Saturday, 15 September 2007

Day254 Stories, tutes and more

5 x Character Bio/Dossier Stories
I thought it could be good to flesh out our characters a touch with a few tales that delve into their flaws, features and relationships. So here they are:

1. INK
It was late, bloody late and though 3D had agreed to met 2D in the morning, there was still fun to be had. In fact he had consumed waaay too much polyjuice and was in a mood to see what kind of story he could bring to breakie that would poke a little fun at his flat friend. Soon he found himself at a dingy texture artist, squeezed in between the kebab joint and an abandoned free range render farm wholesaler. The walls showed a dizzying array of inky textures, some bump mapped and tiled oh so sexily. It was then that the image of his friends wafer thin expression at seeing a tat on his nice round arm gave him a devilish idea. So it was that after several long and painful hours of UVing, 3D left sporting an actual image of his 2D friend on his arm. As he wandered off to wait for breakfast, he grinned at the strange faces his new
tattoo made as he twisted his ik_handle.

2. TRAPS
I remember it was often painful to watch the two of them playing as they grew up. They were inseperable friends of course, but you knew that 3D was never far from another prank that would leave 2D stapled, folded, torn or smudgy. I remember one summer 3D discoverd 2D;s aversion to water. It seemed like months we had to edure the sound of 2D shrieking as another water balloon cannoned into the wal beside him or the sound of his papery feet scampering away from a sprinkler trap. This little chapter in their story has a bitter-sweet ending though. One of 3D's practical jokes backfired and he got himself drenched which shorted-out and corrupted both of his arms. They were restored from backup a few days later, but it seemed to take weeks to get the inverse kinematics normal again. Well, lets just say that 2D didnt have to fear 3D's water attacks any longer.

3. GRAD
2D had always been a very close friend of 3D despite the antics of the later. No-one could keep track of the times 2D had helped on those all-nighters 3D always seemed to be doing. 2D was patient and good at sketching, on top of just being good company. Though 3D often didn't seem to appreciate what his friend did for him, 2D took plenty of satisfaction from seeing 3D's mortar board tossed into the air. He didn't regret things or feel unappreciated really, though he knew others might see things that way. He was happy with who he was and good he could do. Actually he took some considerable pride in seeing 3D realise who he could be.

4. SMUDGE
I remember I wasnt always so comfortable with how I looked. Perhaps we all experiment with our appearance during our youth. Some try out 3 colour printing, some the film noir thing, one of my friends was crayon for years. Anyhow, I remember as my long-time friend 3D's collection of tattoos grew, the idea of getting one myself snuck up on me one day. The next thing I knew I had a little smilie-stamp on my corner. Obviously it didn't take long for me to realise how silly I looked, admittedly with some help from 3D. So I spent the next few months with an ugly smudge near my chin. The darn things are much easier to get that to remove - lesson learnt.

5. SKIN
Bimbo is a stunning, she has all her bits in all the right places, that's for sure. Actually, now that I say it, it does remind me of a day, just after she met 3D actually. The two of them were busily swapping data and somehow at the climax something went screwy and Bimbo's bits went everywhere. We got her back together quickly enough, but her smoothing groups and skinning was a little off, when she would move her arm - her dress would move as well. 3D didn't mind seeing all those lovely primitives under that dress all the time, but still helped us get her sorted out in the end.

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2D Girl Photo
I did a few more sketches for the photo as it will play such a critical role in the piece now.
I think I like the lower right one, she has a seriously ordinary feel about her. That said I do like the version with the earings and the matching piece-of-paper logic of the bottom-left one.


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Toy Story
I watched the original masterpiece that is Toy Story today on DVD. I am still in awe of what Pixar created and to think it was so looong ago. Things have come a bloody long way since 1995, yet this gem of a film still stands tall as an icon of what this medium can do. The animation is wonderful to watch, things are 'pushed' hard, though within the bounds of each toy and where it is pushed hardest it still works because the toys are kinda like carton characters anyhow. The voice talents obviously play a critical role in breathings such life into the film, John Lasseter though is the genius behind the magic.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114709/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPMvfaF2tao

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Tutes
I worked through the built-in Maya rigging and skinning tutes as well - now to give it a whirl with Bimbo over the next few days.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Day253 Animatic v4

Animatic V4
I did some more work on the current animatic. Which now looks like this:
[right-click and choose play to kick things off]

It has a certain pace to it which is energetic and kinda racey. I think this works and gives it some vibrance. The animated sections of the piece are sitting at 15 seconds now, so assuming the falling photo counts, then if we need time anywhere we will have to shrink somewhere else.
This has been proving viable with dialogue changes like "oh look, here comes mine" down to say "here's mine" as a possible example.

This version still uses the previous designs for the characters. I plan to rebuild it using this as a starting point but with pieces from special sketches. The whole thing seems to be working and I feel confident we can pull off the whole thing. I plan on building and rigging the bimbo on the weekend actually (well making some serious progress on it anyhow).

The photo
One thing that the animatic revealed that wasnt apparent in the still storyboards was the role that the photo of the 2Dgirl plays. The actions of the photo actually bind the whole piece together, focusing transitions and providing the motion through the narrative right through to it hitting the floor at the very end.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Day252 MDMing Flash

Screen Culture
I enjoyed the lecture again today, covering interfaces in various ways and prompted some fascinating discussion afterwards. We spent some time talking about keyboards and pondering when we might be able to see Dvorak keyboards as the norm. Anyhow, Anna showed us examples of interesting interfaces, I had seen some before, but Sony's hyperdragging spatially continuous workspace was an interesting variation on a theme (http://www.sonycsl.co.jp/person/rekimoto/papers/chi99.pdf)1

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Flash 2D Animatic
Did some more work on the flash 2D Animatic, I am upto the fiddlier pieces of the puzzle now, but it is slowly coming together piece by piece. It does a few odd things just to keep me on my toes - hopefully they will all be sorted out by Tuesday. Well preferably tomorrow night so we could even have a prelim bash at a 3D animatic as well.

I grabbed a sound file for the footsteps from the I Love Wavs site called FtSteps1.wav 2.
http://www.ilovewavs.com/Effects/People/FtSteps1.wav
I did look around a big bunch of other sites, and though I used the one from this site, the freesound (http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/index.php) site had similar sounds and a whole lot more besides. It looks like a good resource for the future.

I did some more design work on our 3Dbimbo. I created new hands for her that mean they wont need fingers or detailed animating but still look good. And some more revisions of her design details from mole locations to earings. Interestingly, when the design changed to having disjointed blobs for her pieces including her neck - she kinda lost the ability to wear her necklace...


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  1. Jun Rekimoto and Masanori Saitoh, “Augmented Surfaces: A Spatially Continuous Workspace for Hybrid Computing Environments,” Sony Computer Science Laboratories, 1999, http://www.sonycsl.co.jp/person/rekimoto/papers/chi99.pdf (accessed September 13, 2007).
  2. “ILoveWavs.com - Your ultimate categorized .WAV source,” http://www.ilovewavs.com/index.htm (accessed September 13, 2007).

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Day251 3Dstorywork

3D Storywork
First step was to look at a more stylised view of 3D and new 3Dbimbo that will assist with the rig and animation by limiting artifacts and playing on the simplistic rendering that will apply.
Here is some sketchwork showing this progression, te first image shows ideas, then what is a good realisation of this to all 3 characters as a set:

One place this leads is to some references, in looking at them again 3D has joints like Buzz Lightyear and 3Dbimbo is almost a bit like Woody. Woody's arms are separated in their thick geometry, they just have material for elbows for example - neat. The ponytail and bangs should be much easier to animate, either using the ik_spline_handle, deformers or even just regular bones.
The revised 3D character has a more constructed-of-primitives look and references the tests that James has built with the blocking and rigwork.

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Animatic V1
I first created a quick animatic to look at timings inside iMovie (was a good excuse to explore another piece of built-in mac software). This worked ok to a point, but was very limited in the manipulations I could make. It did let me very easily adjust the duration of shots which was helpful, but its usefulness was limited after that.
I thought I would use this as a test for uploading to Youtube as well (havent ever done that before either). Though the version I uploaded is VERY low res, armed with the other images here the idea is starting to get some life:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLtlIDSaYcA

Animatic V2
So it was onto Flash next which is proving to be much more powerful for working through the dynamics. I have a fair way to go yet - but I can now see some of the cuts, transitions, movement and such actually going. For some reason the animation plays faster than my in-app testing (have to fix that), but it loads up into youtube as well as a flash movie which is nifty:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofK1AfuPQnU

Rigging
I created a very very rudimentary version of our 3Dbimbo in a blocking kinda way to play with rigging. Some of the stuff I learnt sunk in and I could get a fair way through the process and achieve some success.

New Script
(matching better the new logic and timings)
2D:......“Hi 3D”
3D:......“Hey 2D, what have you got there”
[2D raising picture]
2D:......“She's my new girlfriend”
3D:......“She … nice”
[sound of high heels]
3D:......“and here's mine, hi babe”
3Dbabe:..“Hi hon …”
[3Dbabe pinching 2D's cheek]
3Dbabe:..“oooh … he's funny”

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Tokyo Drift CG
I came across an excellent little article by Martin McEachern on Computer Graphics World covering the CG and compositing work done by R&H on a scene from Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift1. The things that strike me (apart from the obvious complexity) are things like the number of applications in use, apart from Maya, Houdini, Massive, Inferno, Shake and a host of in-house apps there would be a large compliment of others from creative apps like image editing and audio through to management and systems.
This passage from the article highlights where this fusion of technology and cinema is headed:
"Tokyo Drift’s Shibuya Square sequence is one of the most dramatic foreshadowings yet of the impending union between the digital artist and the production designer. With their fates and futures inextricably intertwined, the digital artist will graduate from the periphery of the filmmaking process to a more integrated and collaborative role, as indispensable to any production as the director, editor, or cinematographer." McEachern, M 2006.
Here is one of the image sets from the article, showing some of the compositing required.

[image from Turbo-Charged FX 2006 by Martin McEachern on CGW]

Following up from the article, there are plenty of little clips from the film showing off the camera and effects work including snippets of this scene.

Just for reference (pun :-) I am trying out Zotero for the footnote and citations now.

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  1. Martin McEachern, “Turbo-Charged FX,” Computer Graphics World, August 2006, http://www.cgw.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=1F417AF4B40E4D7E8FC44BE4D3244C51 (accessed September 12, 2007).

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Day250 3D, SC and Compositing

3D Storyboards and more
Another whirlwind class on 3D, it is good to see Will run through things in class, but it definitively requires lots of work outside class to explore concepts and techniques on top of actually working on the project. Rigging looks like fun actually and I am looking forward to giving it a whirl.

I am not sure how the presentation of our storyboards went. I feel the idea needs to read a little more clearly - we started talking about changing our 3Dbabe into a 3Dbimbo. This can help bring forward the idea of 3D annoying 2D all the time with his fun, games and cool newness. This more blatent stereotyping is easier to convey and lets us play more heartily with her and 2D.
The scope of work is looking a little daunting, so we will have to break it down and get the components done and in place one by one and it should all come together.
The next steps are 2D and 3D animatics...

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Screen Culture
Responding on the interaction of media (esp. screens) and the military - went ok and was an interesting topic.

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Compositing
I have been looking for more reference data and tutorials for my compositing talk tomorrow and found all manner of nifty stuff on the web for me and others to learn from.
http://www.seraph3d.com/CompositingTutorialA02.htm
http://www.3drender.com/light/compositing/index.html

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Not exactly related but it looks interesting is Pixar's Library:
http://graphics.pixar.com/indexByAuthor.html

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Drive Opening
I came across this article on Computer Graphics World (article) about the opening sequence of the TV show Drive which (like everything) is on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzTt0P99CVo). Stylised and perhaps not as inspiring as in the Matrix sequence, but still kinda clever.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Day249 MDMing

I wrote up the storyboard and script as a document and added our current state dossiers, which we will add a little more to tomorrow. I made the doc in newly installed word (should have got this ages ago :-) I started drawing some imagery of our characters to flesh out the dossiers as well:


Text that goes with the storyboards:
The following boards represent our groups evolution of the 3D & 2D concept based upon a range of ideas spawned from using the Mac vs. PC commercials combined with our own characters.
We have a set of stills to introduce the piece (1-3) then 13-14 seconds of animation with dialogue and several cuts (4-8), followed up by more stills and scrolling credits with a concluding 1 second animation to complete the narrative inserted.

The visual treatment will match pretty closely the commercials with a plain background and non-dramatic lighting (like a studio). The music will be background simple piano, again referencing the commercials, though if we can have a theme that relates to 3Dbabe build up to her appearance that would be nice.

There will be shot cuts in the same vain as the commercials as well allowing us to get in closer to the characters when they have expressions we want to see etc. The whole animation will try and maintain a simple feel to it, no dramatic character movement and static cameras etc.
There will be a fade at the end to lead into the more emotional shot of the photo falling to the floor.
The colour treatment will be understated. It wont be glary like Toy Story for example, we will maintain a low-key feel without it being drab. Some things may stand out, like 3Dbabe’s hair.
Dialogue/Script
(this is useful for us to work on timing)
2D:......“Hi 3D”
3D:......“Hi 2D, what have you got there”
[2D raising picture]
2D:......“She’s my new girlfriend”
3D:......“She … nice”
[sound of high heels]
3D:......“oh, hi babe”
3Dbabe:..“Hi hon …”
[3Dbabe pinching 2D’s cheek]
3Dbabe:..“… he’s cute”

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Day248 3D Group Meeting

3D 15 Sec Group Meeting
Brainstorming the details of our 15 second piece was fun and fruitful again. Our group is gelling very well and each time we work through the concept, a wealth of ideas come forth. We are forced to abandon most of these due to the limitations we have, but some of them are just too good to resist and we find a way.
We have a real enthusiasm for working on our piece and that is showing in what we are all producing so far. During our gathering today while I drew up new storyboards for us, Yaz worked on the Bios and James some nifty prelim rigging inside Maya. There are many little pieces to this puzzle that we are looking forward to getting our teeth into.

The storyboards:












Character Reference Images:

I like the tattoo ideas, bringing that element of real 3D artists into the characters, playing with symbols and even the stamp for 2D :-)
Our 3D babe may need editing a little, as she was built to be seen primarily in medium shots, she is shorter than I would otherwise build a character of this type. She should really be long, lithe and silky - but in a full shot she feels exaggerated and oh-so-curvy. If we make the proportions stretchier, then she will be really skinny and have a teensie head compared to our male characters..

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Links of Note
After a fun day there are several little things we enjoyed, such as:
Pixar Piss Take
Pixar Tennis Ad

Plus I was pointed at Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/) which might be helpful with my referencing (if EndNote doesnt do this stuff).

I will have to make much better use of Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/) as well! After just a single search I found the likes of:
http://gamepipe.usc.edu/~zyda/pubs/ShillingGameon2002.pdf
http://www.ndu.edu/inss/DefHor/DH11/DH11.htm
Virtuous War