Saturday, 27 October 2007

Day295 Ep51 Animating & SC

Episode51 Animating
Started animating Bimbo for shots 7 and 8 now, the rig I had built for the test was simpler and alot easier to get the walk proces going. This more complex rig is already offering me challenges, but I am working through them.

---

Screen Culture
I wrote up most of my Screen Culture Crit Review - it still needs some tidying up and indeed some prettying up with graphics and better referencing. It is about the right length, so I feel in good shape for the submission.

Day294 Future IT thoughts and The Daily Show

Future IT
There are a great many patsh down which the IT environment might head. I was part of several good discussions today concerning future IT states from Digital Studios and laptop pervasiveness to the server importance in teh functioning of BIM. I een had some discussions on Apple and their position in education. There was also some discussion about research directions and higher degrees - all of which matches well with where I am tracking.

---

The Daily Show
I worked steadily on my critical review, and while investigating leads on several points I came across these Youtube vids which feature Jon Stewarts awesome comedy, The Daily Show.
Bush's Time tables & Progress - this is just soooo clever, makes me laugh every time.
Fox News Worried Its Viewers Can't Tell a Cartoon from News? - Groening & Stewart together with the simpsons on Fox - pure gold!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Day293 Screen Culture & Gaming Theory

Screen Culture
The final lecture on Distributed Screens and what Anna called "Ubiquitous Screen Culture" was the topic of a fun ride through what the future might hold. Ideas around 'mixed reality', 'augmented reality', 'ubiquitous computing' and 'distributed computing' were explored with some nice examples which even included Kirchner's machinima piece, "The Journey". I liked the Ambient Rom project by the crew at MIT where they were exploring the introduction of interface in the ambient/background space as well as the traditional focus/foreground area.

Worked on the Critical Review as well - Outfoxed is coming under some fire on the page. Though I might agree with what Greenwald has to say, the way he said it pushes the work into perhaps the same bucket as Fox. Now to see if I cant get my 2000 words to say that eloquently.

---

Gaming Theory @ UNSW Game Design Group
We had 8 people at the gaming group today where we tried out an educational process of Malcolm's on the introduction of game theory for his class. Our reference material was the Game Theory chapter by William Poundstone from The Game Design Reader. It was a great intro to some of concepts in game theory such as utility, tables, zero-sum, minmax, cake, Nash Equilibrium, logic and a chunk of maths. We played a handful of games that explored various game theory types and it all went well, we had fun and learnt quite a bit about gaming theory.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Day292 Vue6 peek & SC

Vue 6 check
I have log admired the beautiful visuals and the complexity leap that Vue seems to be able to deliver in the creation and rendering of landscape CG. In fact it is a source of great confusion to me that the Landscape program here at FBE doesnt jump all over software like this to not just visualise large lanscapes, but to design and experience them as well. From various sources Vue6 has bubbled to the top around here of late, and there is definite enthusiasm to explore the software in greater depth over coming months.

E-on have a nice site for the software with videos and galleries to drool over.

I last took a look at Vue6 on Day78 (not so long ago actually) when I was looking around at all manner of landscape creation and design software. I am keen to see what things like the Crysis Editor bring to this field as well as the tech demos for it show plant painting and awesome complexity as well. Here are a few more stills from the E-On Gallery section to add to those included previously, this time Nature and Landscape examples:

[gallery images from the e-on site created in Vue]

One of the other places that Vue popped up was in 3DWorld Issue 97 which on p16-17 has the winners of the 2007 Vue6 competition on the E-on site. Below is the winning entry by Julien Chabot, and all three winners are in the mag and on the site along with their thoughts on the process.

[winning entry by Julien Chabot for E-on's 2007 Vue Competition from their site]

These stills are awesome, but seeing it all in action is another leap again. Check the E-on site for other videos in higher quality, but here is a suitably inspring yutube version. The volumetric atmospherics, water modelling, vegetation detail and physics and procedural creation all combine to hurl you from your seat!


---

Looking at my Screen Culture critical review, I had a read of some more reviews and articles on Outfoxed, Fox News and US media bias in general. A scary landscape it is.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Day291 MDM and Team Fortress 2

Ep51 Progress
We have one other still during the narrative portion of Episode51, the shot with 3D and Bimbo heading off together. There is scope for a few more in the credits of course which could be fun.
So setting up the shot wasnt too hard, but the lighting warrants some attention and there seems to be issues with the lighting/texturing of the characters. Bits of them are turning out black and arent grabbing the light properly - perhaps a normals issue...
Will helped on this weirdness in class - not that we know what fixed it. It was one of those classic IT things where we muck around changing things then change it all back and it works. We had similar things with the main scenes which whenever strange things started to happen - a reload seemed to clean things up alot.

We recorded the voice Audio tonight which James is using for shots 4-6. Shot 4 is looking pretty good now with James starting to get some feeling into the robotic looking 3D that we have built. As soon as he hits frame 309 I might be able to dive into Shots 7 & 8. I had fun animating the photo, Bimbo's walk test and the character pull homework - so this should be fun toooo.

---

Team Fortress 2
I didnt ever play the first game, but seeing a little preview for Team Fortress 2 in my new PCPowerPlay mag (issue 145) by Kimberley Ellis inspired me to take a closer look. Valve have created the funniest FPS I have ever seen with glorious animation atop a lovely stylised look and feel. The animations on the site are an absolute MUST SEE. They showcase what can be done with a good engine, good rigs and a flair for animating with style.
I may be in the midst of animating in Maya, but the animation on show here running in realtime is quite inspiring. The characters have real life, personality and subtlety all brought to the fore by great animating - great job Valve.
The screenshots dont do this game justice, but they show the flavour and model quality very well. Here are 3 just lure you to their site to see the vids:

[screenshots from Team Fortress 2 from Valve's website]

This embedded clip has Valve talking about the creation of this potential masterpiece and its design and rendering.


Even though this awesome game (not to mention HL2:EP2) is out already, I am not going anywhere near it until after Session 2 is all done and dusted! (Hmmm I wonder if it even has bots - I like bots)

---

Brad Noble's Rig
I stumbled across Brad Noble's free rig on the Heavy Pixelation blog. Though my 3D course is in Maya at present there seems to be sooooo much overlap between the packages - and hte logic is essentially the same. The rig sports a nice reverse foot with rotations and angular controls and a whole lot more. I am not sure how this compares with say MotionBuilder, but it is a free rig and seems to do a great job of providing control and freedom with the sliders.

Brad's site also has some animation samples and showreels for us to admire. I like The Object Holding Test Teapot Guy - it is not only lovely to watch, but also reminds me of doing the pull-animation as the model is simple like Will's. The Showreel has plenty of fun pieces in it as well...

[image capture of part of Brad's website showing some of the animation samples of the rig in action]

Monday, 22 October 2007

Day290 Animating and Massive

Episode51 Animating
It feels good to be onto the animation side of things in earnest now. There is something immensely satisfying about seeing things we have built come-to-life with the animations.
On the more mundane side, I fixed up Shot10 with the falling photo - this should be the final version we need (unless we need to render without the black strips). I did fix up a few more little bits - there always seems to be something that could use tweaking...


Collecting problems and sharing them around
We were google-chatting about some of the issues we have been collecting along the way with our production. One of the primary reasons, I think, is around our sharing of the work. We are trading files and sections, building on each others work and utilising less than streamlined workflows. This combined with the idiosyncrasies of Maya and our limited experience creates a breeding ground for the host of little problems we have had to deal with so far. James is having a problem with the 3D Character's eyebrows - the centre point keeps moving (creepy).

Stills - Shot 1 & 2
Since James is working on the larger animation sequence at the moment, to help reduce our issue rate, we will take it in turns for a bit. So I set about building the stills that surround our man animation, but are critical to telling the tale.

Shot1 is where it all starts and is the first intro to the characters. At first I built the shot as per the sketch, but 3D doesnt have the same level of extreme-close-up appeal as the drawing. So a played with the idea of having him cheekily popping up around behind 2D who seems to scale up elegantly enough.

Here is the sketch and then version1 WIP and version2 which tells a better story in the end anyhow.

[storybord to WIP image to current version of shot1]

From here I built a version of Shot2 that acts somewhat as a transition between this and Shot3 which is where Shot4 leads off. The images below show the storyboard versions and a possible 3D version of Shot2.

[storyboard to CG version then storyboarded shot3]

Storyboard and Animatic
The Storyboard in full was back on day248
The Animatic (Flash) was back on day253

---

Massive Software and Research
I was listening to my iPod (filling up with podcasts as it is) and was slowly coming to the realisation that I feel somewhat guilty that I am not 'discovering' something. The idea of becoming more research focused is growing on me as time goes by. The MDM is a great way to open my eyes and thinking beyond where I am today. But taking on a research-centric path could allow me to more intrinsically contribute to thinking, knowledge, understanding, capability and process of things in the digital design fields. Could this mean a PhD even?

What does this have to do with Massive? One of the areas that I could see as an interesting research area would be the intersection of crowd and people motion with spaces, architecture and visualisation. The Massive Software integrated with various 3D applications could make an exciting start-point for exploring this arena - and they have educational versions to boot.

Here are a few stills from their site showing the software in action:

[screenshots of Massive from their website]

Massive's homepage has a showreel that shows the firepower of the software in the right hands. The examples are entertainment based, but that is where there is so much scope. Bringing tools like this, and AI tools in the gaming/real-time environments has alot to offer in the architectural and planning areas. Perhaps a PhD or Reseach Masters linked to FBE's CityFutures Research Centre could work???

Their website doesnt let us see individual clips from the films, but we do get to see the full adverts that were done using their software. Some are simply beautiful like the "The Know" and others were a revelation like "Big Ad" which I thought was all filmed for real until I saw this. All of the ones shown on the site are impressive and are good quality vids.
For the impatient amongst us here is a youtube version of the Big Ad:


By extension the idea of research in this area gives us transport analysis and other time based systems like construction sites and factory floors even on top of the crowd scenes like train stations. The work that would perhaps interest me the most is the next step along which is building simulations or worlds that live and breath all on their own. Then when we come along we interact or observe this AI driven land. This would be fascinating, not just from a research viewpoint, but for gaming could be awesome.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Day289 Ep51 Grouping

Episode 51 Groupwork
I was feeling really frustrated with the project late last night, lots of 2 steps forwards and one step back issues. So prior to our group getting together today I set about fixing up some of the issues - just tackling them one by one. This meant we werent really making good forwards progress on the animation side of things - but I guess it was progress in a way.
Much of our problems have come from us having three models, with three styles of rig all being worked on by the three of us - there are just too many avenues for junky things to worm their way in.

2D & 3D
I was happy to have abandoned Clusters for 2D's bendy arm controls. But, though I could move things around, I couldnt key the version I had built - grrrr. So I resorted to adding clusters to control my CVs and made a few other changes to incorporate this.
James then took point on trying to fix up 3D, what we ended up doing was using the new model and reskinning that to his original Rig. That required a few other bits to be fixed/changed of course, like copying his eyes across from another file. But once that was done we seemed to have a model and a rig referenced into our master scene files that was behaving - yay.

Rough Animation
We then set about building the first phase of animating - finally. The main focus here was building the poses for the junctions between shots - once we have that then each shot can be animated in isolation from the others. We got most of the way through this process during our groupwork today. I liked the way we would bounce ideas around, move this hand here, start this move earlier, wait until this dialog finishes etc.

Shot10
After some feedback from the group on shot10, we decided we should see the photo more clearly. The photo plays such a critical role in the animation and this is the exclamation point for the whole piece. So I shifted the camera and adjusted the curves (this is very cool) to get it all to fit with a better perspective.

---

Nice Vids
Somehow during the day I also came across a few things to inspire.

Ghost Recon 3
This trailer for the Xbox360 game really shows us the power of the console and how cinematic the animation and effects are getting in gaming now. Doing the Maya work lets us see this sort of thing in a new light.


Sony Bravia Advert
Saw this advert on TV today again - very nice work emulating the stop motion plasticine type work in a grand way with some serious compositing. I have embeded it below, but there are others that are well worth a look, the bouncy balls and paint one for example.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Saw snippets of this on DVD and this one in the series has some great effects work. The dragon fight sequence is great, but each of the tasks actually works beautifully. When Cedric is being attacked by the vines in the maze - awesome.