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Forums Adobe After Effects "Film quality" softness/lighting for CG animation?

  • "Film quality" softness/lighting for CG animation?

  • Tim Vining

    April 6, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    I’m trying to find tutorials/training on how to give CG animation a more film-like quality. I’ve seen some tuts on making video look more like film, but I was wondering if there are any for CG animation in particular. Does anybody know of good tutorials or training for this?

  • Terry Coolidge

    April 6, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    While there may be tutorials out there that go into greater detail, it seems to me there are some basic ways to make CG animation look more like film:

    • 24 frames/second

    • motion blur

    • depth of field blurring

    • film grain

    Any one of these techniques will help CG footage look less computer generated. Using all of them will push the look even further.

  • Michael Szalapski

    April 6, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    I see some very subtle use of blurs/blending modes or glow effects. That is, dupe the layer, knock the exposure down for the bottom layer a bit, blur the top layer and set it to add or screen (in a 32-bit color space, of course) and knock it’s opacity down. Or use something like Optical Glow from Red Giant or Deep Glow from aescripts + aeplugins or…whatever Sapphire’s glow is called from BorixFX – again, this would be after knocking the exposure back a bit and then lowering the power of the effect.

    Personally, I use Magic Bullet Looks from Red Giant for a lot of stuff like this. You can emulate film stock, add subtle diffusion, add grain, and all kinds of handy things like that all in one GPU-accelerated effect. Most of it is stuff you could do with AE’s native tools, but it’s soooo much quicker to get to where I want to go with Looks.

    Whatever way you’re doing it, you may need multiple versions of it. That is, use a couple of different diffusions at varying radii to really get it. Looking at your example, there looks to be a very subtle diffusion at a high radius and a somewhat more obvious (but still rather subtle) diffusion with a smaller radius.

    There’s also work on the “shoulder” and “knee”. That is, nothing is pure black or pure white. Better to get this right in your 3d render (because you can’t really pull detail out of nothing), but you can enhance it even more with color grading.

  • Michael Szalapski

    April 6, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    Note, some of this can also be done in compositing later. That is, the characters and bg might be rendered seperatly and then you can do a light wrap in post to really help get that light to bloom around the edge of something.

    I use Red Giant’s Supercomp for this – it also has a bunch of other handy tools for compositing in AE. You can do light wrap with native tools, but (again), it’s just a bit more tedious and precompy; I prefer the faster, more flexible way since time is money in this biz.

  • Tim Vining

    April 6, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks, Terry and Michael! This is very helpful. Also, I use C4D, so Red Giant might be the way to go for effects.

  • Walter Soyka

    April 6, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    Lighting! One common feature in all the shots you posted above is some kind of backlight (also known as a rim light or a kicker). If you’re not familiar with film-style / 3-point lighting, I’d suggest starting there. It’ll give you a lot more to work with once you move into the grading and optics effects mentioned above.

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