In late 2012 I met screenwriter/filmmaker Eric Hunsley, who was looking for a 3D Artist to animate his logo for his company Montclair Productions. Over the course of the next year, in between school projects, I worked on making this happen for him. (Click to see all)
Usually I would approach a lot of grass by using sprites, or 2D images of grass (with transparency) populated across the ground. However, due to the camera move I needed some type of 3 dimensional grass in the scene near the base of the mountain to make it believable. This posed a challenge. At the time, I only had access to Maya’s paint effects to create this vegetation. The challenge wasn’t as much as using paint effects, it was more of how to handle the vast amounts of strokes I had to use in order to make it believable. The mountains were simple sculpts in zBrush, which I later brought back into Maya to render with everything else. For Paint Effects, in total there were 448 strokes painted, which equated to over 300 million polygons (modified strokes to get the occlusion pass per grass blade). To make it easier to work this high amount of polys I split the ground geometry into 21 separate pieces. Each piece was saved out into a different file, where I painted the strokes and modified them into polys. This way I only worked with each ground piece separately, rather than in the same file, because my machine would not be able to handle that.
Rendering was fairly simple, using Mental Ray I rendered Diffuse, Occlusion, and Luminance passes, and later composited them in After Effects. I used the luminance passes to fake depth of field in After Effects. Compiling all the separate grass layers on top of each other was the longest part. In a couple of small areas I needed to rotoscope edges to fit together. In the end Eric was really happy with it saying “This is absolutely gorgeous. I’m sure I had a vision in my head of how I wanted it to look — but that is now completely gone. I can now only see it in your brilliant creation.”