3D vs Miniature Sets


I'm working on a pretty VFX heavy movie right now and i need your help.

Obviously we cant shoot everything on location, because our budget is pretty limited.

We want to create a Star wars 8 (end battle) type world and i thought we could shoot it on a greenscreen with just the ground being "real", if you know what i mean, to give it more realism.

But now my question: What are the pros and cons of filming a miniature set  vs creating everything in 3D in blender?

Or simply what will look better in the end?


  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,224 Expert
    edited October 2018

    @Danyjeff I woukd think the major factor would be cost.  To get a realistic miniature set you will have to purchase, most likely, a number of art materials.  3D sets with something like Blender would be cost free unless your modeling skills are weak like mine and you have purchase assets. But there are so many free models of everything out there a credit at the end might be all that's required.

    I'm currently working on a Halloween thing to post that uses some bought and some modeled assets and some free in Blender.  About to film the live stuff. :)

  • Danyjeff
    Danyjeff Posts: 13
    edited October 2018

    @tddavis Thanks for the reply. Yeah i'm a newbie when it comes to modelling so that would get expensive pretty quickly with the assets and all that. But aside from the cost factor (i think both wouldnt be cheap for me? and i have to work on my 3d skills anyway). What do you think will look better in the end?

  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,224 Expert
    edited October 2018

    @Danyjeff To me, if you get the texturing dialed in right and use an HDRI to light it rather than package lights you can achieve photo-real sets or very close to it, and miniatures to me are always given away by something I cannot quite put a name on, but they usually look smallish.  Unless you do minatures like Peter Jackson did and and Thunderbirds Are Go does and make them huge!!!  Surely very pricey though.

    Oh, and like I mentioned there are tons models of almost everything out there for free, credit only.

  • Thanks for your advise. I think i'm going to go the cg route then. I want to learn it anyway so its better for me. Thank you very much.

  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,224 Expert

    @Danyjeff I hasten to add you should wait before making a decision until other users have stated their thoughts.  I am only a rough amateur myself so may not be the best source of advice.

  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,294 Power User

    I would be inclined to recommend CG. 

    If you intend on having camera moves CG offers more flexibility. If you're doing camera moves with a model set, obviously you need motion control to repeat the move. 

    With a model set, besides time and cost to create the model you do add a fair amount of math and additional labor to your shoot. You'll have to set a scale for the model then use that as a multiplier for setting up your camera. Let's assume your model is at 1:12 scale - 1 foot on the model is 12 feet in reality. Now you have to apply this ratio to your tripod (without motion control you MUST shoot on a tripod). Let's say your tripod for the actors has the camera at five feet for the nodal point (center of sensor - and this is the measurement you need. Not the bottom of the camera or lens, not the top, but the center of the SENSOR... Which means finding the tiny marks on the side and top of your camera for those center points then finding the intersection. If you get this wrong things will not line up correctly.). Five feet is 60 inches. Divide by 12 for scale ratio and for the model, the nodal point now needs to be at five INCHES off the ground. This is impossible with most tripods, so now you're raising the model and getting the camera five inches up from the floor of the model.

    This also means if your actor is 12 feet from the nodal point (NOT the lens  but the nodal point) you focus at one foot away for the model.

    You'll need an accurate measurement of any tilt on the camera to get the tripod head at the correct angle for both shots. 

    You'll have to compute Depth of Field for the actor shot then have to adjust DoF for the model shot to have 12 tines the DoF..  Or as close as you can get.

    The smaller the model scale the more accurate placement has to be. For sake of argument let's say your model is at 1:100 scale. Getting the model shot camera height off by 1/8" is like moving the actor shot up or down by over a foot.

    A key thing either way is lens matching. For a model  you'd use the same lens. For CG... Hitfilm uses arbitrary units for camera zoom, so you have to match the Hitfilm lens to your real lens.

    Fortunately  I've done a tutorial on lens matching .

  • spydurhank
    spydurhank Posts: 3,156 Expert

    Lots of cool ways to do this, learning a little cg won't hurt at all. :)