Until recently, VFX has been a daunting task. Whether you're adding in CGI elements to a live-action background plate, or creating the whole thing from scratch, making it look good takes patience and a well-rounded understanding of several cinematography fundamentals. But as VFX software becomes more affordable, or free, in the case of Blender, creatives aren't restricted by the money they can or can't shell out.
This is where filmmaker Collin Black comes in with his super short, yet super informative TikTok video on creating VFX rain. For a shot in his short film, Sleeping with Clouds, Black created a fully CGI house and added real elements from Action VFX (a common reoccurrence in his work and mine). If at first glance you didn't know this sequence was fake, I'll eat my shoe.
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Making a Home
While the video alone is quite clear on how Black created his shot, let's dive into a bit more details to cover a few things he might have glossed over. The entire shot used a combination of CGI, stock footage, and real rain elements.
To make his house, Black used Blender to create several iterations of the building. We say several because he didn't like them and finally ended up watching a tutorial to get it right. One would think that modeling a simple house would be easy, but to create something that has some life and dimension to it requires a few extra steps.
We'll link some tutorials to give you an understanding of how four walls and a roof aren't all that you need.
- Abandoned House by Andrew Price (the one used by Collin Black)
- Architectural Modeling by Justin Geis (advanced modeling)
- Modeling Buildings by Ian Hubert (lazy modeling)
If you follow Price's tutorial, you'll see him focus on creating depth with his house model. This is why he made it L-shaped and gave it a little porch so that not every wall was just a flat surface.
With Geis' tutorial, creatives will get a bit more in-depth look at modeling a house from an architectural drawing. While it's a bit advanced, it's a really good breakdown to show how light can propagate within a multi-room house.
Which brings us to Hubert and his lazy tutorial on modeling a building. With his walkthrough, we learn that what's inside a building or house is just as important as what's on the outside. Combining all of these three shows us a bit more about why Black's third house works better than the first two. The porch gave it more depth, the combined roof broke up boring lines, and the interior light made it more dynamic.
How to Make It Rain
For the rain, Black used some of the most reliable VFX elements I've ever used. Action VFX was something I used almost a decade ago for some of my short films.
But how did Black make his rain look so realistic? While we might think that adding in one rain element would do that trick, we have to consider that the flat image we're looking at isn't actually a 2D space.
That's why Black ended up using multiple rain elements at once by stacking them throughout the scene. Not one on top of the other, but in different planes of his scenes. This gave the rain more depth and made it feel like it was falling within the scene. Black also added some flourishes, like rain pouring down the house and falling onto the lens.
All Together Now
So, what did we learn? How do we make something look realistic?
As in cinematography, we need to focus on creating depth, either by adding elements into our background and foreground or making sure our lines run to some vanishing point in the distance. If you look carefully at Black's video again, you can see that the house is rotated slightly away from the camera. We're not looking at the house dead-on.
Whether you're creating a fully CGI shot or something more tangible with your camera, we should all consider how our 3D space is going to look in our 2D frame. Much like in our article about 90s anime, the trick is to think about your image in multiple layers and build it out, one section at a time.
Let us know what you think of this tutorial. If you manage to do something similar, share it in the comments!
Source: Collin Black