Saturday, 20 October 2007

Day288 MDMing

Episode51 Work
Big day for the team on our 3D&2D piece

File Management
The whole file transfer and management side of things is quite complex, intricate, fiddly, essential, empowering and frustrating. The notion of doing this on a major production with 60 people sharing assets and working in parallel is quite daunting seeing all the little issues we have to solve on our midget 15 seconds with 3 people and basically one piece of software.
So far the major file-swap times have basically worked, but there are often things that dont quite come together nicely.

Using the referencing method is very powerful, but some more experience on this side would be valuable. Locking down the model file from editing would be one idea, as soon as we have tweaks and edits in the rig, then we have to deal with oddities when we re-reference the model. We were also very cautious in this process about adding geometry as that always seemed to mean a chunk of re-rigging. I also find myself holding back on one part of the production process and waiting for a 'more final' version of something because of the generic fear that any changes will break things and then they would need re-doing.

It is definitely better to fully model up a character (with lots of attention to how it will be rigged an animated) before the actual rigging begins. Plus to get the rig fully resolved and working before any animating begins. The workflow of Kevin Lanning I looked at on Day282 is a good example of this.
I cant wait until I can try my hand at this kind of thing, high and low res modelling, texturing, rigging and animating for game engines and cinematics - awesome.

Shot 10
Looking in detail I noticed we have 2 time versions of the photo-fall scene (shot10). One at 1.5 secs and the other at 2 secs. Since some of it is obscured, the end result may well be in between. I will have to get a copy of After Effects or something so I can start learning the video compositing side of things. iMovie just doesnt seem to sport enough features to do what we will need (I think).

[WIP of Shot10 with the falling photo]

Since I already had the photo-fall animation built from my test earlier, I grabbed that file and imported the main shot sequence file into it. Eliminating the characters, old lights and such it was back to a nice clean scene. I created a new shot10 camera and lined it up with pretty much how the test looked and referenced the animatic again. I added a new point light with raytraced shadows for this shot and then it was ready to render out.
Though the render process is nice - each time I would render it out I would see something in the lighting or framing etc that could use fixing. I created 2 boxes to mask out the wide-screen-ness of this shot. Hopefully the compositing stage will cope with this. So after a few more versions I have shot10 rendered out - cool.

[youtube vid of the photofall sequence also known as shot10]

Remote Groupwork
It was interesting having James in at COFA working on his copy of group's files while I worked on mine. We communicate on the fly via GoogleTalk and then Gmail each other updates.

3D
Even though we had a working model of 3D, I just couldnt help but run a bunch of refinements over him. I enjoyed this actually as I got to play with a bumch of things that I hadnt really got into before. I reworked his forearm UV maps, adjusted some geometry, reworked the outliner (I like using this window to select things) and a few other bits and pieces. The hurdle that took me the longest was working out scaling him. Scaling a rigged and skinned character with all his handles and such is painful. I ended up scaling the full model then scaling back the mesh to match the rig - this eemed to work out ok. In total this took quite a while, but was good experience.

[WIP shot of the construction scene now with 3D in place properly again]

Friday, 19 October 2007

Day287 Ep51 work

Ep51 Maya Work
In the scene master I started working on the cameras using Quantel PAL (720x576) set to 35m TV projection. Once I get the various shot cameras in place we can start animating to cameras rather then just the persp window.

[WIP screenshot of the Maya Ep51 scene]

After building all the cameras for the main animation sequence in the main Maya file (shots 4 - 7) things are looking good. I will create separate files to handle the still shots and the special ones like the camera fall which is already mostly built.

The 2D Flash animatic built on Day253 is proving mighty helpful - it definitely helps setup the cameras. Flash shows the exact frame numbers as well so the cameras can run over the right period (Shot 5 for example runs from frames 173-214).

Full shot framing:
01 : still
02 : still
03 : still version of 04 start
04 : frames 108-172
05 : frames 173-214
06 : frames 215-308
07 : frames 309-443
08 : (included in shot07)
09 : still
10 : frames 465-502 (end still continues)
11+ : stills in credits

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Troy was on TV tonight, while working on the 3D project I tried to spot the appearances of the CG city that Will worked on. It is cool having a lecturer/tutor who has been a part of big productions like this.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Day286 Ep51 Work & Screen Culture

Episode 51 Scene Maya Work
I went back and removed the cluster controls from the 2Dcharacter and implemented quick-select-sets to grab the Control Vertices for the IK-spline-curves from the outliner as required.

I set about making similar adjustments to Bimbo, but the clusters are too well integrated and she is working pretty well actually. I did fix up some poly geometry, create groups and get the right render settings going.

Back to the Scene Setup files I brought in the updated Bimbo rig. Somehow her teeth needed more fixing and her cheek mole has gone walkies - solvable problems.

[WIP image of the scene coming together - the render view is nice showing how flat 2D is]

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Screen Culture Lecture
Anna's lecture today on Internet and Space Metaphores was another interesting one, those people not bothering to turn up to these late-in-the-session classes are missing out. In her discussions on various influences including Architecture she used the Graz Gallery which I had a look at back on Day99. I liked her description of it as 'some kind of alien placenta' :-)

The other thing I took away most notably was her showing of the DiggSwarm, well Swarm on Digg Labs. Apart from illustrating her points on topographic representation, the Digg tool is quite hypnotic, surreal and pretty all at once.

[screen shot of DiggSwarm in action]
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Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Day285 Maya modelling and rigging

Episode 51 Maya Modelling and Rigging
I have been really enjoying the modelling refinement work on our 2D character. Building his stylistic geometry and polygonal 'drawn' elements and their blend versions. Creating the paper feel was fun as well, he really realises the sketches now.

[WIP shot of 2D under construction]
There is something really satisfying about getting the blend shapes and then skinned rig working. It is like bringing a creature to life - very Dr Frankenstein-like. Creating both the basic bone structure, skinning and then attaching clusters to the control points of the IKplineHandles for his arms was all fun. It is good to have to rig a personal project - doing tutorials doesnt bring the concepts and process home quite like having to do it all yourself.

[WIP shot of 2D now with rigging under way]
I am pretty happy with how the model and rig are working now. The only thing I havent got working so far is to have the clusters linked to the IKsplineHandle curves move in basic transformation with the full rig. If I do get it to work that way things move all over the place. It is perhaps to do with the input order - this creates similar woes - but this case seems slightly different and I havent cracked it yet.

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My next task was building the main scene with the background and lighting elements and then starting to ref in the rigged models. I got as far as creating the scene elements, initial lighting setup and importing the new 2D-rig. Armed with a test camera I was happy where I finished up tonight.

[WIP image of the main scene under construction for Episode 51]

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Krapooyo
A nice little animation by Yannick Puig called Krapooyo on youtube (thanks Yaz). It has a nice casual, yet clever evolutionary feel to it. The animation is nice to watch along with the narrative. The deformations, connections and rig evolution are nice to see and to relate to the work we are doing after a whirlwind session with Maya thus far.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Day284 3D Printing and MDMing

3D Printing
I got my nice new copy of 3D World issue 97. I have been looking forward to this because of the feature article on 3D Printing therein. Roy Spencer's article (pp 34 - 41) gives us a quick rundown of where this technology and industry is at and some good examples of the features and problems of the process whether done in-house or through a bureau.

The translucent resin versions I am familiar with still have a certain techy and mysterious charm about them and the costs are certainly falling rapidly. The colour print versions are perhaps a fraction crude in some ways, but the capability leap is awesome. The example in the article is an Elf character and when coloured gives us a host more visual depth. Other examples I have seen images of use colour to convey stress levels in components, cell types in medical applications and atomic details in molecular studies.

Some of the newer 'desktop' 3D printers coming our way are not only much more affordable but dont eat up a fridge sized hole in the room. The 3D Systems World Conference site mentioned in the article doesnt reveal too much more - but does show the scale of this industry now.

This is the promo image used to advertise the article in issue 96. The 3D World Magazine site gives a nice link to Simon Robertson's site where we get to see some nice modelling. Plus an image of the mag cover - just in case you dont spot it in a shop somewhere.

[robot 3D print image from the 3D World Magazine site and the issue 97 cover]


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ThingLab
ThingLab is the company that did the 3D print of the robot above and though there are many other companies out there doing amazing stuff in this field these guys have a nice site that shows off many of them. There is much to be impressed with here from the detail, the materials, the finish, the colour and interlocking working components. Here are 3 examples from their gallery to draw you in for a closer look.

[3 gallery images from the ThingLab site of their 3D print products]

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MDMing
3D is proving rather stressful for me now. Our group is working well enough together with each of us keen to contribute and work on the concept that we all feel could be really good. That said the interface between us is causing too many headaches in Maya as we reference files, make changes and try to keep the ship tight. Our inexperience at where the issues will come from is chewing up a great deal of time as we retrace steps and troubleshoot issues we encounter. Though we are all working on things, we are learning on the fly a great deal of concepts which is exciting. This is the entire point, but it total is meaning our submission deadline is altogether too close.

James has been working on the rigs, Yaron on the 3D model (and some of 2D as well). I rebuilt some of 2D today after our talk today and after a little more texturing and a rig will be ready to throw into the scene for animating. It is an interesting change to work on a character in 3 dimensions who only really plays in two of them.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Day283 Reverse Foot and Modelling

Reverse Foot Tute
I ran through Will's Reverse Foot tutorial and generated the rig, controllers, IKs and driven-key relationships. The process is rather complex in one sense and I am wondering how much of this comes-along-for-the-ride in something like motionbuilder.
My setup seems to work well enough, but it isnt as though it is tied together sufficiently that by moving the foot all the reverse foot rotations all come together on their own - they would need animating via a walk cycle or some more driven-key or Mel linkages I suspect.
Here are some online tutes that explore the reverse foot in similar ways:
Javier Goosh Solsona - Reverse Foot Lock
Erick Miller - Rigging Characters for Animation in Maya

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Bimbo Blend Shapes
Back into some Bimboing and getting the mouth blend shapes going. I decided to keep the top and bottom lips separate and thus created pairs of blend shapes. One set of sliders controls the top lip into the 4 current shapes and another set does the related bottom set. I could drive-key these together, but some more control may end up handy...
Even though I may need to refine the actual blends themselves, we can start keying them now and any improvements will come along with an update.
I quite like the way controls like these work.

Day282 Character Modeling 2

Ballisic's D'artiste Character Modeling 2
On Hols I read through the extended articles/tutorials by Kevin Lanning, Timur Baysal and Zack Petroc and their Invited Artist Galleries. The work, process and skill on show is truly inspiring. There are several themes that I took from the full book like the adaptability of the artists to work with multiple applications. I liked reading through workflows that would start in Maya, move to ZBrush, go back into Maya, pop into Mudbox, head back into Maya and then over to ZBrush for some more work before compositing in After Effects. There were probably more stages in there - but this set conveys the idea pretty well.
All three of the artists on show used sculpting primarily which shows how much the likes of ZBrush and Mudbox have brought to this field. For me the work of Kevin Lanning in building some remarkable high-poly models and then to take that and work with the Epic team to build the ingame low-poly assets was the highlight. His article shows the evolution of the models from concept sketches to high-poly models, then onto displacement maps on the gaming models to final texturing and hair. Even though the Unreal 3 engine is nothing short of incredible, there is no doubt that the low-poly-displacement versions are a poor cousin of the awesome sculpts that Kevin actually created. Perhaps the Unreal 4 or 5 engine will actually e able to wield these actual models for us.

These are the images I grabbed from the Ballistic site for the Character Modeling 2 on Day269

[cover and artwork sample from the Ballistic site for Character Modeling 2]

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Of the images included from other artists the one that is my favourite at the moment is Guiseppe by Laurent Pierlot. I just love the characterisation and modelling.

[giuseppe by Laurent Pierlot from the CGTalk site]