Saturday, 22 September 2007

Day261 Stardust & Bimbo Modelling

I have been looking forward to Stardust ever since seeing the trailer for it several months ago. It has a real adventure fairy-tale feel, bringing some fun ideas together with class acting talent and no small helping of CG effects to round things off.

The ride we are taken on could be compared with joys like the Princess Bride, featuring memorable characters and a simple but engaging plotline that combine with some cute writing
and production to complete the picture. That seems like a rather flowery way to say that the movie is a fun ride. Our two main characters are fun to watch and flavour is added all around them. Robert DeNero and Michelle Pfeiffer are excellent, and there are plenty of smaller roles to make us laugh. The ghosts are hilarious, as was Billy :-)

There were lots of special effects and some CG work to deliver the fantasy feel. The witches and their powers blend nicely with the world and the scenery is lovely. That said, the effects work only came out of the closet in a big way now and again, with much of the film centred very strongly around the cast.

I was happy to see Neil Gaiman credited in the film, having enjoyed his comics and graphic novels. I hadn't seen/read this story though, which began as a 4 part comic in 1997 published by DC and then became a novel. That his book now finds itself a huuuge movie like this is testament to his imagination and realisation into characters and story. When it comes to other Gaiman films, we have the grand Beowulf coming and his Mirrormask - which I really want to see.

Stardust Site: nifty semi-3D looking site with some nice production notes as well.
Stardust on IMDB: with 119 pics even.
Double Negative CG: site showcasing the CG work dont on Stardust.
Neil Gaiman: his home site with info on much of his work.
Stardust Trailer: on the Apple site (its quality is nicer there)

[images from Stardust from their website via]


Dr Who
The Face of Boe - for those that have seen the end of season3, you will know what I mean - truly excellent - I cant stop thinking about how clever that is!!


Bimbo Modelling
I finally stepped into modelling our little Bimbo character for Episode 51 of 3D & 2D. Making the choice to stick with poly's, simply to get our workflows consistent across all of our characters. After bringing in the reference sketches, the basic shapes came together very quickly, then it was a matter of adding detail piece by piece.

[WIP images of Bimbo coming to life]

Friday, 21 September 2007

Day260 XSI Mod Tool Discovered & 300

XSI Mod Tool
Following leads from the XNA talk and reading in that area, I ended up at a tool from Softimage for their XSI suite which offers some interesting avenues for game modding, creation and related applications.

[image from the Mod Tool site]

In fact the site says that the XSI Mod Tool empowers content creation for HalfLife2 and XNA which will then run on both Windows and the XBox360. Exactly what capabilities come to life with this tool I am looking forward to exploring. I started out watching the intro video tutes on the site which are an intro to XSI, which looks to operate in precisely the same fashion as others lie Max and Maya.
More to come on this...


300 again
Watched 300 through again, the look of the film is simply incredible. It has a feel that is very much like a martial arts film actually, it is about a huge battle portrayed like a musical piece of poetry. I am looking forward to seeing Andrew Jackson at the AEAF in November, all the CG elements camera matched and the effects layers atop it all.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Day259 Microsoft XNA, IOTBS

Microsoft XNA Presentation
Went to a little presentation by Luke Drumm (from Readify) covering the new wonders of Micsosoft's XNA. This new game development platform creates a higher level VM (in much the same way as the .net Framework) which allows much faster, simpler and perhaps better developmet atop DirectX 10. Apart from the development advantages of handling a large swag of issues around graphics handling, multi-core programming and interfaces, we also get ... wait for it ... cross platform development. Well to be honest, we get applications built or Windows DX10 also portable over to the XBox360.
This sounds amazing, and perhaps it will be one day, but for now they make the shuffling process for doing this so annoying that it really isnt worth it. Well yet.
Though v1 has been around for while, V2 is arriving as we speak and could propel this idea much further with networking and other enhancements.
Some links for more:
XNA Developer Centre
XNA Team Blog
XNA Development: game development for the masses.
XNA Creators Club
Dream Build Play

By way of an example here are some screenshots from the Contest on the DreamBuildPlay site. First from Blazing Birds, then Gravitron Ultra and lastly Burning Angels:

[screenshots from the contest on the DreamBuildPlay site]


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

I havent seen the 1956 version, but I loved watching the more recent 1978 version directed by Philip Kaufman. He is credited with bringing us all manner of nifty cinematic things, like The Right Stuff and the story from Raiders of the Lost Ark. IOTBS really feels like a movie from this period, displaying many of the qualities that mark this time in film making. Things like the type of leading lady (as with Superman, Raiders of the Lost Arc, etc) and the shot and music treatment. Anyhow, Geoff Goldblum is great as always and seeing a relatively young Donald Sutherland is a treat. It is funny how actors like Leonard Nimoy bring so much baggage from signature roles (Star Trek in this case). Though the pacing dates by today's standards, it did have some very nicely suspenseful sequences (altogether too much running as is the 70's way).

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Day258 Web Wonders & Keith Lango

Web Wonders
Over the last few days I happened upon a few inspiring pieces of the web landscape. The web is certainly mature enough that people can explore the edges of the envelope and it all works. These examples are not only interesting in the technology or logic deployed, but in the commentary they make (deliberately or not) about our society.

Microsoft Silverlight
Microsoft have a brand spanking new web tech, Silverlight 1, that they will no doubt be flogging with a dizzying array of features and another attempt to control things. Pessimism aside, the sites that are using Silverlight so far are quite stunning. There is a definitively 'flash' feel to things, so it will come down to what advantages Microsoft can pack in under the covers to outdo Adobe that will get people excited.
The advertised feature set reads very much like Flash really, though it has an emphasis on programming. Since this is just v1 it is perhaps asking alot for it to come out fighting, but if it is to get a footing it will need something to lure people in. One of those things will be leveraging the .net development skills out there. I guess we will see soon enough, at least we will get to see some very nifty sites while we wait to see what happens.
My favourite in the quick sample list on the Silverlight homepage is the ReMIX07 Conference site which has a strong visual presentation and some fun dynamics.

Daylife Universe
Universe on Daylife 2 is a little gem of a site I found through the MDM (thanks Andre). It is hard to describe how beautiful this site is, it presents the web in a constellation-like way. So for a single search you see all the results laid out in a variety of beautiful ways. It isnt really a way to systematically find what you are after, it is instead a way to browse about and see the absolutely amazing amount of references and links that are out there from a single day.
The stars and shapes are the nicest versions, these images give you an idea of how beautiful it all is:

[screenshots from Universe on Daylife 2]

Google Music Trends
Google are very good at both building interesting views of user data and creating things that people want to participate in. A new piece in this space is Google Music Trends 3 which users of Google Talk can subscribe to which automatically sends to Google info on the music that you listen to on the computer. We have obviously come a long way to arrive at a point where so many people choose to actively subscribe to a service that collects data on your habits to simply generate data for others. Perhaps it is something like TV-ratings...

Kommerz Interface
This isnt a web things actually, but was shown in our SC class on Tuesday as an interface example. The Mixed Reality Interface by the name of Kommerz 4 has a nice way of combining digital (including virtual 3D environments) and physical pieces/models on a table. There is some overlap with the ideas we know well from Microsoft's Surface 5 computer, but has a different focus.


Keith Lango
Through our 3D course we were put onto the wonders of Keith Lango and his site 6. There is alot of content here, I will have to digest his comprehensive blogging in a slow and steady fashion. The detailed (Maya-centric) tutorials look like an awesome resource and I will definately be using them during the week as I explore the animation tasks. There are plenty of little animations to o illustrate how we might go about bringing character and life to our own work (from very short snippets to longer shorts).
Keith has been part of a host of things, most recently films like Ant Bully as a character animator. The religious goop on his site puts me off, but I will look past that to the great work he does and the tips he has for the rest of us.
Here are 2 images from the tutorials that show the depth they go into - not just with commands and process in Maya, but with principles and logics as well.

[images from the Keith Lango site 6]

  1. “Microsoft Silverlight: Light Up the Web,” 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007).
  2. Jonathan Harris, “Universe,” Daylife, 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007).
  3. “Google Music Trends,” 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007).
  4. KOMMERZ and Thomas Kienzl, “Mixed Reality Interface, input device, CeBIT, information technology, communikation technology, presentation technology,,” (accessed September 19, 2007).
  5. “Microsoft Surface,” Microsoft, 2007, (accessed September 19, 2007).
  6. Keith Lango, “keith lango animation,” (accessed September 19, 2007).

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Day257 MDMing and other fun


3D Class
I created a page for our animatic submission over on my Googlepages area that compiles the info found here on the blog. It is interesting that it is sooo much easier to include images and movies and animations etc in this way than in a word doc. Submitting it as a file is trickier of course, so I had to make a Word version with other files included in the folder in case.

In class we went through file handling and referencing logic which is a pain for any project of this type, but should be ok. Will showed us a bunch of Pose2Pose animations with his own characters which was very nifty to see. I liked the manipulations through the graph editor and the dope sheet.

Our presentation of the animatics seemed to go down well, and so the journey continues...

Screen Culture Tute
Another fun tutorial class, this time on Interfaces. Though definitions were provided in the class, I like the idea of an interface definition being something like 'a means by which communication occurs between two entities'. I think this gives meaning to TV and traffic-lights etc. This class is proving to be really entertaining...


AutoDesk 3D Launch Tour
I registered for another up-coming AutoDesk event, this time hopefully showing off the wonders to behold in the new versions of Max and Maya and more (Motionbuilder, Toxik etc). Though these things can be a bit hit'n'miss as far as being worthwhile - I will keep my optimism up and enjoy the ride.


Media Player on da Mac
I dived off and installed Microsoft's Media Player on the Mac 1 finally. The site says they wont be supporting it beyond v9. That they will instead be working with Telestream on Flip4Mac. I am not sure why a mediaplayerapplication of some sort isnt just part of the OS these days. Why do we need to use quirky Quicktime player one might ask?

  1. “Windows Media Player for Mac,” March 6, 2006, (accessed September 18, 2007).

Monday, 17 September 2007

Day256 Animatics, Maya and Lectures

Russ Lecture
I sat in on one of Russell Lowe's lectures for his Architecture students. He gave us a fun journey through a set of concepts around their studio project and ideas like Action, Interaction, Reaction, and more. Russ has amassed a fun little rogues gallery of short videos that demonstrate various points or that engage with ideas he wants his students to think more deeply on. It was a fun way to do a lecture, a series of disjointed clips, each bringing something to bear on the topic and hinting at ways of approaching architectural design issues.

Many of the examples were ads of various types and it does show how clever that industry can be - indeed there were too many examples to list. The NASCAR Fox advert is quite stunning in its visual treatment, excels in its timing and brings 3D to a nice meeting with 2D.


Another good example for him would have been the transport sequence from Robots - love that bit! It is in the vain of the work of Rube Goldberg 1 and his zany contraptions. Not to mention now famous adverts like the one from Honda 2 where pieces of their Accord work like super-high-tech dominoes in a series actions like a dance or physics narrative.

[Honda commercial 2]

[Robots Crosstown Express sequence 3]


Animatic Work
I am pretty happy with the current animatic until we get the group together and feedback from the class tomorrow. So I set about creating a short walk test animatic for our loveable Bimbo character. She has an interesting form with her separate pieces, and being the voluptuous sort she sways alot when she moves. I could have done this in Maya perhaps, but it is good to see how the 2D concept work can have a life into motion and thus feed further work in Maya. So the next step will be exactly that!

[Right-Click and chose play]


Maya Rigging and Skinning
James passed on this super video of a character rig with a very nifty set of manipulators, not just for the macro movements, but also for facial expressions. It all looks so simple when you see a finished product like this - I would love to be able to take a concept like this and see if it could be applied to other logics entirely.
The video is from Victor Vinyals' site 4 where he shows off what he can do.
The images below grabbed from the video are from the first part with a fully rigged character which is quite inspiring. After that we get a look at his elephant and a handful of other characters which are awesome as well.

[screengrabs from Victor Vinyal's reel 4]

Victor's base site 4 has an animated short as well showing the fun a little dino-dragon thing might have after stepping on some chewing gum. I cant wait to get to see what we will be producing in the MDM at the end - should be quite a ride.


Blog Referencing
Since I grabbed zotero for referencing here and for my MDM work, there have been plenty of examples where I ave no idea how to reference them. A good example is a list of useful links, or a movie reference where the film is the primary reference, but I might provide a link for people or indeed a youtube snippet or trailer link - do I ref them all?

I did find a useful guide to blog referencing by Duncan on Blog Herald 5 which suggests referencing like this, though I added the superscript referencing to enhance it further. The logic of including the blog link inline, pretty much as I have been doing is also covered in other areas. The 1001 Reflections blog 6 has some examples of this, though I think the Duncan method works more nicely with integration with zotero.


This day shouldn't go past without a little homage to the nice ITness of the number 256. could talk a little about base2 and bytes etc - but Gray Watson does it nicely enough 7

  1. “Rube Goldberg,” (accessed September 17, 2007).
  2. “YouTube - Honda Rube Goldberg Machine,” Youtube, (accessed September 17, 2007).
  3. Robots
  4. Victor Vinyals, “Victor Vinyals Character Rigger & Animator,” (accessed September 17, 2007).
  5. Duncan, “A quick guide to referencing : The Blog Herald,” Blog Herald, September 12, 2005, (accessed September 17, 2007).
  6. “1001 Reflections: From Student Apathy to Global Collaboration to My Initial Thoughts...,” March 8, 2007, (accessed September 17, 2007).
  7. Gray Watson, “The Story of 256,” 2002, (accessed September 18, 2007).

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Day255 Ref Sketches and animatic

Reference Sketches of 15sec Characters
I worked on the reference images for our two truly 3 dimensional characters, this will allow myself and the group to start modelling them up. Even in rough form we can use them for the 3D animatic.
In drawing up 3D it was apparent that we need the front of his face to curve nicely, this gives us the 3Dness and shadowing while retaining the primitive-centric feel we have going now. The design allows for components to be individually textured and skinned which removes the need for a single big UV map. We can get some texture on the beanie, and some reflectivity on his headphones. His tattoos can be a nice texture UVed around his arm and his full form should be quite lean on polys. Buzz will make for good reference in how to get him to come-to-life.

Bimbo is relatively new on the scene as she has been evolving to meet the real needs of the story. This reference set should be useful for both the revised 2D animatic and for the building of the 3D model. I think we can simplfy things by keeping her mouth separate from her face and just animating the mouth. Her hair will be a nice IK_Spline_Handle probably (the bangs and the ponytail). We could do her moles and love-heart as geometry quite easily. Getting her breasts right is very important and we will have to work out how they move (if they do).


Revised Animatic
Armed with new reference images I set about rebuilding the 2D animatic and with great intentions of animating more of the movement and expressions etc.
I am sticking with text for speech at present as that is very easy to change - and thus test and evolve the timings etc. I got as far as introducing a few pieces and its working (though I do like the feel of the original sketchwork).

Animatic References
Inspired by this process and the Incredibles video animatic, I thought I would look for some more. These are some that I liked, firstly the wizards behind Gorillaz, their animatic for Dare and then the actual clip itself. You can see the artistry behind the finished product, but you also need to know what is going on to 'see' past the still to what becomes a quite dynamic animation.

[Gorillaz Dare animatic (on Youtube)]

[Gorillaz Dare full video (on Youtube)]

Here is a second set from Gorillaz again:
This one is from Lilo and Stitch (deleted scene)

And here is an extravagant 3D one from X-men

There are zillions more on Youtube actually - no time to watch them all :-)

how to reference things like this - mighty good question...