Improved Dantooine Backgrounds, continued

Sarah finally finished Yane's peasant costume! YAY!!! Now all we need is the skirt for Yane's Royal Palace costume and we'll be ready to get Jen over here to shoot her footage! I can't wait!

On the CG side, I finished improving all of our Dantooine backgrounds. As mentioned previously, I replaced as many of our CG background buildings with high-resolution digital pictures of Matmata, Tunisia, which is the actual location where George Lucas shot the Tatooine scenes for "Star Wars."

Speaking of which, even though our script places these scenes on Dantooine (which we did deliberately so that it would tie into "Star Wars" when they mention that the Rebel Alliance had a base on Dantooine), we decided to make it look like Tatooine. Now that we're using Matmata for our backgrounds, I'm strongly considering changing our script and relocating everything that happens on Dantooine onto Tatooine instead. It just makes more sense, but I'll have to review our script to make sure this change won't cause any problems.

Anyway, here's a before-and-after comparison of Scene I510a, which shows Yane walking down Garm St. on Dantooine:

The 1st picture shows our old animatic with Katinka walking down our CG model of Garm St.
The 2nd picture shows our new-and-improved animatic with our Yane stand-in walking down our more-realistic-looking Garm St. Of course, the final shot will include background extras and perhaps more set dressing.

By the way, the 2nd picture (above) is my 2nd version of the new-and-improved shot. Here's the 1st version that I ended up discarding:

I like this one too, but the 2nd version (the one we'll probably end up using), makes Garm St. look bigger and more spacious to me. But maybe that's just me. If anyone thinks the 1st version looks better, let me know and maybe we'll use that one.

Here's a before-and-after comparison of Scene I541 when Yane leaves Bibble's Bar:

In the 1st picture, the Stormtrooper is a "size reference" stand-in for Yane, and the background is completely devoid of any detailing (buildings, moisture vaporators, etc.).

In the 2nd picture, I left out the Yane "size reference" so that you can see all the new details: background buildings, landspeeder, R5 droid, and even a couple Nuna walking around!

Of course, I always go through a couple versions before settling on the final one that I think looks best. Here's an example of a version that didn't make it:

This is exactly the same as the final version, shown above, except it's missing the R5 droid. It seems like a simple change, but the scene seems to lose its "life" without a droid. Somehow R5 gives the scene more life -- at least that's how it feels to me.

Here's the final before-and-after comparison. This one shows Scene I542 when Yane runs around the corner (on the right) and spots the Stormtroopers escorting Ryke from the Med Center:

WAAAYYYY better, right? I even re-texture-mapped the foreground wall (on the right) to match the appearance of the buildings in the background. Of course, this isn't final -- I still have to add color correction so that all of the backgrounds match, plus add live extras and other details. But at least it's a huge improvement over our previous animatic!



Improved Dantooine Backgrounds

I've been re-evaluating many of our digital sets, looking for areas of improvement. One huge breakthrough I had a few months ago was the use of matte paintings instead of 3D models in the background. Not only do they look better, but they also result in smaller file sizes and faster rendering times.

Here's the most recent improvement, Scene I510b when the Imperial Sympathizer spots Yane on Dantooine:

Much better, right? The new-and-improved version still isn't done -- I'm going to improve texture maps, lighting, color-correction, etc. But even this rough version gives you an idea how much better the new background looks.

I'll continue improving backgrounds on other digital sets, so stay tuned!



Improved Fire and Smoke, Part 3

I replaced the old CG fire and CG smoke with composited fire and smoke. Here are before-and-after comparisons of Scene H328, which is after the Stormtroopers have massacred the Carinda family (represented by the CG Stormtrooper stand-ins lying on the ground on the bottom-left):

And here's a close-up comparison (Scene H329):

You can't really tell in these pictures, but I also added a flickering light to the doors and windows that are "on fire." This helps blend the 2 different layers and makes them look like the flames from the composited fire are illuminating the CG model.



Jedi Starfighter Cockpit, Improved Fire and Smoke, Part 2

Brad's hard at work designing and building the Jedi Starfighter cockpit set. It will be our first (and perhaps only) real set in the entire movie -- everything else is a digital/CG set. I can't wait to see it, and I'm especially excited to see our final footage on this set. It will DEFINITELY elevate the realism of our movie.

On the CG side, I stumbled across some stock footage of real fire. Brad did a great job creating CG fire and CG smoke, but our goal is to create the best looking movie possible. So... I composited the fire elements onto a background plate of the Carinda homestead to see how it would look. Here's a side-by-side comparison:

The picture on the left shows Brad's CG fire and CG smoke.
The picture on the right shows composited fire and smoke.

It's a tough decision because I know Brad spent a ton of time figuring out CG fire and smoke. But, as mentioned earlier, our goal is to create the best looking movie possible, even if that means tossing hours and hours of hard work. I know the feeling -- we've discarded hundreds of hours of my work in favor of better-looking images. It's tough to see that much hard work go to waste, but ultimately it's worth it when our movie looks one step closer to a real "Star Wars" movie.