Art Spotlight: Marcus Grimm "Wild"

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About

I’m Gasta, motion director and designer currently based in London, in love with design and deeply scared of perfection and its friend procrastination.

I’m trying to push my personal boundaries, progressing through repetition in the endless journey of trying to make something better.

You can see my work on my website.

My main tools are Cinema 4D and After Effects. With just YouTube and personal failures as perfect teachers, I’m completely self taught. I started working in this industry 15 years ago, with Final Cut and Avid. I slowly progressed to learning After Effects. And then I managed to add Cinema 4D to my pocket. I’m always trying to learn new software and new tools. Or, generally speaking, designing is a never ending process.

The Project

I was approached by Allo, a very good friend and the owner of the record label La Valigetta, with this song by a young composer, Marcus Grimm; it is a lovely classical-pop tune that completely blew me away. Allo asked me if I was interested in creating a music promo for it, leaving me, as usual, free rein over the creative process.

I had, unfortunately, a limited amount of time to invest on the project. And,of course, the absolute zero budget mark wasn’t helping.

But still, the song was great and I started to wonder, what can I do? The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to create something fantastic, an ode to the nature and its wilderness.

I explored some style frames, but I wasn’t too happy with them.

Integrating Models from Sketchfab

That’s when Sketchfab came to the rescue.

I browsed the huge library of free models and new images blew into my mind.

Just one of several Creative Commons licensed models and scans from the generous community on Sketchfab used by Gasta. For a full-list, visit his website.

I downloaded a couple of models, converted the textures to work in Arnold, lit the scene, rendered it and it looked amazing. I didn’t change or retopologize the models from Sketchfab at all. I didn’t have to apply any deformations, because they were perfect as they came.

The next step was to build up a story, even a small one. I tried to show the spirit of nature flowing from everywhere, so powerful that it was able to make unexpected realities bloom in beautiful environments.

I simply used a main sphere, carefully keyframed it and applied a standard emitter with some turbulence on it. This emitted light and in Arnold it was easy to set this up as part of the global illumination. The glow was applied then in compositing in After Effects.

I downloaded a bunch more free models, then. And from that, I rendered some playblasts, working the cameras and the cuts. When I was (fairly) happy with that, I moved on to the look of each shot. I wanted the forest and nature to be a bit eerie but, in a way, also comforting and reassuring. I used two main light tones for the lights and applied some volumetric atmosphere to them to add more depth to the scene.

Rendering

Quite quickly I had to move to render the first shot: with Arnold, the render engine I used, and an old Mac Pro from 2013, I had to find the best compromise between render quality and render time. I tried to set a mark at around 8 minutes per frame. Arnold is a great render engine and ensures you can get flicker free GI, but my old Mac Pro definitely wasn’t helping. Overall, the plan was to render around 4500 frames overnight. This meant roughly 30 days of continuous render.

Of course there were errors and mistakes. The amount of time I invested in the overnight renders was huge. Eventually, one shot at the time, I managed to have the whole video rendered. I just had to do a bit of compositing in After Effects, trying to match the colours of each shot, render again, and deliver.

Conclusion

Overall, this is been a technically challenging project, due to the size of the renders and the look I wanted to achieve. It’s incredible how well Cinema 4D managed to run smoothly with millions of polygons even on a 2013 Mac Pro. Arnold did also a great job with its flicker free GI. Thinking about the process, I have to say that most of the hard work was done by the Sketchfab community members who created hundreds of incredible models. I would say that I really acted as a art director, arranging the environments, lighting them up and creating 3D camera moves in them.

This sparked my interest in photogrammetry and I will definitely try to be an active member of Sketchfab in the future months.

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About the author

Gasta

Gasta is a motion director and designer


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