The Journey Begins Challenge Sponsors
Hardware Sponsors
Boxx Technologies
ATI Technologies

Software Sponsors
e-on Software

Media & Educational Sponsors
The Gnomon Workshop
Ballistic Publishing
Stash Media

Your Mission

In this Challenge entrants must depict a scene that encapsulates the emotions and trappings of a character (or group) setting out on an epic journey. The final works must demonstrate a depth of story and view that shows the character(s) up close and the journey beyond. This can be metaphorical, though it must be clear (without any explanation) how the image depicts a character departing on a great journey.

The key theme of this challenge is to portray the emotions of a character, or characters, about to embark on some kind of journey. It is recommended that entrants focus on physically small characters (bugs, Hobbits, Elves, Children, Faeries, birds, animals, micro robots - whatever) in a foreground setting against a vast backdrop of epic proportions (by comparison).

Guidelines and Tips

The key theme of this challenge is to portray the emotions of a character, or characters, about to embark on some kind of journey. It is recommended that entrants focus on physically small characters (bugs, Hobbits, Elves, Children, Faeries, birds, animals, micro robots - whatever) in a foreground setting against a vast backdrop of epic proportions (by comparison).

Technical Guide

In this Challenge entrants are encouraged to depict small subjects against a vast backdrop. This requires good composition and good command of depth cues. Here are some notes on the two fundamental depth cues: atmospheric haze and depth of field.

Atmospheric Depth
Depth haze arises from the scattering of light by particles suspended in the air. The physics of scattering is well known and is worth noting. Scattering will reduce contrast but does not blur the background image. Selective scattering and absorption of different wavelengths also leads to shifting of color towards the one background color.

So, to achieve atmospheric depth to an image all you have to do is add more of a single color with increasing depth. The color should be the same light color of the distant sky. The result is that the foreground is always darker with more contrast and saturation. With distance, the contrast drops and the image lightens towards the distant sky color - but things in the distance are not blurred.

Depth of Field Blur
Blurring of images in the background and foreground is both an artefact of lenses and an artistic technique. It is not based on any real atmospheric effects. Camera lenses (and the lens in our eyes) all have some focal length where the image focus is sharp. As you move away from the focal length (both closer and further away) the lens will progressively blur the image. The performance of the lens will also vary depending on the wavelength (color) of the light which can lead to color fringing in the out-of-focus areas.

Until recently, macro lenses used for close-up shots of small objects have had a very narrow focal length. Viewers have been trained to associate large amounts of out of focus blurring with macro shots. This is not to be confused with light-scattering which gives rise to distance hazing. Lenses with extremely wide depth of field have become more popular recently. However, the images they produce are often viewed as “trick photography” and can be confusing if there are no other strong depth cues.

Deliberate blurring (sometimes extreme) of the foreground and background is a technique that both photographers and artists often employ to draw attention to the main subject. Combined with selective lighting this can result in images that are characterized by terms like: warm, romantic, or atmospheric.

How the Challenge will be Run

This challenge will be a WIP (Work in Progress) Challenge to ensure everyone can learn from each other, offer feedback and critiques. Each challenger is required to submit Work In Progress (WIP) images.

  1.   Enter the Challenge by registering yourself.
  2.   Submit your Work In Progress images on a regular basis.
  3.   Participate in the Community by critiquing other challenger's works in the respective forums.
  4.   Submit your final entry before the end of the challenge (avoid the last-minute rush - get your entry in early).
  5.   Submit Work In Progress images, obtain feedback and give feedback to other challengers in the WIP challenge. Note: Failure to do so may result in penalties during final judging. Community interaction is a must!
  6.   All winners are required to write 'making of' articles accompanied with high-resolution Work In Progress stills, to be eligible for prizes. Note: This is a requirement of the Work-In-Progress challenge.


Each challenger is required to submit images for the following milestones:

For 3D Stills:
Concept Sketch - JPG (online)
Modeling - JPG (online)
Shading (Textured and lit) - JPG (online)
Post Effects and Compositing - JPG (online)
Final Image - JPG (online)
AND print resolution TIF (FTP)

For 2D Illustrations:
Concept Sketch - JPG (online)
Line Art - JPG (online)
Coloring WIP - JPG (online)
Final Coloring - JPG (online)
Final Image - JPG (online)
AND print resolution TIF (FTP)


3D Challenge entrants are required to upload a 120-frame image sequence. The sequence must:
  • be 320x240 JPEGs, ~85% quality
  • Feature a turntable of your main model (180 degrees or 360 degrees, up to you)
  • GI-lit (or similar)
  • Untextured
ZIP the images, then post them via the Submit Turntable page. Ensure that the images are properly named (eg img0001.jpg, img0002.jpg, img0003.jpg).


All submissions must be in JPG format. The final image must be in both JPG, and TIF format (at a print-resolution of no less than 300dpi).

Final Image Size

Your final image dimensions should be in print resolution (as large as you can possibly render). Do not send in a low-resolution placeholder and ask us to get back to you, as we won't.

A guideline is 2657 pixels wide and/or 3636 high, 300 DPI (portrait), or 3636 pixels wide and/or 2657 pixels high, 300 DPI (landscape). Your image aspect ratio and layout will dictate the final resolution. These are given as guidelines. To be safe, render images that are larger than these specified.
DO NOT up-sample your images to achieve higher resolution. If you cannot reach the desired full-page resolution, just send in what you have.

Information about the final file submission will be emailed to all contestants in the last month of the Challenge.

Terms and Conditions
  1. Anyone registered with CGTalk may enter.

  2. Employees and relatives of Ballistic Media, sponsors and judges cannot enter the competition.

  3. Contestants can enter the two categories simultaneously, but cannot enter images with the same concept/subject matter in both. Each must be a distinctly different piece.

  4. Any entry deemed by the judges to be the same or similar to any other entry previously entered will be disqualified for reasons of copyright liability.

  5. Images must conform to nominal decency guidelines. Any image deemed to contain content that depicts violence, racial, political, religious, sexual or any other inflammatory material in an inappropriate manner is disqualified and removed. Interpretation of what is and is not appropriate material is the sole discretion of Ballistic Media and/or its appointed agents.

  6. Entries must be original and will be disqualified if third party or previous work or models are re-used. This extends to use of parametric body and face models but not to terrain, foliage or other generators of secondary elements.

  7. No late entries will be accepted.

  8. Judges' decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into.

  9. To be eligible for prizes, all winning contestants must provide detailed “making of” articles.

  10. By entering artwork, animation and copy to the competition the entrant warrants that they are the sole copyright holder, or they have obtained the rights sufficient for the purpose of the competition.

  11. The competitor grants Ballistic Media and competition sponsors rights to use all entered materials in any media for sales, marketing and merchandising material provided full and correct credit for the artist clearly appears with said materials.

  12. The competitor grants Ballistic Media first right to publish their submitted work in any media and commits to contact Ballistic Media in writing at least one week prior to any proposed publication.

  13. Other than the rights assigned in the preceding clauses entrants retain copyright of all entered materials and are free to use said materials for personal promotions.

  14. The entrant indemnifies Ballistic Media against any claims or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages from any party that may arise from any use, including but not limited to, publication of entry materials submitted as a part of, or in association with the competition.

  15. Ballistic Media will not return any material submitted. At the written request of the entrant, Ballistic Media will destroy copies of submitted material and any backups or reproductions.

  16. There is no agreement or contract between the artist and Ballistic Media. The artist assumes all responsibility and costs for delivering images and other required information to the Publisher for consideration in the competition.

  17. Ballistic Media does not require any payment for entry of images nor does Ballistic Media offer any form of payment, actual or implied, to any entrants.

  18. Ballistic Media will take reasonable measures to ensure the security of entries and information supplied to them. In no event shall Ballistic Media be liable to any party, indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages arising out of the loss of images and data supplied, even if Ballistic Media has been advised of the possibility of such loss and damages.

  19. This list of terms and conditions constitutes the complete and exclusive statement of the terms and conditions and supersedes any prior terms and conditions, oral or written, and any other communications relating to these terms and conditions.


Final submission of print-resolution artwork is to be done using FTP. If you are not familiar with FTP and how to use it, you should seek help on its use well prior to the close of the challenge - late submissions due to inexperience with FTP will not be accepted.

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