How To Effectively Add A CG Character To A Live-Action Scene | ActionVFX

How To Effectively Add A CG Character To A Live-Action Scene

How To Effectively Add A CG Character To A Live-Action Scene

In this blog, we are showing you basic ways to add CG characters to live-action scenes.

Learning how to composite digital elements into a live-action scene is a critical pillar of VFX work.

While you may have experience with compositing VFX assets like ActionVFX products, experience adding 3D models (specifically CG characters), to a live-action scene can help propel your VFX career.

Let's take a look at some basic ways you can bring a CG character to life in your scene!

How to Effectively Composite a CG Character 

Steve from CG Geek shared a great tutorial that covers so many foundational aspects of mastering CG character compositing.
First, he used Blender to create his model. Of course, you can use any 3D software to create your character, but if you've never learned Blender, here are five reasons why now is a great time to check it out!

You could also go the route of finding a pre-built 3D character or model, and we've got you covered with a list of several sites for free 3D models!

Motion Track Your Scene Effectively

In the example above, Steve shows how to get the most out of Blender's camera tracker. After shooting his scene with tracking markers, he converts the footage to an image sequence in Blender, allowing for a much faster and cleaner track.

If you're working in other motion tracking software like Mocha, pay careful attention to ensure the track is as smooth as possible.

You can also shoot your scene locked down and add camera shake in post.

Capture an HDRI Map

Lighting, reflections, and shadows can make or break your VFX shot, and that's why it can be helpful to grab an HDRI reference with chrome and gray balls, along with a 360 camera to map your environment as a spherical dome map.

Steve mentions the fact that you can use your phone's camera or a dedicated 360 camera to quickly capture a 360 image for an HDRI map, which is great if you're in a time crunch and want to quickly grab multiple environments.

However, you can push the level of realism in your HDRI map even further with a DSLR to capture the environment at the highest quality possible. You can load your shots into stitching software like PTGui (as used in the tutorial below) to build your very own HDRI. You'll be able to achieve a much higher dynamic range, as well as better resolution overall.
As you can see, this is a simple but valuable technique that can add a lot of polish to your CG character.

You can use this process to enhance the reflections, shadows, and lighting of your CG character or model, giving it a fully customized treatment to really envelop your model in the world around it.

Environmental Interactions

If possible, look for ways your character can interact with the real-world space of your scene. Maybe they knock over a physical object, like a mug.

This video quickly shows several ways you can easily add convincing physical interactions with your CG character.
A few standout ideas to be gleaned from this video are simply scaling up your character enough to cover someone walking through and interacting with the scene.

Another great idea is to use a slow shutter speed (1/25 in this example) to create motion blur, which can make thin string look invisible in the right conditions. You can pull or manipulate all kinds of actual props with string without necessarily having to roto it out.

You can even add ActionVFX elements that have been filmed practically, like water splashes, electrical sparks, free dust waves, and more to further bridge the gap between your CG character and the real world.

We hope you found these simple but effective tips useful for compositing your CG character!  

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