor, to find a golden mean between credibility, underwater mood, and this desire we get to create theatrical/contrast images.
Even if there is an underwater fog, with this kind of environments and level of details I guess you had to be smart and optimize a lot. Could you talk about that ? What were your ideas in terms of optimization ? Could you let us know more about the compositing in your lighting process ?
The Arnold advantage is you can easily have a huge amount of polygons in your Maya scene without being affected by a huge render time. Thus, we could render really high definition characters. In terms of texturing, we created our map in .TX to optimized and as we get a lot of camera movements, sometimes with character near the camera and sometimes far away, we didn’t really have to take care about texture map size. About the render, I created a first pass lighting and launched a first low definition render, with low sample, just to see the lighting intention. When it was approved, I checked how to optimized each Maya scene. I talked we Romain about what we could do in compositing or not, which passes he will need and then I adapted my render. The render layer system of Maya allows to run separately smoke/plankton/character/set/fog/lights etc.. If needed I could isolate the issuing layer, fix it and re-run this passe only (for example of too noisy).
After all this awards, what the Lighting Club could wish you except the Oscar’s Nomination ?
Yeah it could be totally crazy ! No, to be honest, I guess we all would like to get the possibility to keep going on super projects, and enjoying our personal works as well. Personally I hope to evolve and learn a lot in studios, moreover keep a creative and artistic part in my work. This is the most important in my mind, to propose, bring idea, share, with the lighting. And why not, one day, being a director again !
Thanks again and welcome in the Lighting Club 😉 !
Thank you 🙂
They also made a cool making of !
A lot of work there… I hope you enjoyed this short as I enjoy it each time I watch it :). Feel free to share the article and see you soon for the lighting club #04 😀