Recreating ‘The Blair Witch’ in Cinema 4D
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Recreating 'The Blair Witch' in Cinema 4D
10 March, 2017
Interview
 Yelisey Lobanov talked about his brave experiment in Cinema 4d. Very nice usage of Megascans.

Introduction

Hello, my name is Yelisey Lobanov and I am CG generalist working currently as Motion Designer at one of the largest TV channels in Russia. I started studying computer graphics along with academic drawing in the mid-90s when I was still in a high school. 3D studio DOS was the first program I had a chance to play with and I completely fell in love with CG. My professional career began about 14 years ago in games industry where I’ve been working as 3D Modeler until 2010. Then I switched to motion design and started doing all kinds of tasks for TV shows and commercials. Today, at Channel One I’m focused mainly on motion graphics for special TV projects and documentaries. CG is my life-long passion so I do some personal projects when I have free time.

The Blair Witch

The idea of creating something interesting on the original Blair Witch Project movie was on my mind for a pretty long time because it is one of my favorite horror films with an incredible atmosphere. I was literally shocked when I watched it for the first time and it scares me so far. So I’ve decided to make several works which would represent the most memorable moments an iconic symbols of this movie but wouldn’t be the exact copies of the actual shots.

Composition is the key to a good picture so I always pay very close attention to placing and arranging of the elements inside the shot using even the old Renaissance masters’ techniques (academic art education helps a lot). It was very exciting to combine those methods with the chaos of nature and the visual dynamics of the movie itself.

Using Megascans

The release of Megasacans undoubtedly pushed my project to realization and this is one of the several things I’ve made using this awesome library. It has all the necessary assets for creating autumn forest: various foliage, branches, logs, stones, plants and everything you could imagine. Megascans website is like a grocery store – you just go there and pick every ingredient you need for you work. It unleashes your creativity allowing you not to worry about any missing nature models or textures – it’s all there, and if it’s not, it will be.

It was really quick and easy to assemble my scenes in Cinema 4D using Megascans assets despite very heavy polycount in some cases.

Ground

Creating the ground included several steps. Firstly, I’ve made a simple layered texture in Megascans Studio and projected it on the plane. Then I’ve put several cloner objects with a couple of dozens of the various leaves and branches assets on top of it using some effectors to randomize position and orientation of the elements. To avoid the problem of intersecting the clones with other objects, I’ve just deleted polygons around those objects on the base cloner geometry and then manually placed the assets around. Also, I had to check clone intersections and repetitions from the camera point of view and cover those as well.

It was like setting up a still life for a painting session but on a plein air. The main thing about recreating the nature is chaos but sometimes you have to make an effort to achieve it right.

Stickman Figures

Stickman figures are the most recognizable symbols of the franchise so I studied some references before I started working on them. I’ve chosen 20 suitable sticks from Megascans and constructed 5 different figures in Cinema 4D. The tricky part was the rope knots which keep branches together. To keep it believable and to achieve that creepy hand-made look of these stickmen surrounded by wildlife, I had to pay close attention to the details so I’ve made 25 original knots manually using splines and sweep objects. It wasn’t the most exciting thing and it took me some time but I was really satisfied with the result.

Post-production

To set up the lighting I thoroughly reviewed certain scenes of the film several times. The daylight shots were pretty easy – I just used Octane Sky with the appropriate HDRI’s. More difficult was to create the imitation of the flashlight in the dark from the first person point of view. There are no spotlights in Octane so I needed to use an area light with some suitable texture in a distribution slot and to play with other light properties to catch the mood of the scene. 

Octane is my favorite render engine. It is fast, physically correct, very easy to set up and really fun to play with. It’s my renderer of choice for the majority of my projects. You can adjust your lighting, move your assets and immediately see the result in render window. I consider it as a digital camera when you create your scene and then just take pictures from the different angles like in the real world.

I had to connect the textures into materials manually but besides that, shader setup was quite fast and easy.

Also, I used some Octane post effects like Bloom and Glare to create some misted-like lens effects and to make the night shots more realistic. As for the motion blur in dynamic scenes, I’ve decided not to do it in post and just animated a camera to render it right in Octane.

The final stage was finalizing every shot in After Effects to make authentic VHS look like in the original film.

This project took me about two weeks to make – from composition layouts to post-effects. Personal projects are very useful due to the fact that you learn a lot while solving different problems that you face along the way. The modeling of stickmen knots is pretty tedious. But it was very interesting to learn cinematic lighting, to build different complex compositions and to recreate some shots from the favorite movie by my own hands.

Yelisey Lobanov, 3D Generalist, Traditional Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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