Lighting Club #07 – Terra Nova

Hullo everybody !

As you know we talked in a previous Lighting Club article about Hybrids (>, the student VES award 2017, and I wanted to talk about the 2018 student VES award as well. We probably already heard about it : Terra Nova.

Terra Nova is a short created by four students from Artfx (Visual effect french school) : Melanie Geley, Thomas Battistetti, Mickael Le Mezo and Guillaume Hoarau. The challenge were huge and the mood are really cool. Photoreal lighting, DMP, full cgi shots and integration.. lot of stuff to talk about you know right.. I had the chance to chat with the team about everything, here we are 🙂

But before, feel free to enjoy the short :

Hello Terra Nova Team ! Thanks for answering our questions, could you talk a bit about you please ?

Hello Amaury ! Thank you for having us. We are the Terra Nova team, we all come from France and we are  currently all working in the industry, after being graduated from ArtFx in June 2018. Melanie is currently working at Framestore London as a Concept Artist and DMP, Mickael at Double Negative London as an Environment Generalist TD, Guillaume at MPC London as a FX TD and Thomas at MPC Montreal as an Environment TD.

Terra Nova is an ambitious student short, could you present it to us ?

Terra Nova tells the true story about an expedition Captain Robert Falcon Scott led in 1910, in order to be the first man to set foot on the geographic South Pole.

Terra Nova Team at the VES ceremony

You just come back from Los Angeles where takes place the VES. You won the best student short award there (congrats !). How do you feel ? Why did you won according to you ? Tell us more about this awesome experience.

  • Thank you ! We didn’t fully realized it until we were at the ceremony in LA. We were really excited, it was a big moment for the 4 of us.
  • It still feels like it was a dream, time went so fast ! We had such a wonderful time in LA even if it was rainy!
  • Why did we win.. That’s a really good question ! I think it may be because our film was a live action one. Working with a lot of different sources helped us. We created all the FXs and CG elements to go along with the a story. We didn’t want to do some FXs only to create FXs. We tried to create elements that people couldn’t see.

What were the main challenges on this short and why ?

I think the challenge was to tell this true story in a short format while keeping our artistic direction evolving with the story and trying to make it as much as possible photorealistic with the short amount of resources and time we had to make it.

In terms of lighting/compositing, I believe that Artfx students work with Maya/Arnold/Nuke. Did you proceed as usual or used a specific workflow for Terra Nova ?

For Terra Nova we mainly proceeded as usual with a classic workflow but because we had some shots with a lot of polygons, instances and FX we had to make some of them fully in Houdini (except for the compositing) to be able to iterate quickly and also render them due to the amount of data generated. Maya/Arnold/Nuke or Houdini/Mantra-Arnold/Nuke.

How did you proceed for boat shots ? Did you go to antarctica or an old port to create some HDRI ?

  • We wish we could have go to Antarctica ! We used HDRI’s we found on the internet.
  • We used sky HDRI that we sometimes modified. We also used some HDRI with oceans. We created some of them too.
  • Then we erased the lightsource to have more control in CG with a distant/directional light

A lot of shot looks like a paint, did you made some colors script/concept art to establish the lighting in pre-production ? What were the part of creativity and the part of matching the reality ?

Indeed, Melanie did many color scripts and concept arts during the pre-production phase of the movie. So, one of the challenges was to make the shots realistic while matching as much as possible the concept art. They were our directive line during all the post production.

How did you split the shots ? And the tasks for each shots between lighting and compositing ? Did you proceed with keylight rigg, parents shots and child shot or shot by shot ?

  • We generally splitted the shots according to our main skill. Thomas usually composited the shots, but in some instance Mickael and Melanie did it. For each sequence we had a Keyshot. Once done, it was easier to replicate the mood on the other shots.
  • Each of us needed to have interesting shots for our showreels, we split the challenging and visually interesting shots between us. Then it was according on our personal skill set and what shot we liked.
  • So at the end we have all lighted some key shots.

Could you talk about the look dev ? Environment, FX, assets… Did you work in the same workflow for all of this ?

  • In term of look dev, we tried to keep the same workflow as much as we could, using maya/arnold, but we sometime had to do it on Houdini/Mantra.
  • Fx have been done in Houdini, except for one or two things done in maya/marvelous designer. For example for the icebreaker shot or the underwater one, the shading, lookdev, lighting and rendering have been done in Houdini, because it was more flexible to keep everything in the same package.
  • Environment were done in maya/arnold houdini/mantra

After a VES, could the Lighting Club wish you something more ?

Maybe being able to direct another project in the future.

Thank you for your time, congrats again for this VES, and welcome in the Lighting Club ! Anything to add ?

Love on you Amaury !


Now you know more about Terra Nova, the team and the challenge, you can watch the nice making of they did to explain a bit more about the different process 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this new interview, feel free to share it ! The next article promised to be really cool as well, keep posted 😉




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