Underwater Aquascape

  • 3D Animation, VFX
  • 1

Underwater Aquascape

The at the NCCA (MA Digital Effects) mandatory ‘Underwater Aquascape’ was my first project during my Master Studies at Bournemouth University and was to create a plausible, photo-real, atmospheric underwater scene. It was my first serious attempt at compositional work including a dry-to-wet conversion.

The purpose of this project was to familiarise ourselves with the new tools Houdini and Nuke as well as enhance our observation skills and perception of details. In order to succeed in this project it was key to study real-world references and observe the effect light creates under water and the resultant behaviour of light and colour, such as refraction, crinkle patterns, cathedral lights, diffusion and loss of colour and intensity.

Dry-to-wet conversion using colour-correction techniques, combined with masking, keying and effects in Nuke, and integration of acquisition and 3D incense burner.

The first part of this project consisted in deciding on an artefact (here: incense burner, 3D model) and a corresponding background (Here: interior of Christchurch Priory, still image) which would create an appealing scenery with interesting interactions. Houdini served to model and texture both artefact and dummy geometry (pillars, arches). Displacement maps as well as color and spec maps etc were created using Photoshop. No dynamics were applied for the animation in order to get our heads around keyframe animation in Houdini. I tried to simulate a convincing water current to get more interesting light and object interactions with the surrounding.
Nuke was used to combine 3D aspects with the shot backplate and acquisition footage (filmed dust elements, bubbles) so as to create a convincing underwater composition. Important steps included colour matching, grading and the creation of light wraps and god rays (way less render intensive than lit fog in Houdini with similar results) among other things.

Finding the right balance between maximising render quality and minimising render time is always an issue if you don’t have access to a render farm. Missing render power forced us to search for creative solutions (e.g. use of god rays (Nuke) and iso-offset (Houdini) instead of render-intensive lit fog) and to experiment with render settings.

Soundtrack of this project is Sæglópur by Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
The full breakdown can be found in the second part of the video above.

Master | 1.term | 2012
Houdini | Side Effects
Nuke | Foundry
Photoshop | Adobe