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Dwarven Fortress

In this fantasy fortress concept we explored a snowy day-for-night look with subtle orange color accents.

This plate is from the iconic Sumela Monastery in Turkey. Built into a vertical cliff wall at an altitude of 1200m, the monastery looks rather fantastical and unreal even in real life. When we saw the plate, we thought we could push it even further into the realm of fantasy with the concept of a Dwarven Fortress. There are quite a few stock plates available of this building from various angles and times of the year. We decided to go with a snowy plate since we thought that would make for a more dramatic and cinematic concept than the sunny/summer plates. Once more, we used Midjourney for the concepts, employing paintovers of the plate and image-to-image.

Once we were happy with the concepts, we tracked the camera in Syntheyes and used RealityCapture to reconstruct the scene geometry. The plate itself didn't have enough parallax for the scene reconstruction to work, but since there are so many stock plates available for this location, we were able to use some of them as witness cams. It was good to spend time here to make the geometry work, as it turned out there wasn't much physical space between the practical building and the cliff wall. This made the layout of our scene a bit tricky, and we did multiple passes of arranging kitbash assets into a castle shape until we were happy with the look and depth of the layout. With the flat and overcast mood of the plate, lighting the shot was rather straightforward: all we needed to do was find a matching IBL and add some blockers for the cliff.

With the 3D assets being a bit on the simple side we did a lot of detailing in comp with projections, adding textures, aging, and snow. We then worked more on the overall look: going with the classic day-for-night blue allowed us to introduce some orange color accents by dressing in some torch lights. We then played with smoke and snow elements until we were happy with the overall balance, making sure the atmos was adding to the shot without being too distracting.

Watching the before & after of this concept, you can definitely tell what a difference comp can make. The grading, detailing and the carefully balanced atmosphere bring the shot to a whole new level.

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