Mushrooms and Skulls
Mushrooms and Skulls, 2021, still frame: 5760 x 3240 pixels, video: 1280 x 720 pixels, 3D digital modeling and aniamtion.
Making this project was a transition for me moving from Mudbox and Maya over to Blender: the main reasons for changing programs was that Mudbox and Maya were too unstable and took far too long for simple functions such as bridging edge loops as well as how Blender allowed users to freely edite source code to their own needs.
The skull was sculpted and UV textured in Mudbox and then exported to Blender which resulted in the UV texture needing to be adjusted using a colour curve as it appeared differently when exported from Mudbox and imported into Blender.
Mushrooms and Skulls was the first digital project I've create that was'nt just a single subject but instead a scene. This lead me to experiment with lighting a lot.
Unlike the skull the mushrooms are procedurally textured and are the first procedual textures I have ever made: the procedual textures needed a lot of adjustments over the course of the project as I learnt how to make materials look more realistic with tiny details like scratches and bumps as well as more accurate by using a real world IOR values.
The procedural textures for the cap mushrooms on the left had previously looked more like ice than plastic and while the adjustments made had some improvements it still looked like water.
Lighting was changed slightly to try and create some highlights along the plate mushrooms on the right side of the skull.
A new object was added to the scene on the top of the skull as well changing the camara angle to give a slightly better veiw of the objects attached to the skull.
Creating more plate mushrooms on the skull in various sizes made it appear more as though the mushrooms and skull were becoming one object rather than a skull with some mushrooms on it.
The colours for the plates are chosen from the most common colours used for bleach bottles.
This lighting change created a better mood than the previous one because it made all the materials look less shiny and instead murkier which made it look more like it had a layer of grim but it did loose some nice asthetics such as the highlights that out lined the shape of the plaste mushrooms.
To fill space under the skull a particle system was used to create a sand like surface for the skull to sit on.
The cube holding the sand was removed in favour of the sand becoming the object to hold the skull up instead since the cube lacked any visually appealing texture and adding nothing to the overall meaning.
Previously the sand pile was in the shape of a cone with the upper part flattened off. This was changed to make the sand pile look more natural by shaping it into a small mound rather than a cone which made the lighting off the sand smoother and more visually appealing.
Lowering the skull into the sand made the skull and sand look more intwined with an intentional relationship rather than the skull just being placed onto the sand.
The colour range of the sand particles were changed to be darker since the lighter version looked too much like rainbow fish tank sand which was lessoning the negitive mood intended by the piece.
Instead of using seperate light point sources to create the lighting I switched the scene to using HDRI lighting. The HDRIs' are all from Poly Haven. Using a HDRI instead of a set of point lights helped to create natural looking lighting fast as well as made it easier to adjust since the HDRI can be edited and will consistantly effect all of the world lighting.
A temporay HDRI I used was of a studio lite room: I used this HDRI so that I could have an easier time comparing how the procedual textures look in the renders to how they look in the real world because the lighting would be more similar to examples photos of materials used as references to make the shaders.
To fill more of the backgound a flat panel was made with a basic rock like shader.
Adding a panel to fill the background made the whole scene look flat so it was removed and replaced by making the sand cover the ground of the scene and to move the camara outwards to make the skull appear smaller.
Moving the skull to the side and making it smaller helped to make the environment of the scene appear more important to the veiwer as the environment and subject shared centre space.
Using depth of feild looses detail but is useful in controling where veiwer looks in the image first.
More of the background was filled by creating pillars which were placed haphazardly. Making the pillars be orientated randomly contributes to making the scene look abandoned as it looks like nothing is maintaining it.
To make the pillars look less purposely made a displacement modifier was applied to all of them to give them random bumps and juts in their surface.
This modifier was changed to make the amount jutting edges lower and a little more uniformed which made the pillars more visually appealing.
To avoid making the skull too obvious a small pillar was placed infront of one of the eye sockets to make it a little harder for the veiwer to recognise the form.
These small rock pillars were moved over slightly to make them look more a part of the scene as opposed to it leaning into the scene.
Mushrooms were added to one of the pillars to use the mushrooms as a way to further join the skull as a part of the environment by using the mushrooms as a visual bridge between the two.
Small details were added to the plate mushrooms to make some hints towards their meaning.
Another sticker was added to the scene on the mushrooms to hint towards their material.
A third type of sticker has been added on the mushrooms to help the veiwer understand what the materials are.
Fog has been added to try and make the atmosphere more complicated and as a way to make the furthest parts of the background fade out which helps the scene look bigger and emptier without changing any of the scenes' layout.
Modifying the fog be be thicker the closer it is to the ground makes it much easier for the veiwer to see a fog instead of thinking the scene is lighter.
Lighting was one of the things I edited the most in trying to get a balance between getting the scene to look visually pleasing and fit the overall intention of the piece.
Despite the lower lighting with one strong light beam making the scene more impactful by making it more visually dramtic it looked too unnatural to match the narrative the of the piece.
To try and make the scene lighting look more natural the strong light beam was lessoned to look more like moon light.
The night-time lighting was dropped in favour of day-time lighting due to the lower lighting making too many details hard for the veiwer to see.
New objects are added to the scene which are used to make a partial frame around the camara veiw.
The colour of the new objects were adjusted to change the pale blue hue to a soft off white yellow and pink to match the pre-existing colours of the skull and environment in order to keep a colour pallete theme throughout the scene.
Positioning and grouping of the new objects was moved slightly to make them match the spread pattern of naturally growing plants more to make the scene look more abandoned.
One of the initail ideas for the wrappers was to place them along the floor like patches of grass.
A different experiment had the grass cover more ground.
Placing the wrappers along the skull and floor directly near it helped to join and hide the skull into the environment which while it made the skull a little harder for the veiwer to see it did also make the skull less cliché as it was'nt too upfront and centre in the veiwers vision.
This placement had many adjustments over the areas of the skull it covered to create a balance between hidding the skull but leaving enough recognisable parts of the form for the veiwer to be able to read the object as a skull.
Density and size of the wrapper were changed to make it more visually apealing and more reminicent of shrubbery.
A high density was chosen as the final despite covering a large amount of the skull because in the final animation the wind effect moves the wrappers around to momentarily reveal more of the recognisable eye sockets which ensures the veiwer has chances to understand what the skull is.