Key Visual

It’s Canada day! It’s warm and sunny here in Vancouver. I decided to write this post before my wife and I go to watch the fireworks.

Creating this visual was a pure joy. It has been a while since I had a chance to create a high res still render.

The Goal.

This visual will be used as a promotional material of the Tellur Aliens movie. The movie has a vast universe and all sorts of adventures, so the visual had to incorporate the style of the show and convey the spirit of adventures, friendship and desire to discover new horizons.

Here is the high res. Full screen it.

FINAL_KV_portraitThe idea and composition

I wanted the visual to feel epic and romantic. So I had an idea of juxtaposing something big and rough with something small and fragile. The giant rusted robot was a perfect candidate to contrast with the characters. To further emphasize the overall scale I put the robot on the planet. This made everything look less grounded adding a touch of Sci-fi Romanticism. I didn’t want to take the whole action into the space, so I added 3d clouds which gave a hint that the characters were still on the Telluria Planet.

Look development

The characters have soft and colorful appearance thus I made sure that the robot has harsh desaturated look. To contrast with soft and warm character skin the robot’s surface had cold irregular metallic reflections. I made the key light very intense as I wanted the image to feel punchier, sort of chiaroscuro mood. To balance the overexposed key light I made sure that the planet’s teal color palette wrapped around the characters cooling them down a little.


The whole show was rendered with Vista Vision Camera. The visual wasn’t an exception. I went with Vista Vision film gate and 30mm wide angle lens. This combo gives a wide angle image without too much of distortion. The Telluria world is vast, so I wanted the lens to fit at least a fractional part of the world.

The story is told through Dimensions. More better.

The still image has only two actual dimensions. The two dimensions are usually called width and height. However, we can perceive the third dimension which isn’t physically present on the flat media. A good painting or photograph can have an immeasurable third dimension which is called depth. The depth has to do more with how the human brains perceive an artwork rather than actual physical presence. The depth adds not only the visual richness to the artwork but gives opportunities to better expose a context and a story of the artwork. I made my best to give the dimensionality and depth to the visual.

depthThere is a fourth dimension!

A fourth dimension? Isn’t the immeasurable, subjectively perceived depth isn’t enough? For hundreds of years artists from all over the Globe strived to depict Time and Motion. It is not an easy goal to show motion in a static image. Human brains and perception comes into play again. It is all about cheating the brains and engaging the human being’s imagination. While I’m still learning to feel the motion, I tried to give live poses to the characters. I didn’t want the guys look at the camera as it would create a feeling of a pre-staged static photograph. I wanted some of them to gaze outside of the frame as they were in the middle of action and there is something more outside of the frame which we just can’t see yet, but in a moment of time…we will see… In a second we will see… And it goes forever… Endless, continues motion in the still frame. Even though, most of the characters aren’t looking at the viewer, Zag (the guy in the green suit) looks directly at the camera inviting a viewer to join the adventure. And finally the giant robot has the Mannerist like pose. Twisting and stretching his limbs he serves the purpose of creating Depth and Motion.


Mannerist paintings are characterized by twisted poses, unnaturally elongated bodies and particularly posed hands.

The planet and the details

bg_detailThe planet was rendered at 6k resolution. Google maps were used as a reference to create the surface of the planet. The buildings and infrastructure were created with the help of 3delight’s robust displacements.


All of the characters and props use proprietary Renderman shaders which I developed and maintained throughout the years. I rendered the clouds as 3delight particles with a proprietary particle shader which turns flat sprites into a pseudo 3d volumetric surface. Because the ray marching and deep shadow calculations aren’t involved the rendering of the particles is extremely fast and efficient.


The image was rendered at 6k resolution and composited in BM’s Fusion. Fusion is a robust node based compositing app with a high degree of programmability and ease of use. I balanced the image’s brightness and color values. Once I was happy with the palette and exposure I added a 2.5d relighting pass to the image. I used a 32bit Normals AOV to add additional 2.5d lights which accentuated certain details of the image.

2d relight

360° interactive relighting on the rendered image

tellur aliens KV

The atmospheric perspective was added, it helped to blend in the robot in the planet’s atmosphere. The final touch was a depth of field which used a 32bit Position AOV. The depth of field helped to blur some of the details of the image bringing the protagonists to the front of the composition.


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