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Environment Design - Lesson 4

"A Shrine in a Cave, devoted to a Bee Goddess, guarded and worshipped by a young Keeper.
Many Candles lit the space, merging with the Cave's Rock Formations, piled up through the years, as offerings and appreciation.
A Shrine from a culture that subsists mainly from the product of bee hives, a culture which has found balance with nature.
Here the Keeper prays and preserves the candles lit for the fire of this balance not to be extinguished."

The idea for this project started from the similarities of form between old candles and cave rock formations, which did set my ambience.
To complete the brief I decided to add a shrine and a character who would keep and worship that shrine.
In order to link all the elements, since I wanted to place a large amount of candles which would merge with the form of the cave as if gradually placed and added through many years, I decided to devote that shrine to a "bee goddess", as it's common practice to make candles out of beeswax.
Only then I've decided to add an oriental style to the piece, which I thought would strenghten the religious-nature relationship of the setting.

Homework: Assignment

Rendering - Process and Conclusions

I've been learning 3D for about two years now. I've reached the point where I'm comfortable with it to express my ideas, but I find the results either too dull or too time consuming while avoiding post editing apart from lighting corrections and color grading. This course was on point, clearly and objectively explaining how to properly mask, photobash and avoid 3D renders dullness.

I did some practice on the previous lesson's exercises, but soon found my main struggle is painting expressiveness and brush control.
Altough I tried it before and am aware of various techniques for different styles, I never practiced enough to get to a point where digital painting feels natural to me.

I then moved to Lesson 4 as I felt the 3D base would give me a good starting point to experiment, as well as being more suited for my current needs.
My main focus and objective was to get the render expressive through photobashing and painting.

I did my usual workflow for the 3D renderings using and rendering in Blender, then grading the different passes.
I did leave some wrong settings on purpose like bump too strong and low volumetric samples, as exercises, in order to try to fix those through painting and photobashing.

I decided to make several shots to better convey storytelling, practice different and more approaches to then try to bring them back to a similar expression.
I've started with very tight painting and photobashing, and then forced myself to become more expressive as I advanced.

Image 1 was the angle I did setup the scene from and my main shot, which I actually did paint last, as I used the other shots to practice first.
I've started by images 3 and 5 where 3 was too blurry and lacked detail, and 5 too sharp and too tightly painted.
For images 2 and 4 I did some experiments with layer styles and blending modes on layers with expressive paint and mixer brush marks and colorful photos.
Then I mixed all the techniques for Image 1. I've then made some adjustments and changes to all the images to try to bring closer together.

In the end I think I was able to bring expressiveness to the images, but looking back into Gaƫlle's tutorials and final images, I'm aware that the final result was initially conditioned by overusing mixer brushes, which ended in a painterly look, losing most of it's photographic quality, also suffering losses on readability and definition.

I ended up taking a somewhat different path than suggested by this lesson and course, trying to find and adapting solutions to my current skills.

So, here's a little list of personal things to correct and next objectives:
- Practice painting styles starting from photos, renders and photobashed images on different levels ranging from painterly to photographic-render quality.
- Focus on more direct painting approaches, mixing more brushes, while also recurring to masking and being less dependent on the mixer brush.
- Balancing brush expression to photographic quality
- Be more mindful with brushmarks and edges
- More effort on detailing and readability
- Gather better lighting and camera effects reference and keep it more present during workflow
- Try to stick closer to lesson's objectives and practice with random briefs
- Be more linear and speed up
- Practice, practice, practice...

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