The Night we met

Music Video
19 weeks
100 hours
Blender, After Effects
Explore and expand the understanding of the free 3D computer graphics software in order to build a micro environment and animated elements for a music video.
Using After Effects as a way to bring the Blender renders together to create said music video, editing visuals, syncing music with animations, and animating looping elements to create an ambient visual aesthetic.
To enhance my skills in Blender and After Effects, I created The Night We Met music video with an ambient, looping environment for the song to play over. An environment was built around the camera, capitalizing on the use of forced perspective. The intros and outros were animated and under went post processing within Blender. The looping firefly animations, as well as the introductory header and outro credits were created in After Effects.
The design ideation and direction for this video were influenced by my synesthesia - what I see when I listen to music. Listening to a few select songs that I liked, I sketched the visuals I saw as I listened to the songs. From there I wrote down all of the 3D objects that would need to be built for the video as well as all the elements that would need to be animated in After Effects. The research was then conducted on how many pre-built assets could be obtained for free or for cheap online to help get the project done by the deadline. 
The first object designed was the lake. Many hours were spent trying to get the water physics figured out, however, all of the tutorial videos online were for older Blender versions or were using another rendering engine than the one this project required. After over 15 hours of troubleshooting and trying to solve this issue, it was decided that in order to make the project deadline, the animations for the water would have to be put on hold. Moving forward with the build, the material for the water was to be built. In order for the lake to reflect blue and not be fully translucent, the water’s base color was set to dark blue and the material was made slightly reflective so that the moonlight and the backdrop would reflect off the water. 
Next was building the willow trees. It started with a single leaf, a plane with a UV wrap of an image of willow tree leaves on it, duplicated and reshaped into five unique leaf shapes. From there, I applied the leaves as hair particles on a thin cylinder mesh that was to be a branch. Five duplicates of this branch were made, reshaped, and the hair particle properties adjusted to make five unique branch shapes to add some variety to the trees.
The tree trunk was a cylindrical mesh, extruded and scaled to create a vague willow tree trunk shape. A UV wrap of willow tree bark was applied to the mesh, adding seams to the UV mesh and adjusting the face placements in the UV wrap panel to make it look properly to scale and cohesive around the tree. Branches were duplicated around the tree and placed to add depth and realistic qualities to the trees. Originally the trees had branches all the way around them, but in order to reduce file size, excess branches were removed, and only branches that were seen by the camera were kept. In order to hide the tree trunk clipping into the floor, tall grass and rocks were placed in front of and around the tree base.

Creating the dock was a simple process. After creating one rectangular mesh and shaping it into a plank, an array modifier was applied to make the full dock. Using a cylindrical mesh and scaling it up and out, the posts for the dock were made. Using an array modifier on both posts allowed for three additional posts to be evenly spaced alongside the dock planks. The dock’s material was procedurally generated through the use of nodes, a process taught through a video tutorial. After creating that base, sporadic green tints were added to the planks to give them a wet, algae-covered wood rot look.
The rocks, grass, cattails, and lantern were pre-built assets obtained off free 3D asset websites. The lantern did not include a flame mesh or a point light, so those were built and added to the asset. In order to make the flame glow, emissions were applied, and glow was applied in post. 

In order to prevent the Blender world’s light from interacting and affecting the lighting in this composition, a matte black box was built around the environment. The background image is a plane with a photoshopped image applied to it as a image base color. To create the moonlight, a spot light was added and aimed toward the water. In order to have the environment a little more illuminated, two yellow/orange spot lights were pointed toward the trees. To prevent these lights from affecting the lighting of the dock and backdrop, matte black planes were positioned in front of the spotlights to block their rays from spreading past a certain point.

The fireflies were created by placing orbs with a green base color and emissions applied with glow being applied in post. The fireflies were synced up with the song, having them appear from inside the willow trees. The intros and outros where the fireflies come out of and then return into the willow trees were animated and rendered in Blender, and took many trial and error renders to get perfect. 

Bringing the rendered animations into After Effects posed quite a few problems. First was the syncing of the intro and outros to their respective points in the song, getting the timing just right. Once that was completed, I added the backdrop for the looping bulk of the song and added a black background for the entire video that the introductory header and the credits would be projected onto at the beginning and end. It was found that the fade-from-black introduction seemed out of place in comparison to the rest of the song. In order to remedy this, a sound clip of water lapping on the shores of a beach from the song was added to the beginning black screen, helping introduce the viewer to the video.
In the beginning, the tree and lake was accidentally built as being several meters tall and wide. The file size was massive, and when this discrepancy was discovered, the tree, branches, and leaves were scaled down immensely to proper proportions. Once that was done, the overall file size was reduced, and the work flow was much more seamless.

Halfway through the project, I remember that the scene did not necessarily need to be built to perfection, it just needed to look perfect from the camera's perspective. Keeping this detail in mind, out of frame objects were removed and other elements were added to help make the scene look complete. For instance, many matte black walls were positioned in front of spot lights to help eliminate light from leaking into places that it was not needed. This also helped reduce the overall file size. Forced perspective is your friend, use it!