Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pepe and Lucas - Color and Lighting 02

Time and budget are so often the vehicles of change. We had a little under a year to go from start to finish and remain within our goal budget as well as finish in time for the following year's animation festival entry requirements. As we entered the lighting/rendering stage we ended up re-examining the lighting. In my previous post, I uploaded the color keys from our original take on Pepe and Lucas. It was an almost noir take on lighting and color. Dark darks with highly saturated pools of light and all sorts of reflections from a recent rain. The unintended result was a huge render time for all of those reflections in a very expansive environment. We also had to put in a ton of unanticipated effort to control and push back/pull forward those lights so we could maintain the proper focal areas around our characters. Sometimes the results were a little noisy. Beautiful for some shots, but hectic for others. As our deadline grew closer, my director, Mo Davoudian, our lighting TD Mario Kim, and myself, got together to discuss how we could still make our deadline but still tell the same story we set out to do in the fall of 2011. We decided to move our lighting in a new direction that wouldn't bog us down at this crucial junction, and so I recreated the color keys I'd done earlier. You can see the results below.
We decided to go in a brighter direction. There were still shadows cast on the square from the adjacent buildings, but nothing disappeared into deep shadow anymore. We got rid of the rain puddles and toned down the lights, but maintained the dramatic magic hour lighting. While we had really liked the idea of pools of shadow and pools of light, another unintended result was a sometimes high contrast on the characters' faces which made them appear inadvertently severe.  With the new lighting direction, the overall result was that the tone became much more fun and comedic, which softened the extremes of the dramatic moments, but I think for the best. Now that a few years have passed, I can see how our original approach may have hit a few notes too dark and serious. With the brighter, more pleasant lighting, the comedy elements stepped forwards more and scifi elements like the clown gadgets and the mime imagination props felt appropriately ridiculous and whimsical. In our darker version, the "fun" was lost a little.
One of the unintended results of the change in lighting was a change in the weather and therefore the cloud formations. You can see in the matte paintings I posted, that I created them after we made the change. In my earliest environment designs, you can see that the clouds are very low and oppressive. The new sky was much more open with bigger, gentler clouds. I ended up spending a lot of time  creating stylized but still fairly realistic clouds that could hang lazily about. Just enough to break the flatness of a blue background sky.
While the darker take on the lighting gave the world a feeling that closely reflected the anger and frustrations of the clown and mime, I think the new color scheme worked equally as well as the clown singles himself out as a malcontent who cannot partake of the pleasant world around him.

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