Yin Yang

An experimental Micro-Film Project. Abstract portrayal of the tension between light & dark.

A CGI render of a loose knit created using Houdini and Redshift

If you’re new to 3D graphics or looking to level up your skills, you’ve come to the right place. PBR materials allow you to create realistic surfaces in your 3D scenes. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the basics, but first,

What are PBR Materials?

PBR stands for Physically Based Rendering. Unlike traditional rendering techniques, PBR materials simulate how light interacts with real-world surfaces. This means your materials will look more accurate and lifelike.

“Hang on, materials and textures are different?!”

PBR materials are basically a collection of textures that are designed to be connected as maps into a Arnold/Redshift/<insert your renderer>StandardMaterial. “Hang on, materials and textures are different?!” Yup, read “Difference between Textures, Shaders, and Materials” for disambiguation.

How to Use PBR Materials:

  • Texture Basics:
    • PBR textures include maps for Base Color, Roughness, Height, Normal, Metallic, and Ambient Occlusion, each defining different material properties.
  • Material Setup:
    • Import and map the texture files onto your model in Blender or Maya, ensuring proper UV unwrapping. Be sure to interpret Base Color as sRGB, and the other maps as RAW data.
  • Connect Maps:
    • Link the maps to corresponding inputs of the Principled BSDF shader: Base Color to Base Color, Roughness to Reflection Roughness, etc.
    • If you need a video guide on connect maps, you can find it here.
  • Specialized Properties / Limitations:
    • Certain real-world material properties cannot be properly mimicked by game engines, hence they are not commonly supported as PBR materials. And we’d need to rely on offline renderers like Arnold or Redshift. Like believable murky liquids, colored glass, sheen etc.
    • Examples of specialized material properties
      • Implement opacity, translucency, and double-sided rendering for realistic leaf materials.
      • Implement thin film for oily, iridescent, or pearlescent materials.
  • Surface Imperfections:
    • Enhance material realism with surface imperfections like smudges, fingerprints, and water droplets, adjusting their blending and strength accordingly.
    • These maps can be layered on to supplement the base PBR material that has been pre-designed.

Conclusion

Using PBR materials is a reliable and predictable way enhance the realism of your 3D projects, and you can find them for free at PolyHaven. With a bit of practice, you’ll be creating realistic materials in no time. For a more detailed guide on doing this Blender, please visit “How to use PBR Textures in Blender”. Also, I’ll write about the common misconceptions of PBR Materials, just to help student-types out a little bit with all the confusing terminology and less intuitive features. Happy rendering, and stay tuned!

Recently, I received a question from a follower on Instagram on how we typically price our projects. After understanding our general pricing approach on creative services, he asked,

“How do you say a price like that without the scaring the client? lol”

I thought, “This must be what many creatives wonder and struggle with pricing their creative services. This shall be a blog post!”.

So here we are.

Who’s scaring who?

Interesting choice of words – “without the scaring the client”. What makes you think the figure will scare the client? Is it because it truly is too high a number? Or are you lacking the confidence about the value you’re going to provide? For instance, at Masonry Studios, we know it’s a fair value exchange. Our prices minimally covers our operation costs and provide a healthy profit to support our team’s continuous growth. Therefore, allowing us to better serve them in the future.

When it comes to Value-based Pricing creative services, nobody does it better than Chris Do.

Sales done wrong.

We’ve established that it’s a fair value exchange. If you still manage to scare the client with the way you price your creative services, it’s likely one of two things:

  1. This is not the client for you; they might not be the right fit for your services at the moment, as they may not fully recognize the value.
  2. Kinda related to the point above, you have not done enough to help them see that they may (or may not need) something like this.

Generally speaking, if clients aren’t able to articulate clearly why they need a CGI video like this, it’s probably because they don’t actually need it. And we’d have done them a favour and it’s a testament to your integrity that you’re not pushing unnecessary expenses. Plus, we won’t feel good that’s when it gets all “sales-y”.

Or the up side, they’d remind you, and more importantly, remind themselves why they’d need a video like this and they’d be happy to pay the figure you need to do the job right.

Conclusion on Pricing Creative Services

Pricing discussions can indeed be tricky, and the choice of words like “scaring the client” reflects a common concern in the creative industry. However, it’s crucial to approach pricing with confidence, and have a clear understanding of the value you provide.

Let’s learn from each other and make this creative services pricing journey a bit less mysterious. See you in the comments, or on IG @ronald_fong where I’m the most active!

Ronald Fong Storyboarding

Differences between Storyboarding for Entertainment vs Advertising

Storytelling is the process of visualling a time-based medium, like movies and TV shows to commercials, into panels of images meant to be “read” as sequence. It’s a quick and powerful tool that communicates to directors, animators and other creative teams, as well as external parties like studio executives if it’s an entertainment product, or clients if it’s a advertisement project.

In my past life, I’m a storyboard artist on a Emmy-nominated Children’s TV Show – Oddbods, and worked freelance as a storyboard artists for various advertising studios around the world. In this article, I will share some general tips on how to be an effective storyboard artist. Additionally, I’ll delve into my personal experience as a storyboard artist, shedding light on the diverse applications of storyboarding in the entertainment and advertising industries.

Story and Boarding: The Essence of Storyboarding

Storyboarding, as the term suggests, can be broken down into two main components: story and boarding.

Story

The story aspect encompasses the fundamental process of fixing and refining the narrative. Before creating a storyboard, I’d logically breakdown the story, using tried-and-test frameworks like Blake Snyder’s – Save the Cat 16-beats, gaining an in-depth understanding of its plot devices, narrative arc, emotion arc, and the transformation of the characters. I act as a gatekeeper, flagging any inconsistencies or aspects that don’t resonate with me, and I’d flag them at meetings with the director or showrunner.

For example, if I read the script and I find that a character reacts in a way that’s seemingly unmotivated, I’d seek clarification from the director. “What did they hoped to achieve with that acting choice?”. It usually sheds some light on the directors intent, and I’d communicate what I find is out of place, seek alignment, and look for alternative acting choices that won’t be out-of-character. It’s for the better of the story, and ultimately it’s really for me to get my work done properly. Without a genuine belief in the story, it becomes nearly impossible to effectively translate it into a visual form.

Boarding

On the other hand, boarding encompasses the technical and artistic skills required for effective visual storytelling. Contrary to popular belief, being an exceptional draftsman is not the sole prerequisite for a proficient storyboard artist; perhaps the main requirement for an illustrator.

While strong drawing skills undoubtedly enhance clarity, allows emotive expressions, and overall draftsmanship quality, a great director / story artist can convey emotions and framing even with simple stick figure drawings. However, honing drawing abilities empowers artists to push acting, expressions, and improve clarity for both internal and external teams. We can think of boarding as the grammar and vocabulary for telling a great story, just in a visual way.

Entertainment Boards: Solving Visual Challenges

My journey as a storyboard artist began in the world of children’s entertainment. I started the job cleaning up storyboard panels from senior story artists, and I did poorly in the first few weeks on the job because I was focused on drawing nicely, and didn’t spend enough researching on the lores of the show, the characters, their antics etc.

Working on a non-dialogue show like Oddbods presented a unique set of challenges. Scripts that were not inherently visual, and forces the story team to find visual solutions. One effective technique involved drawing every other panel to suggest character positions, emotional changes, and thoughts. This meticulous process often resulted in hundreds or even thousands of panels, meticulously crafted to convey the desired visual narrative.

Commercial/Advertising Boards: Simplicity with Impact

Storyboarding for commercials and advertisements demands a different approach compared to the entertainment scene. With limited time available for media buy, simplicity becomes paramount. Typically, commercial boards comprise only 12 to 24 panels, requiring concise storytelling. Despite the brevity, each panel needs to be meticulously crafted with high detail, shading, and even color to suggest values. This level of detail is necessary when presenting the boards to marketing executives and CEOs, ensuring a visually compelling pitch.

The Diverse World of Storyboarding

While the core concept of storyboarding remains consistent across industries, the execution varies significantly. My experience in both the entertainment and advertising scenes highlights the distinct challenges and requirements of each. From the extensive panel count of entertainment boards to the simplicity and impact of advertising boards, storyboard artists must adapt their skills and storytelling techniques to meet the unique demands of each project.

Conclusion

Storyboarding serves as a vital bridge between storytelling and visual representation, enabling creators to transform ideas into tangible visuals. By combining the mastery of story development with the artistic skills of visual composition, storyboard artists play a crucial role in shaping narratives across different industries. I hope by sharing my personal experience having drawn storyboards for the entertainment and advertising industry, and actually teaching how to storyboard at schools and aniation studios, you have a better idea on the lesser known side to storyboarding.

To explore my storyboard work, visit my storyboard portfolio.

Process

Using Houdini’s FLIP solver to model the Rayleigh–Taylor instability (after Lord Rayleigh and G. I. Taylor). It is an instability of an interface between two fluids of different densities which occurs when the lighter fluid is pushing the heavier fluid.

  • Houdini
  • Redshift

Behind-the-scenes

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