Saturday, 3 November 2007

Day302 Episode51

Episode 51 - that last few percent
We are in the home stretch now with 3D & 2D : Episode 51. But those last few percent always take plenty of time - for anything! I have my updates from James' shots and set about making the refinement we discussed to my shots with the intent to have a full new composite done today.

After adjusting the normal angles on 3D's balls ;-) I updated the references. It was James who suggested that 2D's mouth should blend in relation to Bimbo pulling on his cheek. This seems obvious now and was pretty simple to add to the sequence. I took the opportunity to mae a few minor changes to Bimbo's hand - clamping it better to 2D's cheek. Even though in 'reality' it would be Bimbo's hand that would drive this move - it is built to look right in terms of 2D, and then Bimbo's hand follows. I added a subtle animation to the tips of 2D's paper as well, it just gives the cheek pinch a bit more of a natural set of reactions. Below is the playblast from this sequence, this close we can see the reactions and even the keying of her boobs. (Youtubes compression makes a bit of a meal of it - but it is still fun to see all the handles etc moving as well).

[WIP playblast from Maya of the cheek pinch sequence]

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Compositing About Face
I was starting to get the hang of the most basic use of After Effects, but it is kinda painful in the way it deals with Audio. Having to use the RAM Preview to get any sound at all is just weird, and not being able to see the audio waveforms makes aligning things even harder. So despite that excursion into AE, I am going to abandon it.
Into Premiere - which I havent used for 10 years, this should be fun. If this fails I will just live the awkwardness of iMovie and GarageBand and get it done. But Premiere is doing a super job so far, it is handling my formats properly.
I did need to use SoundConverter to get from m4a to aiff for the audio. GarageBand seems to only spit out the m4a format - and I cant even get that if I have a video track.

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Pixels, Stills and Videos
The inconsistencies in my compositing between the still transitions and my movie footage was something I had lived with until now. It was really starting to torture me, but I found this nice thread on the Apple support site that explains things at least. The way the pixel proportions vary between the various formats is truly frustrating. And it is this that leads to applications (like iMovie) trying to allow for this variation with, in my case, unwanted results. It is also it seems because iMovie doesnt understand my 720x576 PAL format properly.

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Complexity and challenge
Despite Will's utterly sensible advice to "keep it simple", I am really glad that we ended up choosing 15 seconds of animation with 3 characters to model, animate and interact. This meant there are enough pieces to the puzzle for each of us to have a bash at things and get some experience at each part of the whole. We have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but have learnt heaps via that process. What we have at the end isnt world-shattering - but it is our very first piece of animation - and for that is bloody good. It really inspires me for the 3D courses to come and what we are set to accomplish.

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Background Inspiration
While working away in Ep51 today I had some DVDs on in the background for inspiration - perhaps for some distraction as well. Pixar's mighty The Incredibles - just sooo good in sooo many ways. Finding Nemo was next, continuing the Pixar wonders. The visuals here are the standout, it is just gorgeous. Star Wars I was next and there is some definitively classy animation in the Gungans and droids that holds together entire sequences of the film. I finished off with a bit of The Polar Express, which I hadnt seen before, but it turned up on TV. While it is far from perfect in so many ways, it is still breaking a fair bit of ground and did some things very nicely. The humans somehow all feel like they are over-acting - here perhaps 'pushing' is proving harder to get in there.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Day301 Credits & the Animators Survival Kit

Ep51 Credits
Worked on the Episode51 Credits. Below are two WIP versions of the logic. These photoshop images will scroll up to show the full credit reel - ending with ust ENDE on screen. This is a nice 'end' and also references 3D's 'RENDER ME' t-shirt. I made two for us to think about whether we would have angular images or nice neat ones. The rest of the team is working on the actual images that will slot in to one of these templates. Plus I made some adjustments to the titles - esp the 3Dness of the "3D"...

[WIP credit images for Episode 51]

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Create World
I got a subsidised place at AUC Create World up in Brisbane at the end of November. It is going to be a busy 6 weeks if I squeeze this one in as well. With the Mac proving to be a real contended at work and my extensive use of it in the MDM, it is very tempting. SPeaing of tempting - Leopard is out there waiting for me (despite the issues that are out there).

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Animators Survival Kit
I spend a little while browsing through Richard William's Animators Survival Kit which is filled with very detailed discussions and illustrations covering character animating. The detail in some areas is very impressive, walk cycles for example. The sketches are very clever in conveying motion and animating through the static book medium.
The book's homepage gives us more info from Richard and links off to the course pages that the book is based on. The page snippet shown below beside the cover shows how packed with drawings the book is, and how those drawings reinforce the text. I wish I had longer to read through this one - I may just need to get myself a copy...

[cover of the Animator's Survival Kit from their site & a page from the book from Amazon's site]

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Day300 Titles, Pervasive IT & Utgarde

Titles Work on Ep51
I created new titles for Shots 1-3, just in photoshop making simple enough text. Adding back the 3D looking text for 3D's name and gettin the drop shadows mimicking 2D's paper both help as well.

[current Ep51 shots 1, 2 and 3 which are all stills]

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Pervasive IT
Through my iGoogle page I found this report by Tom Simonite, Cellphones team up to become smart CCTV swarm. Since we have been discussing the idea over the last few days in a few contexts this seemed prophetic. The team who did the work on this, The Distributed Systems Group, have plenty of research papers to poke around in over coming months as well (with things like: Koubachi: A Mobile Phone Widget to enable Affective Communication with Indoor Plants).

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Utgarde Keep design files from Blizzard
Blizzard have given us construction images as part of their preview of Utgarde Keep (a new dungeon for WoW's Wrath of the Lich King). The Utgarde Keep preview is primarily about the gameplay design and experience they are trying to build. But it does provide a nice little section with images showing how one area of the place is built up. Layering things back like this shows quite nicely how the lighting, effects and textures are so critical to the low-poly world that Blizzard bring to life so emphatically.
It would be nice to see an interview with their creators talking about the process they run through technically to produce the end in-game effect. Who does what with what software in what order.

[3 images showing the layering of more detail into the Utgarde Keep from the WoW site]

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Milestone 300
Well, here we are, Day300 no less. I somehow feel tempted to write about the movie 300 again :-) This little blog as proved its worth a whole bunch of times already - so it is all set to continue - who can tell how long for...

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Day299 SC and After Effects

Critical Review
Well finished up my critical review, so I can print it off and have one course complete for my MDM. Initially I wasnt too keen on the core theory components, but it was certainly much more enjoyable than I expected. I am sure everyone has too many references and info to include, those 2000 words fill up pretty fast.

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After Effects and Titles
I downloaded and installed the trial for After Effects today looking for a new way to build the Episode51 titles. Having looked around more closely it doesnt seem that After Effects has the same built-in title creating capability as Premiere. So I will resort to the way other people seem to do such things - create a really tall file in photoshop then animate that scrolling upwards - easy. This will let me use the photoshop tools for text (clunky as they are) and insert all the title images as well.
Chad Perkins has a nice tutorial on Text Animation in AE, well it is a good intro and there are plenty more there and from other folk on Youtube for that matter.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Day298 3D MDMing & Blogging in Italy

3D Week14
Presentation of 3D & 2D Episode 51 for the class. I built a short presentation page on googlepages for where we are upto. We didnt end up using it, but it is there for posterity now.
All Three groups have actually brought it all together very well actually. We all have touching up to be done for the final submission in a week, but it really does show what we have learnt in 1 little session. After some quick feedback and a team meeting, we have a definitive set of tasks to do between now and Tuesday.

My basic tasks are (Titles Jaz Up; Pause after Shot10 (.5secs); Build Credits; Footsteps; Compositing Fixes; Rendering; Add ENDE at the very end). I have been using iMovie, but I think I might step it up for this final version to a higher-calibre piece of video compositing software - Final Cut, Premiere or After Effects. Premiere can do the titles for me, maybe the others can as well - should be fun.

Feedback and Elements that do it for me
Will gave us some feedback on Project1 and we were talking about the elements of the process that were most enjoyable. At the time I was thinking about the software side but, now that I think about it, I probably enjoyed the design and creative elements the most. Conceptualising and designing or characters and iterating that process including the short stories was great fun. Then building Bimbo and 2D brought a more detailed level to things that was an extension of that design. To then rig (2D) and animate (all 3 characters) was the final element of that design realisation - bringing them to life. The next step beyond here (that is well beyond this course) is to have them as free agents in a CG world - game world perhaps - that is another level of 'life'.

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Playblast
I learnt a new trick today in Maya, being able to render out video exactly as it looks in the Maya viewports - wireframe even. Playblast is hiding there after you right-click on the timeline.

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Register to Blog in Italy?
I was shocked to hear in my final Screen Culture class today that Italy was requiring people to register in order to blog. Well things havent quite come that far yet, but there is some worrying writing is on the wall.

Paolo Attivissimo covers this sanely on The Register, basically the wording of a proposal is poor and could mean wider implications that would cover all we bloggers. Lets hope that things dont go this far and done pay too much attention to all the reactionary commentary out there, ironically on many blogs :-)

Monday, 29 October 2007

Day297 Episode51 meets iLife

Episode51 meets iLife (iMovie and GarageBand)
Armed with a bunch of renders from Maya of the various camera setups I brought the whole lot into iMovie. It was pretty easy to setup the still timings from the 2D Flash animatic again and hey-presto I had a running animation of the whole thing in 3D.
After the loss of our Audio, the kids helped me with a new set of voices in GarageBand. Bringing the video in and adding the sound tracks I had something that was starting to look and sound the part. I used Photoshop next to build some titles at the beginning atop the stills. Even though the iLife apps might be simple, they are quite nifty all the same.
One thing spend some time on, without alot of success was to change the voices, particularly to make 2D and Bimbo sound older. There are plenty of audio changes that are built into GarageBand, with all manner of options - but none seemed to do what I needed yet...
My hands and arms are really starting to object to all the hours of computing - so that will just have to do for today - I hope it goes down ok in class tomorrow.

[WIP video version of Episode51 now]

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Day296 Animating Away & War of the Worlds

Ep51 Animating Away
I took on Shot7/8 in earnest today building the sequence with all three characters a piece at a time. After getting the basic animatic styling more in place, I moved slowly from the highest level to the details for each bit of each character. This doesnt have the purest pose-2-pose workflow, but did let me build a basic walk process for Bimbo before lining up the walk path and then adjusting the arms etc.

Because I built 2D's rig and model, he is somehow much easier for me to animate. His bits I am more familiar with and his internal structure and components are all named and organised my way. It could also be because he doesnt get to move as much either :-)

[WIP screen capture of shot7/8 under construction]

I am learning a fair bit about the failings or awkward parts of rigs now that we are into detailed animating. Having a rig that works intuitively or that deforms things sensibly means fewer keys and allows more time for refinements. I would like to play with something like MotionBuilder which would let me set 'lag' rather than having to manually key in what leads and what falls behind. We also have more to learn about effective constraints, parenting and groups. There are too many pieces of our models that decide to wander off on their own and escape from their neighbours or right positions just when you dont want them to.

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War of the Worlds
We got Spielberg's 2005 movie adaptation of War of the Worlds on DVD today. The digital effects are stunning, and there are LOTS of them, even more than I remember from the cinema. The whole thing does hold together pretty well, Spielberg, Fanning, Williams, Kaminski, Kahn and even Cruise make for a great ride. The website for the film has movie clips and a host of images to admire. Movies do go to plenty of trouble on their websites these days, as they do their trailers!

[trailer showing off the effects-fest that is War of the Worlds]

I have very fond memories of Jeff Wayne's musical version from my youth. The site for the new play here in Oz has the audio for us, I might see if I can find the full thing for my iPod. I havent even mentioned HG Wells, he did write the book after all [tips hat]. The technovelgy site has a page on the tripods with a beautiful excerpt from Wells' book.

So I thought I would include a little anthology of some of the tripod versions that have come about. What they show is how critical the creative process is in creating something from the awesome words on the page. In order these images are from the following sites, though the originals were from movies, books and album covers etc. pic1 pic2 pic3 pic4 pic5 pic6


[images of various Martian tripod designs]

One of the things the movie reminds me of is Half Life 2 - I cant wait to get into Episode 2 after the session is finished...

The Special Features DVD, was fun to watch, showing the process evolve through the writers, concept artists, pre-vis (so much was pre-vised out) and onto ILM for their 3D and effects work after shooting. Quite inspiring - so much talent involved in bringing it all to life.