II. Reference

A short introduction on reference. This post, and the previous posts with roman numerals in front of them, are a sample selection of text from chapters that I’ve been writing in my free time. There is no ETA for publishing.

II. Reference
One of the simplest things a compositor can do when creating their imagery is to focus on the realism of the shot. What is it trying to accomplish? What goals did the supervisor give you? Often these goals are explained by the supervisor and the concept art, but many times the goal is obvious. Remove the greenscreen. Add a smoke element. Put the CG creature into the plate.

In each instance, you are trying to accomplish one thing. That is to make everything feel like it was filmed in one take, with one camera. You’ll regularly be given plates and elements, and if you know the basics of composition and find reference material similar to the shot you’re creating, finishing it will be much quicker and easier. Almost everything has been done once before, and by using reference material, you’ll be able to accurately compose your shot. Reference material comprises of all the usual things, photos and movies, and real life. You’ll find reference accomplishing your shots daily in the world around you. Atmospheric effects around mountains and hills, headlights falling onto the ground in the dark. Fog and rain on a windshield, fire burning on a match..

An accomplished compositor will be able to take the details he or she sees in everyday life and apply that to the shot at hand. The following chapters will describe the methodology in recreating these details. Everything a compositor does will be viewed with scrutiny among other similar shots. In essence, your composite will become reference for a future group of artists.

Shadow density refers to the color density of an object’s shadow . This shadow is usually created by using a shadow alpha created by your rendering package, or even by simple roto. The colors of a surface under shadow can vary greatly, so take great care in analyzing reference of similar shots, or similar areas in the frame that contain shadows. There are different methods of getting an accurate shadow, and using the technique of offsetting our black point is probably the quickest way of getting a shadow value. Just sample the colors that fall under shadow, and dial your artificial shadow values in to match!

Black point. Objects in the foreground tend to have a lower black point that objects in the background. This is usually the case with extreme environments; matte paintings, set extensions, and also when CGI is composited into live action.

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