“Let me tell you about the true meaning of Christmas”

Last Christmas I got the opportunity to work on Blue-Zoo’s latest in house short, “Daddy Christmas”; Every few months the studio gives us the opportunity to pitch for their latest short, and this years brief was “An unusual Christmas greeting!” – Which Dan Cripps and Rory Cooke won. Voiced by Dan Renton Skinner (Angelos Epithemiou) and Teresa Gallagher, here it is, in all its gruesome glory:

This was an interesting project to work on – The set was “built” in the empty edit room in between refurbishment using bits of found and donated furniture, rubbish and tat – including a microwaveable roast dinner (which after 3 days of being open filled the room with that familiar festive scent) and selotaped wallpaper, with added mud, applied by hand of course.

Concept Art

Pitch concept by Rory Cooke

Dan and Rory

Dan and Rory re-enacting Christmas

Blood and Sick

Blood. Blood. Blood. And bits of sick.

I had a hand in shooting the backplates, which involved setting up the camera, lights and taking reference images of the set and some reference objects (Chrome ball and 3D printed Miffy) – I took multiple exposures of the set and created and HDRi to use as the IBL in the scene to help light match the characters to the background.

Set Photo

Set Reference


HDRi capture

I used the HDR set capture to then create an IBL and get a rough light match to the characters and reference objects. I used Maya for lighting and the short was rendered using Arnold – which gave great physically based lighting straight out of the box – just needing a few tonal tweaks to the HDR and some added lights. I mapped sections of the unwrapped HDR image onto area lights, placing them in the Maya scene as they were in the real world set.

IBL Test

IBL / Lighting Test

Using this light rig, lookdev was then done by Alastair Cross on the textures and shaders, to make dad look like a dirty old man.

Dad Test

Shader Lookdev

Final lookdev / Lighting test:


Final Stills / Christmas card:

Xmas Card


Sick Gif


New animated series of ‘Miffy’ announced

The first image of the new production of “Miffy” has been released!



We will be working on 52x7min episodes of this iconic character – “It will be the first time Dick Bruna’s character, which marks 60 years in 2015, has ever appeared in CGI”

This is a really exciting project, not only is it such an iconic children’s character, taking its first ever step into 3D animation (which is always dangerous territory) but also for me in particular, as I have been offered the role as lead lighter, which is a fantastic opportunity and one that I am really enjoying!

The series is looking beautiful so far – the style will be staying true to the original stop motion aesthetic of “Miffy and Friends” and is using the Arnold renderer, which is perfect for getting physically accurate shaders, lighting and diffuse bounce that is needed to sell the realistic stop motion “set” effect.

More to show soon!

Arnold Object ID colour values

Im a big fan of the Object ID option in the AIUtility shader – It makes the generation of ID’s really quick and easy and can just spit them out as an extra AOV – all you have to do is set an ID number in the Arnold User options, and it assigns all meshes to that colour ID. I have been using this a lot, a really simple python script can apply it to all selected meshes, and because its an Arnold attribute it can be applied to assets and exported through the Alembic pipeline – essentially giving object a permanent ID colour throughout production.


I couldn’t find any info about what colours correspond to what numbers, so just created a quick image for reference which I thought people may find useful.

I am really disappointed that all the colours appear to be similar pastel shades – some strong block colours would really be welcome here to help the compositors pull a really quick key / split the channels out

New Lighting reel is OUT!

Take a look at the new winter 2013/14 collection available NOW!

(give your eyes a treat and view on vimeo for a beautiful HD version!)

Its short and sweet, with some shots of my work as a Lighting TD at blue-zoo productions, a personal project and demonstration of some python scripting.

  • Tree Fu Tom – Blue-Zoo productions: Lighting and Rendering the characters / environments and pre-comping.
  • Robot Integration – Personal project matching a model to a back plate. Filmed and tracked the back plate, matched the lighting, HDRi generation, animation, compositing in Nuke. Model from Digital Tutors.
  • QPootle – Lighting TD – Lighting of characters, environments, input into character shaders and assets, fluid design and simulation.
  • Nuke-Python Script – Pre comps images in a specified folder. Assigns nodes and merges the imported images.
  • Integration Breakdown – Example of the HDRi used, breakdown of passes and post effects.

Looking forward to adding more exciting projects in the future!

Robot Integration – Final Comp

For the last few weeks and months I have been working on a small personal project – I wanted to try something a bit more realistic, so chose to integrate and light match a model into a live action back plate. The focus was on getting the model to match the back plate, not to actually model and texture it, so I deicded to use a model from digital tutors.

I filmed a backplate, which was then tracked in Boujou and gave the robot some basic animation. I created an HDRi for reflections and indirect lighting contribtion, matched the environment lighting and window shadows and then rendered out all the passes in mentalRay. Finally the passes were taken into Nuke, comped to match the master beauty and then graded and added some post effects to add realism.

I am pleased overall with the final result – the tracking is fairly stable on the whole despite my very shaky hands, there are a few slides but they arent very noticeable and without any tracking markers the result was better than expected. The animation was not a focus of this project, my skills are very limited; it has a bit of weight to it and feels robotic.

Matching the shadows was challenging, the backplate already had shadows from the window, which meant these had to be matched with a gobo layer so that the floor shadows of the robot could be masked in compositing so that it would fill in the gaps between the backplate. This was really difficult, it had to track with the backplate and seamlessly blend with the real shadows. I tried to get it as close as possible, but ultimately it is still obvious that the shadows are separate and the grade isnt quite there on them. However the overall comp/grade I feel matches the back plate fairly well, in terms of highlights and shadows and tone, although it would have been much better to have a metallic reference object on the table in the light to compare with. I think it could have benefited from reworked textures and shaders to help with the match, and the use of Arnold renderer to try and get more realism out of the initial render – but as an excercise I learnt a fair bit from it and will start thinking about my next project!

Transformer Lighting / Comp Integration

A while back I shot some footage in my living room to use as a backplate – with the eventual aim to integrate some 3D into the scene. I made an HDR of the room and tracked the footage.
Room HDR

Well, I played around with a couple of ideas – one of which was to integrate in a snare drum. I got as far as the initial comping, but found it ultimately wasnt working. It might have been let down by shaders, but anyway I abandoned this initial idea.

Drum Integration test

Drum Integration test

Recently, I found a really cool transforming robot model when browsing Digital Tutors – and thought it would be a good test to try and integrate into the backplate. (Transformers, original huh?). Here’s a tracking test I did to the footage taken last year:

Luckily I didnt take up a career as a camera operator, as apparently I have jelly arms – the footage is really shaky, however the track came out well. The pose is WIP, and I am hoping to have the model eventually animated.

I set up the scene – using a proper linear workflow, then let the HDR cast indirect light with final gather as the ambience in the room. A single key was then used for the direct lighting. The following render is a straight beauty render without any editing. On the whole it felt like a good starting point, I was quite happy with the lighting integration, with very little work it seemed to match fairly closely – it is possibly let down more by shaders and textures – and plausibility in the scale of a metallic robot sitting on a table, which in itself doesnt feel realistic.

Beauty Render

I carried on with it anyway, hoping that at the comping stage a realistic integration would be possible with full control over the passes and grading the render. I sepnt a bit of time compositing, colour correcting and grading the renders to achieve as closely as possible a plausible integration. This is how it is looking at the moment:

Robot Comp

With my limited compositing experience, this is what I have managed so far.  It is getting quite close to what I wanted to achieve – the lighting is matching well and the grade is starting to get closer to a photo real integration. It is definitely still missing that little bit extra that really sells the image, it is still obviously a CG robot, I feel this is down to the scale of an industrial looking transforming robot placed on a table which doesn’t really feel correct. The shaders could probably do with more work, and I’m sure the composite can push the realism further than I have managed so far.

The next stage is to render out the full sequence, and see whether the integration feels more believable when given camera movement and some basic animation. Hopefully this will be done in the next couple of weeks!

MDanimation’s photostream

IMG_4224IMG_4189IMG_4154 (2)IMG_5950IMG_5924IMG_5923 (2)
Look what i found! #butterfly #nature#Dlr at #sunset. #nofilterRainy CamdenGreenwich DLRIMG_2464

So I haven’t uploaded any photos in a while, but I have added a few of my favourites from the past year.

I really need to find more time to go out with my camera and shoot some more.


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