Our whale heroes may be 15 meters large, but their prey can be as small as a grain of rice. This week, we took one of our previously built open underwater environments and made a host of changes, including swimming inch-long krill models with better textures, some new experiments with underwater “fog” and camera rack-focus and motion blur, and topped it off with a statistical spectrum wave simulation which gives results that are about as real as it gets for simulated sea surface wind-driven waves. Sounds cool and nerdy. Is cool and nerdy. We set three camera angles for three 5-second test shots for a lone krill amid small-scale current driven detritus, and put them in the render queue at half resolution for results we look forward to in a few days. We don’t expect anything close to final out of the renders, but we’ll get a better idea of where we’re on the right track with krill locomotion, camera techniques, and the environment.
…half a day later…
Work is moving pretty quickly. We have a few dozen frames rendered, but even before we post clips to our reviewers, we’ve suggestions regarding krill locomotion and posture coming back to us based on previous renders, and the cycle of creation continues.
With the short depth of field, close-ups of the krill such as this can make it seem as if the animal is flying rather than swimming. Compare the camera focused on the krill with the camera focussed on the water surface from a frame earlier in the shot. The graininess of the krill character when out of focus is one of the reasons macro-scale shots take the computers far longer to render than human-scale shots. Elements out of focus need many rendering passes to clean up this grain. These test renders have these passes turned down to a draft quality level, but un-optimized, the process can still require up to half an hour for each frame to be drawn.
Soon, we will be posting video clips: as they become available, as we find a format that fits the production pipeline efficiently, and as we determine they are not too embarrassing to show off. So, not a video clip yet, but lastly, here is a preview image of the sea surface object currently used in the krill shot above. You’re looking at a 15 meter patch of sea surface, with winds driving waves from the upper right to the lower left. Relatively calm seas. No chop. No white-caps this time. Stay tuned. Bowhead whales live in subarctic and arctic waters. There will be ICE!
— Roger Topp (UAMN Head of Production)