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Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter
Illustration by John Hersey

Animating smoke using displacement


From:

Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter

with David Mattingly

Video: Animating smoke using displacement

So everything is looking good, but I still haven't dealt with the smoke coming up from the chimney. I'm going to find and turn on the Smoke layer, and let's zoom in on it. Let's scrub through the Timeline. I would like the smoke to start when it starts snowing. I'm going to open the Property panel for the Smoke layer and then press T to solo the opacity and set a 0% keyframe at about frame 160. Right around frame 200, I want the smoke to be 100%.

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Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter
1h 48m Intermediate Jul 03, 2012

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In this course, well-known author, teacher, and illustrator David Mattingly demonstrates his production-proven matte painting techniques and shows how to turn a summer daytime scene into a wintry nightscape using Photoshop and After Effects. David shows how to take a plate, or a still shot from a film, and alter key elements to change the season and time of day. Using advance digital matte painting methods, David removes all of the greenery from the mountains, fields, and trees, and covers them with snow. Then he replaces the sky, and adds realistic touches such as chimney smoke, icicles, and night-lit windows. In the final chapters, you'll discover how to create an animated scene that cross-dissolves between the two versions.

Topics include:
  • Making precise selections using the Color Range command
  • Controlling reference material through layer masks
  • Creating custom brushes
  • Painting snow, icicles, and trees
  • Painting through a high-contrast matte
  • Replacing the sky in an image
  • Animating smoke and falling snow
  • Reformatting and rendering a scene in After Effects
Subjects:
3D + Animation Illustration Video Digital Painting Compositing Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects Photoshop
Author:
David Mattingly

Animating smoke using displacement

So everything is looking good, but I still haven't dealt with the smoke coming up from the chimney. I'm going to find and turn on the Smoke layer, and let's zoom in on it. Let's scrub through the Timeline. I would like the smoke to start when it starts snowing. I'm going to open the Property panel for the Smoke layer and then press T to solo the opacity and set a 0% keyframe at about frame 160. Right around frame 200, I want the smoke to be 100%.

The smoke doesn't look very good there; it's too dark. But we're going to color correct it in After Effects. So go up to the top menu, Effect > Color Correction > Curves. With Curves open, I'm going to curve up the midtones so that it lightens the smoke considerably. The curve has added a lot of saturation to the smoke, so I'm going to go to Color Correction > Hue/Saturation and desaturate it so that it looks grayer. Now I'll scrub through and see how the smoke looks later on.

Now it looks too light. I need to keyframe both the Hue/Saturation property and the curve I just applied. I'm going to scrub to around frame 320 and then darken the smoke down. That looks about right. Then I can restore some of that saturation. I'd like a little bit of that blue color back. Then I'll scrub to frame 500, to where night has really fallen. And it looks like the smoke needs to be curved a little darker again. Maybe I'll pull down on the white point and scrub through.

Now the color balance on the smoke looks pretty good. However, the smoke still looks really lame, because it doesn't move. You might think that you'd have to use some video footage of smoke here, but I want to show you a technique using displacement maps that will make terrific- looking smoke without the overhead of video. To create the displacement map, I'm going to create a new solid, and I'm going to make it black, and on this black solid I'm going to go up to Effect > Noise & Grain > Fractal Noise.

That loads a fractal noise pattern over the black solid. Now we need to resize the fractal noise pattern so that it looks like the smoke in our picture. I think in this case the fractal noise is too large, so I'm going to go up to the Fractal Noise Control, open up Transform, and then scale the noise down. I want the particles of fractal noise to resemble the puffs of smoke coming out of the chimney. Somewhere around 40 works really well.

I need to animate the fractal noise. And the smoke is going to be rising, so I'm going to go to frame 1, scroll down on the black solid transform properties, then pull down on the black solid to move the fractal noise. Then zoom out so you can clearly see how much coverage there is. The gap at the top isn't a problem; you just need to make sure that the smoke is entirely covered. Now set a position keyframe for the black solid and then move to frame 500 and scoot the fractal noise pattern up in the frame.

The smoke doesn't appear until frame 150, so move that position keyframe to where it first appears. Then check the motion of the fractal noise. That's starting to look like the motion we need. I know that right about now you're probably thinking "wow, that doesn't look very much like smoke." Well, we haven't used it as a displacement map yet, and we need to do that. First, you can't use fractal noise as a displacement map directly; you have to pre-compose the layer.

So we're going to go up here to Layer > Pre-compose. We'll name the pre-composition SmokeDisplacement and be sure that Move all attributes into the new composition is checked. Turn on the new SmokeDisplacement pre-comp. And then just to stay organized in this project, move the smokeDisplacementmap over the smoke. With the Smoke layer selected, go up to Effect > Distort > Displacement Map, and for the displacement map, use SmokeDisplacement.

Now turn off the visibility of the SmokeDisplacement map and then zoom in on the smoke, so we can see it. And if you watch it closely, you can see there's a little bit of motion in the smoke, but not enough. We need to adjust the settings on it. Turn up Maximum Horizontal Displacement. Put it some where around 20--and the same with Vertical Displacement. Now as we scrub to it again, we're getting a nice amount of motion in the smoke and really quite a realistic effect.

Let's zoom out again. Let's do a RAM preview on the whole scene. It's hard to judge smoke displacement unless you actually see it in real time. Watching it in real time, I think that works pretty well. The effect is subtle on the smoke but quite convincing. And now the lights come on in the chalet. Let's look at it one more time to double-check. I think that's looking good. So we're almost done. All we need to do now is to reformat it and render it out so we can admire our handiwork, and we'll do that in the next, and final, lesson.

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