Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 1: Epoch, part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph VFX and Digital Art.
- I wanted to push myself further because I knew that it would give me opportunities to figure stuff out like this in a project. When it's your own project, I feel that you sort of strive to push yourself further because you're putting your own passion into it. This film Epoch or Epoch depending how you want to pronounce it, it sounds weird to me if I say Epoch, but I guess that's the correct way. It's just a short film that I directed last year, and it's basically about these two sort of immortal beings who are sort of jumping from body to body over the course of history.
So they sort of influence mankind one person at a time. This can be war, or peace, enlightenment, all that stuff. This scene that I want to share with you this is sort of like it's during World War I. It's basically one of these characters, Ram, he becomes so powerful with his rage and corruption and what not that he can't withhold it anymore and he spontaneously combusts. We shot this film out in the desert outside of L.A.
We rented an RV and had a mobile command station. We had a really tight shooting schedule. Most of the film was shot out here in one day, and we couldn't afford to come back. This is all self-funded project so kind of had one chance to do everything. There wasn't really like a quick, I mean, there wasn't really a lot of time to sort of experiment with other things. - Sure. - So I had to sort of get it right the first time and go with it. I'll show this scene first, and I can talk a little bit more about it afterwards.
- Excellent, yeah. Awesome. - Obviously, there's a few different things going on here. We actually shot this stuff in a swimming pool - Yeah. - in the valley. - I want to come back to that as well.
- The whole point was to sort of create this sort of surreal landscape that may or may not be real because it's sort of being told by the narration of the other main character. - Right. A lot of this is just sort of just principal photography, but this section right here, when I shot it I actually didn't intend on having this sort of shirt explosion.
I'll show you the actual plate. Like I said, we didn't have all that much time to sort of experiment with things. Someone suggested doing this and I thought it was super cheesy when we were there, but I said, "Okay, go ahead and shoot it anyway," because it's our actor Nick just pulling his shirt off and flexing, - Right. but when I got back home I started editing it together, I realized this shot is really intense and we got it from a few different angles. So I found a way to sort of place it into the scene.
The only thing is he doesn't have a shirt on underneath it so we needed to sort of add that element so it's a little more convincing, and also we can make something that looks cool. That's where I got into C4D, and this is actually something that I'd never done before. I'd never messed with - The (mumbling). - Yeah, so I was just sort of experimenting with different things. I made this sort of rough camera track of the shot in a few different angles, but it's pretty much the same element.
I think I bought this shirt off of TurboSquid for a couple bucks. It was already textured, it was already lit. - Excellent. - I had so many shots that I was trying to create for this film that it was just a matter of okay, if I can figure out something that works, use it, and then move on from there. What I did was, you know, C4D has some sort of tool that can take two pieces of like a shirt and stitch it together. I was trying to figure that out, but I was sort of having trouble just 'cause I didn't have that much time. I decided it's something not even important.
For a shot like this, it's so fast. It's not even a second long. - Exactly. - It's just really about what's convincing for that shot. I realized I could just use these two pieces right here, and just sort of roughly shape it where I need it to be. Then with this geometry, just selecting a cloth tag. If you hit play by default it's just going to fall. That's because we got this gravity force that's in here by default.
I'm going to turn that off 'cause we don't need that 'cause it's surreal. Then, now to make it explode it needs some sort of force to go through that. We can actually use just the standard C4D particles for that, in this case an attractor. Nothing happens initially 'cause we have to select these tags, and under Expert we have to include any sort of attractor or whatever to it. Right now it's pretty weak so we're not going to see anything, but if I go in and select the attractor and just crank it up, now we're going to see it sort of suck in, implode.
But we want the opposite of that so just the negative value. We're starting to see what we want there. We want it to be more powerful. That's closer. Let me just add a little bit more. But right now it's just a few pieces. It's not really like breaking yet. - Shredding. - There's this option here in the cloth tag called Use Tear. If we turn that on and we hit play, it looks crazy, it's really weird.
That's because we need more subdivision. Instead of using a really detailed model, if we look at the, let's see, well, actually it's got a lot of polygons but still. Instead of cranking this guy up, what we can do is just taking the whole object together as a parent, and using a cloth surface. If we hold Option while we do this, it's going to make whatever we select a parent of what's selected over in the object window, so go like that. By default, the cloth surface, it can give subdivision to an object.
It can also make it thicker so I like to add a little bit of thickness. This is a great tool that I've used for a lot of things. Whenever you have something that's like a plane or something that has really simple geometry and you want to add some more detail without having to rebuild it, it's a great tool. - Right, right. - That actually if we play it now, now that it has more subdivision and thickness, we've got explosion into a bunch of shards. - Nice. - That's basically what I was looking for. You know, hitting render like that, it doesn't look that different from the film because it was one of those things where if it works, great, move on from there.
I could have gone a little bit further and put a foreground and background pass so we could put it in front and behind him. -Sure. - You know, lit it with the GI or whatever, but I mean, once you get into compositing, you're just playing with a bunch of layers. - That's the really important thing I think a lot of folks forget is that they'll sit down to try to do an effect like that out of context, and you're doing that shirt shot, in effect, in context of the edit. Once you saw the edit itself, you knew that this was only going to be 25 frames.
You know you don't need to spend a lot of time on it, and you can cut into it at a certain point and you have a little bit of leeway. - Yeah, you have to take broad strokes. If you want to be efficient with your time, it's really about starting and sort of laying out the groundwork and figuring out what can look cool. Anyone could jump in and make an explosion effect or whatever, right? And that can be a cool thing to show, but for the sake of a movie, I didn't make a film so that I could make a cloth explosion. It's something that it complements the film.
This film in particular, my whole goal was to try to create something that didn't have limitations for budget and the realistic expectations for what I was trying to do for a film that cost me $3,000 to make. But I wanted to push myself further because I knew that it would give me opportunities to figure stuff out like this in a project. When it's your own project, I feel that you sort of strive to really push yourself further because you're putting your own passion into it. You want to make it look as good as what you feel is right. - Right, right.
- There's no client input to tell you this or that. So you're trusting your own instinct. When you're comping it together, you can throw on a bunch of different layers of stock footage dust and things like that, and CG particles, and then a little bit of color correction, and it works really well. - Works really, really well. - It works convincingly. Then one other thing I did too with this guy is I got a nice sim, right? But you can see if we display the final in a loop, there's sort of like a speed ramp, right? - Yeah.
- It explodes, and it comes into slow motion. - Right. - So that's something that I figured out in editorial. This is something where if you're trying to do this in dynamics to these speed ramps, it doesn't really make a bunch of logical sense 'cause you're going to be messing around with all these features, right? So all you need to do is just in your settings render it out at a slower frame rate. In this case, the whole film shot at 24 frames per second. - Right. - So you've rendered out at 120, so you've got a slo-mo pass - Yeah. - like this. - So your sense of over-cranking. - Yeah, exactly. You've got this.
You've got more to work with. - Nice. - And then in After Effects, or whatever compositing program you're using, you could ramp that and do whatever you want with it. - That's really hypnotic actually. - It's always cool seeing stuff in real slow motion just 'cause you miss so much detail in regular speed. That's pretty much it. This is a shot that I could have spent days or weeks on, but instead it was something that I just figured out in a couple minutes. - Nice. - I had so many other things to work on on that film that it just felt good just to get that done.
I may have a free night to spend with my wife and go out to the movies instead of sitting behind a computer. - Nice.
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