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WiP: Moonscape_1 March 30, 2008

Posted by William J. Meyer in Jack's Post-Production, Jack's Videos.

Last night I tweaked a scene in the rough cut which will one day involve a thunderstorm. As the storm does not yet exist, I’m using animatics to fill in the gaps. This includes stills, stock footage, and a little jiggery-pokery from the cg department (meaning me).

Read on to see a brief rundown on creating a shot of the moon (revealed by clouds) using nothing more than ones and zeroes.

NOTE: Each description refers to the picture above it.


To create the clouds I started with presets available in the stand-alone particle emitter program Particle Illusion SE. Its older sibling (sans SE) has a fairly decent pedigree, being used on such entertainments as The Matrix Reloaded and Battlestar Galactica.


I created five variations of undulating clouds as separate elements that I could composite later in After Effects. Two of these included glowing interior lights which I intend to tie into the storm later using sound effects.


Next I opened up Vue 4 Pro to utilize its quick planet generation feature. Loading up the default moon, I just played with the phase control a bit. At first I experimented with volumetric lights to create a dynamic atmosphere with clouds and such, but I quickly realized I should stick to my guns and generate each element separately for maximum control in the compositing stage. Plus, it made my head hurt.


Inside After Effects I made a pre comp of the cloud layers, multiplying the Quicktimes I exported from Particle Illusion SE to form an animation slightly larger than the final shot (standard def NTSC 720X480, widescreen PAR 1.2). This would allow me to control the drift of the clouds to reveal the moon, while the animation of their undulations had already been rendered from Particle Illusion SE.


The above image shows you the layers of the final comp. From top to bottom:

moonMover is a parent null of the moon image rendered from Vue. I decided to use a null to control the position of the moon because I duplicated the moon layer (layers 7 and 10) in order to sandwich two color layers (nearMoonGray and nearMoonYellow) between them; this generated a subtle halo effect. Using the null as a parent, tweaking the moon’s position involved adjusting one layer instead of two.

preCloudBank_FinalStorm is the aforementioned pre comp of the drifting clouds. Here I changed the color of the clouds from a light gray to a dark blackish-blue.

Layers 3 through 6 are more clouds that are content to hang out around the moon (as Bob Ross might say, it’s my world).

Layer 11, Royal Blue Solid 1, is just a leftover from earlier in the process when I didn’t have a sky; I just dumped a solid color into comp’s background.


And this is a still from the final shot. I have to decide if the rain has stopped at this point. If not, I’ll be turning to Trapcode Particular for the precipitation.

And that’s that. As a point of reference, it took me longer to write this post (over an hour) than it did to generate the shot.

-William, Director



1. Anita - March 31, 2008

Nice VFX….

One of those clouds looks kinda like Jack Skellington.

2. Julie - May 29, 2008

I like the trailer, when are you are you going to let me view and buy a copy!
P.S. Nice blood and lush Wisconsin scenery.

[Julie: I guess you’ll have to buy a ticket for theatre 15 at the Hollywod. ;P -wjm]

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