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  • This boxright hereit holds one of the unsung heroes of Hollywood production,

  • the tool that makes War Machine suit look like it's actually there. It's a method that

  • started with a teapot and became ubiquitous. It's an essential part of a VFX film set,

  • but it's not a camera or a green screen. You have to search hard to see it in behind the

  • scenes videos. But this is not just a gazing ball that I bought for twenty dollars and

  • ninety nine cents. It's a key to making virtual objects look real.

  • In this scene, I was behind one of the pillars. My name's Leo Bovell, I'm a VFX supervisor

  • at Triptyc, been in the industry now for over 17, 17 years. So I've been at it quite a while.

  • In this scene, basically, Abraham, the statue and everything, we basically had to replace

  • it.

  • Obviously. Cut for them is like action for you in this situation. And you're like, I

  • have to scramble to get as many references as possible. Right between takes I get in

  • and I do as much as I can and then I get out of there. There are times where you can't

  • get in between takes because the creatives, they're in such a groove, they just got to

  • keep going.

  • One of the big problems VFX artists face in The Handmaid's Tale, Marvel movies, everything

  • is matching fake stuff to real light. And Leo scrambled in the real Lincoln Memorial

  • during the shoot because that information was crucial to create a realistic looking

  • Lincoln Memorial from scratch. As you can see in this BTS from Mavericks VFX. He used

  • an HDRI to figure out how to make it look so real.

  • A high dynamic range image. You might have an HDR option on your phone. It helps photos

  • to look less blown out in really bright spots. An HDRI captures data in a high dynamic range.

  • A normal photo might look like this.

  • You can't see anything, any detail or data near the sun or any trees in the shadows.

  • Using high dynamic range fixes that by meshing different exposures, different pictures of

  • a scene to let you see all the detail. Shadowy mush turns into visible trees and the sun

  • becomes clear again. Computer software can take that HDRI and use all that data to figure

  • out how light works in a scene. Make that a 360 degree panorama and you have enough

  • data to simulate the light in a mini world. Now you can add an object to that world and

  • it will look like the real light is hitting it with all the right highlights, shadows,

  • and reflections. HDRI is either use to light the object or is a reference for VFX artists

  • when they light it on their own, using manually added lights, making a bunch of tweaks and

  • adjustments. How does that HDR help you when you're actually off of this crazy shoot day

  • and you have to make something from it?

  • If we've captured the light on that day and then we take that light, we put it into the

  • computer, we get immediate feedback without trying to guess. The HDR really helps at the

  • stage where we are realistically applying shaders and materials to emulate the marble.

  • Getting an accurate HDRI really quickly is what causes all that scrambling on shoot days.

  • The first HDRIs actually used stuff like this: gazing balls, Christmas ornaments, anything

  • that was round and shiny and could help them get a panorama. The idea is that the picture

  • of the gazing ball gets unwrapped into a 360 degree picture when you put it in the right

  • software. I'm going to start taking some photos and that's going to help us capture all the

  • light in the scene and get it in this panorama. This reflective ball is one of three main

  • ways that people do it. Sometimes people will rotate their camera or use a lens that's really

  • wide. VFX supervisors like Leo might also use a 360 degree camera to snag these images

  • really quickly because they're in the middle of a hectic situation.

  • I use the Theta. It's a 360 camera and it's very small. So it's not intrusive. With the

  • Theta, usually it's a couple of seconds if you're doing a chrome ball. So you have to

  • set up a tripod, you have to put the ball down. That's a couple of minutes. This is

  • where the Theta makes all the difference in the world because it's such a tiny device

  • and you just plop it down and you get in and get out. When I'm just shooting bracketed

  • with the eight millimeter lens, probably a minute. Right between takes I get in and I

  • do as much as I can and then I get out of there. HDR is so mainstream now that I can

  • plop it into editing software and make an HDR photo.

  • I took some video without the chrome ball in it, so I put my 3D image in there. You

  • see, without the light, it looks fake. Add the HDRI though, and boom, suddenly it's like

  • it's there. Do you see the reflection of the trees or how the sun is glinting off of it?

  • Using a real environment to light a 3-D object started with work like this teapot. See the

  • windows reflecting in it? In the 90s, researcher Paul Debevec and colleagues pioneered the

  • creation of HDRIs from multiple images and then using those to light 3D scenes. Without

  • them, back in the late 90s, it was a lot harder. As his paper says, currently available techniques

  • for realistically rendering synthetic objects into scenes are labor intensive and not always

  • successful. They had to position lights, copy reference photos and program in reflections.

  • People still have to do some of that. But you can also let HDRI light objects in your

  • scene. Today, repositories of HDRIs let you download images and simulate thousands of

  • environments, like an old room or outside a small cathedral. This lighting often still

  • comes from a ball like this one, but VFX artists don't use that extra time just to chill out.

  • They used to work harder.

  • As a person who's thinking about light like exponentially more than the normal person,

  • would you rather hang out with Rembrandt or Newton?

  • Maybe Rembrandt, but ultimately, if I if I threw another name in there, it would be Degas.

  • Why Degas? Because he was just obsessive about his artwork, him constantly chasing perfection

  • is something that I think drives a lot of artists and also intrigues me at the same

  • time.

  • It is a national monument slash park. Because of that, we couldn't limit the public from

  • entering the space. It was an insane day. I mean, you had fans who showed up on the

  • day. You had some people who thought it was a protest. So they showed up. Again, they

  • couldn't close the set, so people start to actually sneak in to some of the shots and

  • pose, because on the day we had about roughly one hundred and fifty actors. So you had a

  • couple of fans started to sneak in. But obviously their their outfits, their garments, something

  • just looked off. So sometimes some of them actually got into the shoot and it was like,

  • wait a minute, something's off here. Let's get you out of here.

This boxright hereit holds one of the unsung heroes of Hollywood production,

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B1 Vox ball scene theta leo shoot

Why visual effects artists love this shiny ball

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/22
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