Saturday, 29 September 2007

Day268 Blogger Play, pic sketching

Blogger Play
Google have now given us this new little offering which simply shows us a continuous stream of images that are uploaded by blogger users (like me). So you get a random feel for the scope of things people are using to illustrate their blogs and you can dive into the blogs themselves if they take your fancy. It is another clever way Google bring us a view of the web and in this case a nice visual way to feel the currency of it all.
[Blogger Play logo from the site]

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By way of where I ended up from this fun - was to an image on an Italian blog which leads us to the trailer for 01.18.08 (or Cloverfield). The CG and effects work on show are spectacular. New York is being torn apart in ever more spectacular fashion as our CG capabilities rise. The art of making trailers is on show again here - ekelent!!
The Movie Dearest blog also has the image in question (included below), but is also in English for us.

[promo poster image for 01.18.08/Cloverfield from Movie Dearest]

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2.1D Girlfriend Sketching and Fall Animating
I worked on sketches for the photo of 2D's girlfriend we will use in Episode 51. After some progress I took a different approach which is resulted in the image below. I have to give credit to little Alicia (7) for the idea of using separate paper for her hair. Though the end result is quite different it is great to see the lateral thinking young minds can bring. Next step is to build it up in photoshop to look like a polaroid and then get it into Maya.

[sketch to build the base of the palaroid for Episode 51]

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The next part for the 2.1D girlfriend photo is for me to build a rig for the photo itself and then get the falling animation going. So I made a simple plane with a criss-cross rig and animated the fall over 2 seconds. It actually looks pretty good already. Next will come the UV of the photo and working on a god camera and lighting setup to capture the shot.

[WIP of the photo-fall shot for Episode 51]

Friday, 28 September 2007

Day267 AndyH's Suzie, Bimboing and animating

Suzie by AndyH
Looking through some of the amazing work in CGSociety's gallery I found a piece of work by Andrew Hickinbottom which I hadn't noticed before 1. Suzie (from Nov 2006) is her name and she demonstrates some serious character modelling class. The base mesh is refined and has an attractive style which blends a cartoonish feel with 3D very well. The control that is built behind the scenes that allows such deft posing and expressions is something I am looking forward to trying. There is a nice discussion on Suzie in the forums as well where he answers all manner of little questions amongst endless praise posts. He explains that she is built completely in 3ds Max with standard biped, no plugins or anything. It would be great to see some of the technical components of her - how she bites her lip, how the clothes work, what the poly edge-loop setup looks like etc, but he is protecting these.

[The two posed image sets of Suzie by Andrew Hickinbottom]

AndyH does point people at the Joan of Arc tutorial (when asked if he would write one) and there is plenty of discussion around the inspiration of Dean Yeagle for Suzie's design (and posing for that matter).

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Bimboing
Lips, lips, lips. So first thing was to try and build a nicer set for Bimbo. Since she has a very simple set of facial features, so the lips really need to work. This time I began with 2 cubes and with a ref image I worked with vertices. If we end up animating them a little, then I will add a simple cylinder of white teeth. In 3D the lips looked a little puffy - so the second image here shows a modified set that look cuter.

[WIP images of Bimbo, now sporting new lips]

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Animating
For the 3D class we were asked to animate Will's character performing a lift, a rope pull or an axe swing. This turned out to be lots of fun actually, and I tried to apply everything I learnt from the Keith Lango tutorial pages in creating a rope pull. Though Will showed us plenty of overlap and timing control of individual components - I seem to have ended up closer to Keith Lango's newer writups where he uses more keyframes to guide the animations. I can see plenty of areas that could use refinement, but as a first pass I am actually quite happy with it. To criticise my own work I think I would say it is a little sloppy - the curves could be more expressive and direct.
After rendering out the frames as individual files it took me a while to discover Fcheck - which comes with Maya to pull them together. Though this worked fine, when I save it out as a .mov file it plays very slowly - oh well. So here is a screen shot of part of the process instead.

[WIP screenshot of the pull test animation using Will's character]


  1. Andrew Hickinbottom, “Suzie , Character Model,” CGSociety CGPortfolio, November 2006, http://andyh.cgsociety.org/gallery/ (accessed September 27, 2007).

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Day266 Bimboing and Project Scope

Bimboing
The modelling is still concentrating on adding features and altering global proportions. I am leaving the hair as great big spikes for now - hopefully that will help us rig it up with spline bones. It is possible that even if I had built them in-place they would be riggable - but this keeps things clean for now.

[WIP of the Bimbo Model]

I tried one way to make lips, but they frankly look kinda crap. I think I will try a few other ways to build the geometry, see if I can get some better lines as well as nice 3D feel.

[WIP of the Bimbo Model - a little later]

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Project Scope
I emailed Team Stimpy with a first cut at our total scope for the project - given that the weeks will fly past in our run up to the submission. In rough timeframes our hope is to have basic models rigged and into a 3D animatic by Tuesday. The animatic wont have all the details by any stretch, but will give us a good foundation for the next stage.
  • Mgt: Setup file organisation and sharing
  • Mgt: setup standards - units, filenames
  • Mgt: setup full schedule and responsibilities
  • Model: Bimbo : build model/mesh, uv, texture, material
  • Model: 3D: build model/mesh, uv, texture, material
  • Model: 2D: build model/mesh, uv, texture, material
  • Model: Pic: build model/mesh, uv, texture, material
  • Model: Bimbo: skin and rig
  • Model: 3D: skin and rig
  • Model: 2D: skin and rig
  • Scene: build background and full set for reflections
  • Scene: build lighting setup
  • Scene: setup cameras for each shot
  • Animation: build basic 3d animatic
  • Animation: build smooth character and interactive animation
  • Animation: build facial animations
  • Animation: add blinks, refinements, better flow and detailing
  • Animation: create 2Ds face in Flash.
  • Sound: get score final
  • Sound: set sound effects
  • Sound: record and prep voices
  • Compositing: bring it all together in Maya
  • Compositing: build and render out static images for into and credits
  • Compositing: Render out beauty or layer passes.
  • Compositing: bind it all together in post
  • Compositing: build credit reel
  • Mgt: build final submission with references to Mac-vs-PC and other context.
  • Misc: Write up logbooks
After some feedback I will write this up into a timeline format with responsibilities so we all can get our heads down.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Day265 More Modelling

Bimboing
I set about today's modelling with the goal of getting a relatively complete mesh set (all components and mirrored) so James could apply his rig and see how it runs. I am really looking forward to seeing it come together.

[WIP Bimbo model]

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Day264 Episode51 continues

Bimboing
After sending the current model off to the team, I wrote out the steps still required in building the model (mesh) for her as:
  • hair edges (get some light catching curves)
  • ponytail (full build)
  • eyebrows (create)
  • bangs
  • lips (design and create with talk ability)
  • refine glasses (detail)
  • moles and tat (add)
  • hair texture/bump (maybe sculpting also)
  • material bump (perhaps)
  • breast smoothing (if not to be kept separate)
  • mirror and fix joins
  • adjust proportions (neck height etc)
  • earrings and hairband
  • skin material
  • glasses material reflectivity/mapping (fake reflections?)
  • hair material
  • dress join with breast and back part
  • dress draped at sides and cleavage = shadow
  • groove in back for spine (test this idea)
This isnt a short list, but each piece is a simple bite-offable chunk, so hopefully she will be done very soon. I got as far as working through a logic to do the first one in the list (curving the edge). I ended up using extrude for the edges of the hair inwards. I then averaged the normals to make the sharp edge into a nicer curve.

Just a couple more bits, then I can mirror and send a full (2 halves) model off to James for her rig to be applied.

I also did some more sketches looking at details and options for her glasses.

[option sketches and more WIP for Bimbo]

Monday, 24 September 2007

Day263 Bimboing

Bimbo Work
Groupwork is proving to be a logistical nuisance. We all have different work and life schedules that struggle to come into alignment. In an office situation people would be systematically brought together without other things getting in the way, for us it isnt so regimented. We will have to find a way to both schedule in group meetings and to work effectively through online media.

The Bimbo model is progressing. I used Normal Averaging to good effect to smooth out any polys I added, this I hadnt worked out previously and I wish I had known this for project1. The dress at this stage still hugs the breast as a separate ball. I am tempted to try and make it less cartoony by altering this, but for now it is looking ok.

[WIP of Bimbo with her dress under construction]

I added the slot in the hand she will use to pinch 2D's cheek using boolean, perhaps not the best approach, but it seemed to work ok for me this time around and generated the correct look. The nipple is just a sphere - easy touch. Her hair began as a dupe of her head , I need to get some curves in around where it will join her head and then perhaps some grooves before the ponytail.

[WIP of Bimbo with more work done]

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Day262 Gaming, Cinema, Heavenly Sword & more

Gaming, Cinema and a Heavenly Sword
I have been looking for a little while now at the grey between computer game creation and what we see in digital cinema. Indeed, it is an area I would love to explore in terms of realtime visualisation. The idea that cinematics and underlying characterisation and narrative could bring greater levels of immersion would be a nice thing to explore. I could see that peoples understanding of spaces and emotional engagement would also rise by bringing these CG cousins together.

In the current 3D World (Issue 96), the cover article "A Slice of Heaven" by Jon Jordan 1 explores ideas that fit this thinking in a look at Heavenly Sword. The PS3 has perhaps failed to realise its potential thus far, but it was titles, titles, titles that made the PS2 what it was. So as the big title start to arrive on the PS3 the road ahead for the console could be the same.
The article runs through several parts of the production process for the game and feeds us stats like the 10mil pound budget, the 90mins of cutscenes, Nariko's face sports 3,000 verts, her hair trumps that with 4,500 and more. The article gets right into the process of building an epic scale game like this from concept sketchwork to mocap and combat animations.

It is perhaps that this game blends cut-scene sequences with an overt narrative and character driven game that put is so squarely in the grey area between games and movies. More than that there is the software and process that continue to blur the lines. Armed with Maya, ZBrush, Mudbox, Turtle and such the pipeline reads much more movie-like than many games. When you bring in Weta, cinematography, composers and acting talent it is a long way from Frogger.

Heavenly Sword itself (which has a lovely website btw)2 is a combat centric game built upon a story we move through. I will be interested to see how it compares with the now legendary HL2 which set such a high bar for any game. IGN's review by Chris Roper 3 rates it a 7.0, so nowhere in that league. It does look stunning, if only I had a PS3, I could check for myself :-)

Here are some of the illustrations done for the mixed media game. The concept work by Alessandro Taini really sets the tone and style that Ninja Theory then set about realising. (His site has other work, I particularly like his Frost Flower concept work 4)

[images from the Heavenly Sword site2 of Taini's illustrations]

To get the full feel of what this game will be like we need some video - the official trailer sets the tone nicely and this narrated clip shows off plenty more:

[youtube narrated intro to Heavenly Sword]

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Bimboing
As soon as I wrote this word I chuckled to myself. Bimbo-ing when strung together makes a funny word.
Anyhow I began work on her today with the sketchbook again, exploring more detailed logics for her glasses, mouth and nose. It pretty quickly highlights that there is no right solution and that we will have to start with something and see how that renders up and animates out.
I started to block out the dress and worked on her breast a little. I wasnt sure if we would end up animating her breast moving (either during her walk in or other animation) so I have kept the sphere pretty separate at this point rather than integrated into the body mesh. This will give a different animated feel, but in keeping with the character I hope.

[Bimbo bits sketch and WIP of the Bimbo character again]

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Keith Lango Tutes
I read through each of Keith Lango's Tutorials today 5. I will set about doing our homework empowered with all the wisdom held within. I liked his edits (way back in 2002, then again in 2006) as they not only refine the material, but add some nice reflective commentary. It is interesting to see that film animation has schedules of around 4-9 seconds of animation a week. This highlights the long production times required.
I liked the emphasis on working through the animation in stages, making sure the pose and timing are right before moving on to further details. The changes to his tute to a logic of more keyframes was interesting and his checklist powerful. There are a bucket-load of tips for us budding animators in there and revised info as he develops his processes.


  1. Jon Jordan, “A Slice of Heaven,” 3D World, no. 96 (September 2007): 40-46.
  2. “Heavenly Sword: Home,” http://www.heavenlysword.com/#/en_AU/home/ (accessed September 23, 2007).
  3. Chris Roper, “IGN: Heavenly Sword Review,” August 24, 2007, http://au.ps3.ign.com/articles/815/815721p1.html (accessed September 23, 2007).
  4. Alessandro Taini, “Talexi.com Alessandro Taini | concept artist,” http://www.talexiart.com/ (accessed September 23, 2007).
  5. Keith Lango, “keith lango animation,” http://www.keithlango.com/wordpress/ (accessed September 19, 2007).