Creating a Battlefield Scene with iClone 8 and Midjourney

Aug 15, 2022 at 10:45 am by Warlord720


One of the simplest forms of using Midjourney in a cinematic scene is as a background plane. I’m not getting into mattes and plates as they are different things in different disciplines. Instead, I’m referring to a simple two-dimensional plane pointing towards the camera, usually horizontally in landscape orientation. Programs like After Effects accel at this task with its 3D layers.

Coincidentally, so does iClone. Just not at as sophisticated a level as After Effects but it can hold its own when it comes to simple composites with two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. This includes animated objects like characters and props.

Now please note that I said an image plane, not the static background of a scene. Why not? Well with a static background everything moves except the background which immediately defeats the purpose of the camera shot.

What happens, in the case of a dolly shot, is all the 3D objects move out of place and just as importantly, out of scale. These types of shots have always been limited to certain camera angles even with the use of the image as a prop instead of a background. In iClone the background is stuck out there in infinity which spoils any orbital camera movement as well.

Used properly, simple, one multi-camera, composite shots with image planes can be easy to set up and take a lot less overhead to operate. It can also look like a more complicated scene when blended properly. In After Effects it is a matter of 3D layers, camera angles and the same holds true in iClone except it is already in 3D space when it comes to orienting objects like image planes, characters, and props.

Instead of bringing in the image as the background you can right-click on the image in a folder outside of iClone and drag it into the scene which gives you a unique right-click menu that includes using a plane versus just dragging in as the background using the standard left click.

Right Click instead of Left Click on the image.
Right-Click not Left-Click on the image in a folder to get these menu options.

If you use the standard left-click you will not get this menu and the image will either become the scene background or the texture of some unlucky object that got into the way of the drag and drop. Just remember to RIGHT CLICK instead of the left that has been drilled into us for ages when SELECTING the image in a folder outside of the iClone workspace.

After this, it is a matter of scaling and placement to suit your view. In simple cases, the background image plane can be linked or attached to the camera to move with the camera for simple shots. Or it can be left as a standalone prop to be moved towards, away, or horizontally in the camera frame.

Angle view of scene.
Angle View of the scene showing the placement of the image plane and soldiers with the grid as a ground reference.

Above you can see the scene in its simplicity. The image plane with the Midjourney generated image in front of a couple of groups of animated soldiers. The grid was used to help line up the soldiers with the image “ground”.

To “scale the soldier” use the camera gizmos NOT the movement or scale gizmos as you can push the camera forward or back to increase or decrease the perceived size of the actors in relation to the background image plane. You can tweak the scale of both the soldiers and the plane in the final, frontal view of the scene this way including moving the camera up or down to frame your shot.

Basic lighting with sharp contrasts.
Basic lighting with sharp contrasts between a duller background and sharper animated soldiers in the foreground.

The image above is the same iClone workspace with the forward-facing camera you see in the bottom right corner of the second image above. The camera looks like a dark box just above the lighter grid. This frames a “straight on” shot that moves slowly forward.

To increase the movement, I also brought the background image forward as the camera moved toward it. This gave a much clearer perception of movement but as you can see in the above image it needs more work as the background plane and soldiers do not match in lighting or tone.

Final composite view.
Final composite view with smoke and fire particles and the bright lens flare help soften the overall look of the composition while blending together the different lighting of the image versus the animated soldiers.

 

I added some smoke and fire particles and created an Image Layer in front of everything with the same Midjourney background image but with low opacity and blurred. I also added a bright lens flare just above and to the right of the mountaintop fortress to add more blur to the scene to dull out the sharpness of contrast between the image, the environment, and the soldiers.

Having a permanent front layer like an image layer can add just what the scene needs to blend all those different aspects together in a seamless composition while adding depth with the smoke particles placed away from the camera towards the background image plane. Adding in Heat particles can make the static flames in the image appear to flicker as well as add heat waves to the video that help sell the scene to the viewer.

Using proper shot blocking while being judicious with camera movement combined with other elements like lighting and VFX particles such as Popcorn FX used in this example, you can make a short compelling shot that looks much more complicated than it actually is. Your computer will like the scene a lot more too as it should run more efficiently and effortlessly with the image layer doing the heavy lifting instead of poly-hungry objects.


M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website

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